Global growth worries, J&J's tumble drag Wall St. lower
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(Reuters) – U.S. stocks slumped on Friday as weak data from China and Europe stoked fears of a global economic slowdown, while Johnson & Johnson slid after Reuters reported the company knew for decades that asbestos lurked in its Baby Powder.
The Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) report, which the company has disputed, sent its shares tumbling 10.2 percent in heavy volume, making it the biggest drag on the S&P 500 and the Dow Industrials.
The Pharma major also pulled down the S&P healthcare index .SPXHC 3.6 percent, making it the biggest decliner among the 11 major sectors. The technology index .SPLRCT, which includes a number of companies with global operations, especially China, dropped 2.4 percent.
Strong U.S. retail sales data appeared to have little impact on markets, with the S&P retail sector .SPXRT falling 2 percent.
“Solid fundamental data that gets to the core of the U.S. economy is overshadowed by the potential for a global slowdown washing up on our shores,” said Phil Blancato, chief executive of Ladenburg Thalmann Asset Management in New York.
But Blancato said he does not buy the thesis that slowing growth outside of the United States will hurt the U.S. economy and that the decline was a buying opportunity.
At 2:57 p.m. EST (1947 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 472.77 points, or 1.92 percent, to 24,124.61, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 47.63 points, or 1.80 percent, to 2,602.91 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 140.11 points, or 1.98 percent, to 6,930.22.
The market has struggled this week with choppy trading and has failed to hold on to opening levels in magnitude or direction on concerns ranging from U.S.-China trade talks, interest rates and a flattening U.S. Treasury yield curve to uncertainty over the shape of Brexit.
But investors appeared to shrug off Beijing’s announcement it would suspend additional tariffs on U.S.-made vehicles and auto parts for three months starting Jan. 1.
The S&P healthcare sector was last down 3.5 percent followed by a 2.7 percent decline in the energy index .SPNY and technology stocks, which were down 2.4 percent.
Costco Wholesale Corp (COST.O) dropped 9 percent after reporting a fall in quarterly gross margin and was the biggest laggard in consumer staples.
Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc (WBA.O) was another healthcare stock that declined, down 4.5 percent, after Goldman Sachs downgraded the drugstore owner’s shares.
Apple Inc (AAPL.O) fell 2.8 percent, with some reports citing a top analyst slashing an iPhone sales estimate for the decline.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 3.90-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.96-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted nine new 52-week highs and 84 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded six new highs and 367 new lows.
Additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak in New York, Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Jonathan Oatis