NEW YORK, March 22 (Reuters) - Major U.S. stock indexes fell as much as 2 percent on Thursday, where they were on track for the steepest drop since a Wall Street rout six weeks ago, gripped by the growing threat of a global trade war.
President Donald Trump plans to impose tariffs on Chinese imports, possibly targeting the country's high-technology sector and restricting Chinese investments in the United States. The White House said Trump would sign a presidential memorandum "targeting China's economic aggression" at 12:30 p.m. ET on Thursday. COMMENTS MICHAEL OROURKE, CHIEF MARKET STRATEGIST, JONESTRADING, GREENWICH, CONNECTICUT:
There are trade war fears and we're supposed to get (an announcement) on the Chinese tariffs and theres (U.S. Trade Representative Robert) Lighthizer testifying in front of the Senate on trade policy. I don't think that helps. Facebook still has its issues so that's stirring tech. The fact that Mark Zuckerberg said maybe we should be regulated... I'm not sure that will inspire confidence on the part of investors.
"Treasuries are getting a flight-to-quality bid so that's creating a bid in interest-rate sensitive names."
STEFAN WINTNER, VICE PRESIDENT, VOLATILITY STRATEGIES, DUNN CAPITAL MANAGEMENT, STUART, FLORIDA
"From what I see (in the U.S. equity options market), there does not seem to be a lot of panic there yet at least not more than since the Feb 5 crash.
"The Cboe Volatility Index is doing exactly what I would have expected given the size of the move in the S&P 500 Index. The VIX futures market at the moment is a bit subdued. I would say it could have gone up more if there had been panic.
"In the past, we have seen larger moves closer to the end of the session. It appears people wait for an intra-day reversal of the S&P. Towards the end of the day, if we stay down there, in the S&P, where we are now, there could be a pickup in VIX futures activity." PETER COSTA, PRESIDENT, EMPIRE EXECUTIONS, NEW YORK
The market has been extremely sensitive to anything to do with trade. Because in reality, no one wins a trade war, and if there is going to be any kind of escalation of a trade war with China, lets say, were not going to be winners on that and neither are they. The market is a little spooked from that and anytime you hear that, that definitely puts a sour taste in peoples mouths. "(Facebook) definitely is impacting the tech sector and I think that has some bearing on the fact that tech stocks have been down.
Theres a lot of jitters about. Theres not a lot of positives right now to hang onto because earnings season is over and that is generally where you hang your positive feelings. MARKET REACTION STOCKS: The Dow was down 433 points, or 1.75 percent; The S&P 500 was 1.55 percent lower and the Nasdaq was off 1.75 percent. The Dow and Nasdaq briefly fell more than 2 percent in late morning trade. TREASURIES: The yield on the U.S. 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.80 percent, on track for its steepest daily percentage fall since early September. VIX: The Cboe volatility index rose to 21.96 DOLLAR: The U.S. dollar index was up 0.07 percent (Compiled by Alden Bentley)