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US: China trade tensions, growth worries sink Wall Street again

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[NEW YORK] Wall Street suffered another painful session on Wednesday, as trade brinkmanship with China and fears for the US economy were compounded by worries President Donald Trump could be impeached.

Weakness in the 10-year Treasury note, a sign investors fear growth is slackening, also persisted, with yields falling to a new 20-month low during the day.

After paring some losses, the benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the session down 0.9 per cent at 25,126.41, its lowest level in almost four months.

The broader S&P 500 slid 0.7 per cent to 2,783.02, leaving it a hair's breadth above its 200-day moving average, considered an important threshold by analysts.

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Meanwhile, the tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 0.8 per cent to end the day at 7,547.31.

All three indexes are headed for their first monthly losses of 2019.

Stocks dropped early in the session and suffered further losses after Special Counsel Robert Mueller delivered public remarks, saying that after a two-year investigation "if we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that."

And though he could not exonerate Mr Trump of criminal wrongdoing, any reckoning was meant for a process "other than the criminal justice system" since the Justice Department maintains a sitting president cannot be indicted of a crime.

Even before those comments, Chinese state media printed threats to curtail exports of rare earths to the United States, and comments critical of the Trump administration, the latest sign that Beijing and Washington are growing further from resolving their trade war.

Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities, told AFP that Mr Mueller's remarks and signals from Beijing were exacerbating investors' worries.

While Mr Mueller "certainly is a catalyst," Mr Hogan said, it was "nearly impossible" to model how much of a hit impeachment would mean for the stocks.

"But it's certainly assumed there would be some disruption in markets"

Among individual companies, drug maker Johnson & Johnson fell 4.2 per cent on the second day of an Oklahoma trial in which the company stands accused responsibility in the opioid crisis.

AFP