The major domestic equity indexes closed out the trading day on Wednesday in negative territory over renewed uncertainty regarding the U.S. stance on Chinese investments in American technology companies, reversing gains earlier in the session.
At the market open, Trump said he will use a strengthened national security review panel — the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) — to deal with potential threats from Chinese acquisitions of U.S. technology, instead of imposing China-specific restrictions.
The decision was seen by investors as a somewhat softer approach than plans reported earlier to block firms with at least 25 percent Chinese ownership from buying U.S. tech firms.
But later in the day, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said in an interview on Fox Business Network that Trump’s announced plan did not indicate a softened stance on China.
The S&P 500 technology sector index fell 1.5 percent, weighing the most on the broader S&P 500 index. Chipmakers, which derive much of their revenue from China, fell even more. The Philadelphia semiconductor index closed down 2.5 percent.
Stocks were pressured further by a rise in the U.S. dollar. A jump in oil prices to their highest in more than three years helped the S&P 500 energy index gain 1.3 percent, but raised concern over whether the rising prices of crude will have a negative effect on other sectors.
Conagra fell 7.3 percent after it said it would buy Pinnacle Foods for about $8.1 billion in cash and stock. Pinnacle Foods fell 4.3 percent after the announcement.
Approximately 7.72 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, as compared to the 7.33 billion average for the past 20 trading days.
Capital Goods Orders Down
New orders for capital goods and shipments unexpectedly fell in May, but data for the prior month was revised higher, suggesting moderate growth in business spending on equipment in the second quarter.
According to a Commerce Department report issued on Wednesday, orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, fell 0.2 percent last month. Data for April was revised to show orders rising 2.3 percent instead of the previously reported 1.0 percent rise.
Core capital goods orders increased 6.8 percent on a year-on-year basis.
Shipments of core capital goods dipped 0.1 percent last month after an upwardly revised 1.0 percent increase in April. Core capital goods shipments are used to calculate equipment spending in the government’s gross domestic product measurement.
They were previously reported to have gained 0.9 percent in April. The drop core capital goods shipments last month, if sustained, suggests a modest contribution to second-quarter GDP growth from business spending on equipment.
Gross domestic product estimates for the April-June period are as high as a 4.7 percent annualized rate. The economy grew at a 2.2 percent pace in the first quarter.
Business spending is being supported by the Trump administration’s $1.5 trillion income tax cut package, which came into effect in January. But there are fears that escalating trade tensions between the United States and its major trade partners could offset the fiscal stimulus.
Last month, orders for electrical equipment, appliances and components tumbled 1.5 percent, the biggest drop in six months, after rising 2.1 percent in April. Orders for computers and electronic products fell 0.1 percent while those for fabricated metals decreased 1.2 percent.
There were also declines in orders for primary metals. But orders for machinery rose 0.3 percent, extending April’s 1.7 percent increase.
Overall orders for durable goods, items ranging from toasters to aircraft that are meant to last three years or more, dropped 0.6 percent in May as demand for transportation equipment fell 1.0 percent. That followed a 1.0 percent decrease in durable goods orders in April.
Orders for motor vehicles and parts plunged 4.2 percent last month, the biggest drop since January 2015, after advancing 1.2 percent in April.
Crude Prices Up Sharply
Oil prices gained nearly 3 percent on Wednesday as falling domestic crude stockpiles compounded supply concerns due to uncertainty over Libyan exports, a production disruption in Canada, and our demands that importers stop buying Iranian crude from November.
U.S. crude stocks fell by nearly 10 million barrels last week, the most since Sept. 2016, while gasoline and distillate inventories rose less than expected, the Energy Information Administration said.
Domestic crude futures rose $1.74 to $72.27 a barrel after hitting a session high of $72.61 a barrel. Brent crude rose $1.51 to $77.82 a barrel. The spread between the two narrowed as the EIA said U.S. crude exports soared to a record 3 million barrels per day.
Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for the NYMEX futures contract fell by 2.7 million barrels, EIA said.
The report reflects only one single day of a Syncrude production disruption in Canada, where output feeds into pipelines that go to Cushing. Production at Syncrude’s oil sands facility was offline at least through July, after a power outage last week locked in 350,000 bpd.
The fall in Canadian exports has helped drain supplies of heavy crude across North America and contributed to a major draw in U.S. crude oil inventories. Also keeping markets on edge was the risk of a disruption to supplies from Africa and the Middle East.
In Libya, a power struggle between the internationally recognized government and rebels has left it unclear who will handle the country’s oil exports.
The future of Iranian crude exports is also unclear. The United States has told all countries to stop importing Iranian oil from November, as the Trump administration ramps up pressure on the Islamic Republic.
Trying to make up for disrupted supply, OPEC said last week it would increase output.
Saudi Arabia plans to pump a record 11 million bpd in July, up from 10.8 million bpd in June, an industry source familiar with Saudi plans told Reuters on Tuesday.
Despite widespread international opposition to the U.S. stance on Iran, analysts expect a significant reduction in exports from OPEC’s third biggest producer, perhaps more than 1 million bpd.
Iran pumped 3.8 million bpd in May, Reuters’ monthly survey showed [OPEC/O].
Goldman Sachs said the planned unilateral U.S. sanctions against Iran would likely have a “high level of efficiency”.