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U.S. stocks post broad declines amid U.S.-China tariff standoff, recover some losses

WATCH ABOVE: The stock markets are down Monday morning following an escalation in the trade war between China and the U.S.  China announced a new round of tariffs in retaliation for American tariffs that kicked in last week

Wall Street sank on Monday after China defied Washington by announcing retaliatory tariffs, the latest salvo in the two countries’ increasingly belligerent trade war, sending investors fleeing equities for less risky assets.

All three major U.S. indexes lost ground in a widespread sell-off, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq posting its biggest one-day percentage loss this year. The S&P 500 and the Dow both had their largest percentage drop since Jan 3.

READ MORE: Trump tweet warns ‘China will be hurt very badly’ in trade war as negotiations continue

China said it would impose higher tariffs on $60 billion in U.S. goods despite President Donald Trump’s warnings not to retaliate against additional tariffs on Chinese imports announced by the White House on Friday. The move stoked fears of a global economic downturn.

“The market’s realizing that this was an absolute breakdown of (trade) talks and everything is gone backwards,” said Michael O’Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading in Greenwich, Connecticut.

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WATCH: China promising to take “necessary countermeasures” after Trump imposed billions of dollars’ worth of tariffs

China imposes retaliatory tariffs on the U.S. as trade war with Trump escalates
China imposes retaliatory tariffs on the U.S. as trade war with Trump escalates

“It could be very bad,” O’Rourke added. “There’s a lot of uncertainty. This should lead to further slowing in the economy.”

Investors responded by fleeing equities for safe-haven assets.

U.S. Treasury yields fell to six-week lows, with 10-year yields falling below those of 3-month bills, an inversion seen by many as a potential harbinger of recession.

Gold prices rose to a near three-month high.

WATCH: Canada-China relations are colder than in decades, expert says

The CBOE Volatility index, a gauge of investor anxiety, posted its biggest daily point gain so far this year.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 617.38 points, or 2.38%, to 25,324.99, the S&P 500 lost 69.53 points, or 2.41%, to 2,811.87 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 269.92 points, or 3.41%, to 7,647.02.

Canada’s benchmark index, the S&P/TSX Composite, was down 104.14 points, or 0.64 per cent, when markets closed on Monday.

Of the 11 major sectors of the S&P 500, only utilities ended the session in the black. Trade-sensitive tech companies suffered the largest percentage decline.

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Canada-China relations are colder than in decades, expert says
Canada-China relations are colder than in decades, expert says

Among stocks particularly vulnerable to U.S.-China tariffs, Boeing Co slid 4.9% and Caterpillar Inc fell 4.6% while the Philadelphia Chip index was down 4.7%, posting its biggest percentage drop since Jan. 3 and extending last week’s 6% decline.

READ MORE: ‘Just a small setback’: China’s Liu says trade negotiations with U.S. have not broken down

Shares of Apple Inc sank 5.8% on the double whammy of heightened trade tensions and a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to allow an antitrust lawsuit accusing the company of monopolizing the iPhone app market.

Uber Technologies Inc extended its slide, falling 10.8% on its second day as a publicly traded company following Friday’s underwhelming debut.

Ride-hailing peer Lyft Inc was also down, dropping 5.8%.

READ MORE: Trump ally raises concern for detained Canadians facing ‘harsh conditions’ in China

Shares of Tesla Inc fell 5.2% to their lowest in more than two years.

First quarter reporting season is in the home stretch, and of the 451 companies in the S&P 500 that have posted results, 75.2% have come in above expectations.

Analysts now see an S&P 500 earnings increase of 1.3% for the January-March period, significantly better than the 2% decrease expected on April 1.

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Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 4.81-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 5.12-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

READ MORE: Trade talks between U.S., China break down after Trump boosts tariffs

The S&P 500 posted 12 new 52-week highs and 22 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 30 new highs and 151 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 8.24 billion shares, compared to the 6.97 billion-share average over the last 20 trading days.

— With a file from Global News