U.S. stocks closed lower Tuesday, with the S&P 500 snapping its eight-day winning streak, on fears over escalation of trade tensions with the European Union and a weaker global outlook from the International Monetary Fund.
The International Monetary Fund again reduced its global economic growth forecast for 2019, citing risks like increasing trade tensions and tighter monetary policy by the Federal Reserve. The fund said it expects the world economy to grow by 3.3% this year. That’s down from its previous outlook of 3.5%, which was also a downgrade. The IMF added that it expects the economy to expand by 3.6% in 2020, however.
The office of the U.S. Trade Representative threatened to levy tariffs on many European goods. The threat is a retaliation against European companies’ subsidies for aircraft manufacturer Airbus. If the U.S. follows through, the proposed tariffs would affect about $11 billion in imports to the U.S., including helicopters, bicycles, cheese and wine.
The corporate stock buyback binge has reached historic proportions, with repurchases by S&P 500 companies in the last three months of 2018 marking the fourth straight quarterly record high. Which has never happened before. Companies continued to spend more of their tax savings on these share repurchases as they boosted earnings through significantly reduced share counts. Companies in the S&P bought back over $800 Billion worth of their shares in 2018.