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Wall St. hit by trade war fears; jobs data ease rate concerns

(Reuters) – Wall Street was set to open lower on Friday, weighed down by fears of an escalating trade conflict between the United States and China, but a lower-than-expected March jobs data eased some concerns over aggressive interest rates hikes.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Global stock markets edged downward after President Donald Trump threatened to slap an additional $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods and Beijing warned it would fight back “at any cost” with fresh trade measures.

Shares of Boeing (BA.N), the single largest U.S. exporter to China, fell 2 percent, leading losses among big U.S. manufacturers. Caterpillar fell 1.6 percent and Deere (DE.N) dropped about 1 percent.

“Sure, this maybe a negotiation tactic, but how does this all play out is the nervousness and with the extreme volatility that we’re seeing, people are nervous about holding on to decisions,” said Robert Pavlik, chief investment strategist and senior portfolio manager at SlateStone Wealth LLC in New York.

Facebook (FB.O), Amazon (AMZN.O), Netflix (NFLX.O) and Alphabet (GOOGL.O) – the FANG group – were down between 0.9 percent and 1.5 percent, while Apple (AAPL.O) fell 0.9 percent.

Chipmakers, which as a group rely on China for about a quarter of their revenue, also declined.

The list of decliners were similar to Wednesday’s, when the United States and China announced tariffs on $50 billion of each others’ imports.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 103,000 last month, the Labor Department said, the fewest in six months, but a pickup in wage gains pointed to a tightening labor market.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the economy adding 193,000 jobs.

Average hourly earnings rose eight cents or 0.3 percent last month, above the expected 0.2 percent increase. The unemployment rate held steady at 4.1 percent for a sixth straight month.

“That’s not showing us wage inflation where the Fed would have to step in. This seems to be a natural improvement,” said Sean Lynch, co-head of global equity strategy, Wells Fargo Investment Institute in Omaha, Nebraska.

At 8:49 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis 1YMc1 were down 195 points, or 0.8 percent. S&P 500 e-minis ESc1 were down 18 points, or 0.68 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis NQc1 were down 49.75 points, or 0.75 percent.

Investors will also tune into Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s speech at an event later in the day for signs the central bank could raise rates more than the expected two more times this year.

Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Sinead Carew in New York: Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila

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