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While you were sleeping: Trump depresses stocks

Tuesday 31st January 2017

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Equities slid on both sides of the Atlantic amid the uncertainty created by US President Donald Trump, who has riled national and corporate leaders with moves to implement alienating protectionist and isolationist policies including an immigration order.

US Treasuries and gold rose. 

“Global risk sentiment appears to have been jolted somewhat by the weekend focus on President Trump’s moves on immigration,” Scotiabank strategists led by Shaun Osborne in Toronto noted, Bloomberg reported. “The focus on US political developments may restrain for now the underlying bid” for US assets.

Wall Street weakened. In 1.22pm trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.9 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index shed 1.1 percent. In 1.07pm trading, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index slid 0.9 percent.

"The market is reacting negatively right now because of the uncertainty that it creates," Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Boston Private Wealth, told Reuters. 

"If it can pull more Republicans off of the President's following and maybe weaken his strength in Congress then you start to wonder about the other initiatives that may not get passed," Pavlik noted.

The Dow fell, led by declines in shares of Caterpillar and those of DuPont, recently 2.1 percent and 1.9 percent weaker respectively. Bucking the trend were shares of Wal-Mart, up 0.9 percent in early afternoon trading. 

Corporate leaders including Google’s Sundar Pichai, Apple’s Tim Cook, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Tesla’s Elon Musk, General Electric's Jeff Immelt and Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein were among those voicing concern about Trump's executive order, signed on Friday, banning arrivals from seven predominantly-Islamic countries.

Trump’s move is “not a policy we support,” Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein said in a voicemail Sunday to employees, Bloomberg reported. Seeing possible “disruption to the firm,” Blankfein said Goldman will work to help people and families affected. “Being diverse is not optional. It is what we must be,” he said.

BlackRock executives including CEO Larry Fink sent a memo to staff on Monday saying Trump's order presented "challenges" to its goals of diversity and inclusion, Reuters reported. BlackRock is examining the direct impact on its employees, as well as the broader implications of the order, they said.

"We, of course, all want to promote security and combat terrorism, but we believe it needs to be done with respect for due process, individual rights and the principle of inclusion," BlackRock executives wrote.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index ended the day with a 1.1 percent drop from the previous close.

The UK’s FTSE 100 Index fell 0.9 percent, while France’s CAC 40 Index and Germany’s DAX Index each retreated 1.1 percent.

“It’s been a disappointing start to the week as we head towards the end of January, as investors digest the latest executive order from US President Donald Trump, which has prompted large scale selloffs across the board for European stocks as concerns rise that the US may become a much less predictable place to do business,” Michael Hewson, an analyst at CMC Markets in London, wrote in a note, according to Bloomberg.

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