Tech stocks tumble as China retaliates in latest salvo of the trade war

Shares of technology companies were hit hard as China retaliated against the U.S. in the latest salvo of the ongoing trade war between the two countries.

The S&P 500 Index shed roughly $1.1 trillion of value while the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq Composite Index fell 2.38% and 3.41%, respectively.

On Monday, China responded in equal measure to the U.S. raising tariffs on imports to 25% by imposing 25% duties on some $60 billion of U.S. exports to the country.

On June 1, Beijing will impose 25% tariffs on more than 5,000 products. Several more exports to the country will see their duties rise to 20%. That’s up from 10% and 5%, previously. The highest tariffs seem to be on products designed to cause pain among President Donald Trump’s political base of support — animal products, fruits and vegetables that come from the Midwest.

But tech companies are particularly exposed in the trade war. Indeed, the news sent technology shares spiraling in what venture capitalist (and former TechCrunch co-editor-in-chief) Alexia Bonatsos called the “Tech Red Wedding.”

Rising tariffs will make the tech products from Apple and other American tech companies more expensive to manufacture, which will likely cause hardware manufacturers to raise prices at home, while duties on the finished goods coming to China could make them prohibitively expensive for local buyers in the country.

More expensive consumer products also mean less money to spend on non-essential items, which could mean more frugal behavior from consumers and less spending in the on-demand economy. It could also cause a pull-back in advertising as companies retrench and cut spending in areas that are considered to be non-core.

All of that could leave tech stocks exposed — beyond algorithms just dumping holdings and taking profits in what looks to be a prolonged market downturn.

The trade war, which already took a toll on Uber’s initial public offering, took another bite out of the company’s (short-term) stock market performance today.

Uber was far from the only tech stock seeing red. Shares of Amazon were down 3.56%, Alphabet was down 2.66% and Apple fell 5.81%. Meanwhile, Facebook shares fell 3.61%; Netflix tumbled more than 4% on the day.

Things may look up for some tech companies again, but they’re unlikely to receive the kind of bailouts or subsidies that the president is offering to American farmers hit by the economic battle with China. Unless Congress can get stalled negotiations around an infrastructure package back on track (something that seems less and less likely as the 2020 elections start to cast their shadow over the business of governing), there’s little hope for any government assistance that could cushion the blow.

“Our view is this could escalate for at least a matter of weeks, if not months, and it’s really to get the two back to the negotiating table and finish the deal, is probably going to require more pain in the markets…Really the only question is if we need a 5%, 10% or bigger market correction,” Ethan Harris, head of global economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told CNBC.