US stocks dipped on Wednesday, as reports that Washington could impose sanctions on another Chinese company heightened trade worries, while a slump in Qualcomm shares pressured the technology sector.
The reports come after Washington's decision to temporarily ease curbs on Huawei Technologies calmed investors nerves on Tuesday over a hit to technology sector earnings from the Trump administration's decision last week to add the Chinese telecoms equipment maker to a trade blacklist.
However, sentiment soured on reports of likely similar restrictions on Chinese video surveillance firm Hikvision.
"What investors are looking at is the fact that this could be another retaliation," said Kim Forrest, chief investment officer at Bokeh Capital Partners in Pittsburgh. "The negotiations have been more of a tit for tat than actual conversation."
The daily exchanges between the United States and China have kept investors on edge and knocked the benchmark S&P 500 index 3.5% off its all-time high hit on May 1.
Qualcomm Inc plunged 10.1%, contributing the most to a 0.43% drop in the S&P 500 technology sector. The Philadelphia Semiconductor index slipped 1.57%.
A federal judge ruled that the chipmaker illegally suppressed competition in the market for smartphone chips by threatening to cut off supplies and extracting excessive licensing fees.
At 9:50 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 97.68 points, or 0.38%, at 25,779.65. The S&P 500 was down 10.21 points, or 0.36%, at 2,854.15 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 25.62 points, or 0.33%, at 7,760.10.
The communication services index was the only one of the 11 major S&P sectors trading higher, lifted by a 2.9% gain for Netflix Inc.
Markets also waited for minutes from the Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting in late April when it held interest rates steady. The minutes are due at 2 p.m. ET (1800 GMT).
Fed's St. Louis chief James Bullard, a voter in the rate-setting committee this year, said on Wednesday further weakness in inflation could prompt the central bank to cut rates, even if economic growth maintains its momentum.
Retailers wrapped up the first-quarter earnings season on a downbeat note, with Lowe's Cos Inc falling 10% after the home improvement chain cut its full-year profit forecast.
Lowe's shares were also the biggest drag on the consumer discretionary sector, which fell 0.63%.
Nordstrom Inc declined 10.6% after the department store operator reduced its forecast for full-year sales and profit, a day after disappointing earnings from rivals Kohl's Corp and J.C. Penney Co Inc.
Retailer Target Corp jumped 8.4%, the most among S&P 500 companies, after its quarterly same-store sales and profit beat
Wall Street estimates.
With over 460 of S&P 500 companies having posted first-quarter results, 75.2% have topped analysts' profit expectations. Analysts now see first-quarter earnings growth of 1.4%, a sharp turnaround from the 2% loss expected on April 1, according to Refinitiv data.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 2.22-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.68-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.The S&P index recorded nine new 52-week highs and four new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 19 new highs and 37 new lows.