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Stocks tumble as nerves fray ahead of critical U.S.-China trade talks

Click to play video: 'Wall Street slips on trade concerns' Wall Street slips on trade concerns
WATCH: Wall Street slips on trade concerns – May 9, 2019

Wall Street fell more than 1 percent on Thursday, as tensions heated up ahead of a make-or-break U.S.-China trade meeting, which could lead to a prolonged dispute that would threaten global financial markets and economic growth. In Canada, meanwhile, the S&P/TSX Composite Index was down more than 0.75 per cent.

U.S. President Donald Trump vowed not to back down on imposing new tariffs unless Beijing “stops cheating our workers”, as two-day talks begin in Washington on Thursday.

READ MORE: Donald Trump says he’ll increase tariffs on imports from China

China has threatened to retaliate if tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods increase to 25 per cent on Friday, rekindling worries of a worldwide economic slowdown and triggering flight to safety among investors.

WATCH: Trump pledges to put tariffs on China as trade troubles continue

Click to play video: 'Trump pledges to put tariffs on China as trade troubles continue' Trump pledges to put tariffs on China as trade troubles continue
Trump pledges to put tariffs on China as trade troubles continue – May 9, 2019

“All this macro uncertainty out there is making investors risk-averse particularly in an environment that isn’t great,” said Michael Geraghty, equity strategist at Cornerstone Capital Group in New York City.

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“It is highly unlikely that after months and months of negotiations, that suddenly over the course of two days all these trade issues could be resolved.”

The benchmark S&P 500 index fell below its 50-day moving average, a closely watched level of near-term momentum, with all the major sectors lower.

WATCH: Warren Buffett warns U.S.-China trade war would be ‘bad for the whole world’

Click to play video: 'Warren Buffett warns U.S.-China trade war would be ‘bad for the whole world’' Warren Buffett warns U.S.-China trade war would be ‘bad for the whole world’
Warren Buffett warns U.S.-China trade war would be ‘bad for the whole world’ – May 6, 2019

The technology sector posted the steepest declines, slipping 1.96 per cent, dragged down by a drop in shares of iPhone maker Apple Inc and chipmakers, which get a large portion of their revenue from China.

The Philadelphia chip index declined 2.89 per cent, also pressured by a modest profit growth forecast from Intel. The index has fallen 7.6 per cent so far this week, and is on pace to post its biggest percentage weekly loss since Jan. 2016.

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Trade-sensitive industrial bellwethers were also hit, with Boeing Co., Caterpillar Inc. and 3M Co. down about 2 per cent.

Meanwhile, data showed U.S. goods trade deficit with China, a focus of the Trump administration’s “America First” agenda, dropped to a five-year low in March amid a surge in exports, including soybeans.

READ MORE: Stocks extend selloff on Wednesday, as U.S.-China trade worries mount

The CBOE Volatility Index, a gauge of investor anxiety, rose to its highest level in four months.

At 10:54 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 376.59 points, or 1.45 per cent, at 25,590.74. The S&P 500 was down 34.40 points, or 1.19 per cent, at 2,845.02 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 116.81 points, or 1.47 per cent, at 7,826.51. The S&P/TSX Composite, Canada’s benchmark index, had dropped 127.98 points, or 0.78 per cent at 11:43 a.m. ET.

In a bright spot, Tapestry Inc jumped 10.6 per cent, the most among S&P companies, after the Coach handbag maker beat quarterly profit estimates and announced a $1 billion share buyback plan.

Chevron Corp climbed 2.1 per cent, and was among the only gainers on the Dow, after the oil major said it would not raise its $33 billion offer to buy Anadarko Petroleum Corp.

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Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 3.83-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and for a 3.57-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded no new 52-week high and 10 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 21 new highs and 75 new lows.

— With files from Global News reporter Erica Alini

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