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Trump's travel ban and North Korea tension tempers down US stocks

Investors are also grappling with the likelihood of an interest rate hike by the US?Federal Reserve at its meeting next week. In photo: Investors are also grappling with the likelihood of an interest rate hike by the US?Federal Reserve. Photograph: (Reuters)

Reuters New York, NY, United States Mar 06, 2017, 08.09 PM (IST)

US stocks retreated on Monday in a broad decline as investors took a dim view of the latest turbulence surrounding the Trump administration along with geopolitical tensions emanating from Asia.

The S&P 500 has rallied 11 per cent in the wake of President Donald Trump's victory in November, with investors betting on the implementation of reduced regulations, lower taxes and increased infrastructure spending.

But a lack of detail on Trump's proposals, his isolationist stance and setbacks in filling his Cabinet have made investors question whether the post-election rally has run its course as stock valuations become stretched.

Trump accused predecessor Barack Obama on Saturday of wiretapping him during the late stages of the 2016 election campaign, but offered no evidence.

Some investors worried that the accusation could delay Trump's economic agenda.

"The bottom line is, investors have predicated this rally on this new administration getting things done," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank in Chicago.

"The more news that circulates that is now whipping Washington into a frenzy, the less bandwidth they have to focus on getting these measures through."

Adding to investor caution were rising tensions in East Asia after North Korea fired four ballistic missiles into the sea off Japan's northwest.

Trump also signed a revised executive order on Monday for a 90-day travel ban to the United States from six Muslim-majority countries, removing Iraq from the list after his controversial first attempt was blocked in the courts.

Valuations are a cause for concern. The S&P 500 is trading at nearly 18 times forward earnings estimates against the long-term average of about 15 times, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Investors are also grappling with the likelihood of an interest rate hike by the US Federal Reserve at its meeting next week, with traders now expecting about an 85-per cent chance of a hike versus roughly 30-percent at the start of last week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 41.33 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 20,964.38, the S&P 500 lost 7.65 points, or 0.32 per cent, to 2,375.47 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 21.07 points, or 0.36 per cent, to 5,849.69.

Of the 11 major S&P sectors, only energy up 0.2 per cent, managed a modest advance.

Among stocks, Netflix, advanced 2 per cent to $141.94 following a UBS rating upgrade to "buy".

Tyson Foods dropped 2.1 per cent at $2.26 after a strain of bird flu was detected in a chicken breeder flock on a Tennessee farm contracted with the company.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 2.74-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.57-to-1 ratio favoured decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 13 new 52-week highs and 7 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 53 new highs and 54 new lows.

(Reuters)

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