The Dow and the broader stock market finished a volatile session lower on Tuesday as political upheaval and trade chaos took a toll on markets.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was expected to announce a formal impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump stemming from the Ukraine whistleblower case.
The Dow (INDU) closed 142 points, or 0.5% lower. It fell at one point more than 200 points and rose as high as 130 points. The S&P 500 (SPX) finished down 0.8% and the Nasdaq Composite (COMP) closed 1.5% lower — the worst day for the two indexes’ since August 23, according to Refinitiv.
Stocks first began selling off following Trump’s speech at the United Nations, in which he called for fair and reciprocal trade and reiterated his views that China is gaming the system, citing intellectual property theft and currency manipulation.
“His speech was a little bit of the hardline side today,” said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade. The reaction shows that “when nothing is known the smallest thing can set the market off,” Kinahan added.
Stocks have been at the mercy of trade headlines for much of the year.
The most recent escalation of tensions was in August, when China and the United States made tariff moves against one another.
Safe-haven investments, including Treasury bonds and gold prices, rose. The 10-year Treasury yield was 1.642%, while gold futures settled 0.6% higher at $1,532.10 an ounce.
Economic reports also drove markets on Tuesday.
The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index for September dropped to 125.1, far lower than economists’ expectations of 133.5. The report shows that Americans are growing rattled by the impact of the trade war. Consumer spending is the backbone of the economy.
Housing data is in somewhat better shape. The S&P Case-Shiller home price index came in slightly below the consensus forecast of economists surveyed by Refinitiv. Seasonally adjusted, the index was flat in July, while it grew 0.1% without the adjustment. Year-over-year it’s up 2%.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency house price index rose 0.4% in July to a 5% increase year-over-year.
“Sales of both existing and new homes have firmed since the turn of the year, helped by a plunge in mortgage rates. Building permits and starts have also bounced to cycle highs in recent months, suggesting that housing activity remains quite solid considering how long we are in this cycle,” wrote BMO senior economist Robert Kavcic in a note to clients.