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Trade jitters, tech woes weigh on Wall St

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq declined as the possibility of more US tariffs on Chinese imports loomed, while tech stocks stumbled, led by chipmakers and concerns about increased regulation of social media companies.

The public comment period for proposed tariffs on an additional $US200 billion ($A278 billion) worth of Chinese imports ends on Friday at midnight EDT, and the tariffs could go into effect shortly afterward.

China has warned of retaliation if Washington implements any new tariff measures.

On a more positive note, talks between the United States and Canada to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement continued.

The muddled outlook for trade was reflected in the mixed outcome for US stocks on Thursday, investors said. The Dow edged up even as the S&P and Nasdaq fell.

"Investors are waiting for clarity," said Keith Lerner, chief market strategist at SunTrust Advisory Services in Atlanta. "The next round of tariffs could happen as early as tomorrow."

Shares of chipmakers and internet companies weighed on the S&P and Nasdaq.

The Philadelphia SE Semiconductor index slid 2.7 per cent after executives from Micron Technology Inc and KLA-Tencor Corp spoke at a Citi technology conference.

Micron shares sank 9.9 per cent and were among the biggest drags on the Nasdaq and the S&P. KLA-Tencor shares tumbled 9.7 per cent.

Fallout from the scrutiny of social media companies also continued to batter tech stocks.

On Wednesday, executives from Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc testified before skeptical US lawmakers regarding their measures to combat foreign efforts to influence US politics.

The same day, the US Justice Department said it was looking into concerns that social media platforms were "intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas."

Facebook shares fell 2.8 per cent and Twitter shares dropped 5.9 per cent. Shares of Snap Inc, the parent company of Snapchat, touched a record low and ended down 3.1 per cent.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 20.88 points, or 0.08 per cent, to 25,995.87, the S&P 500 lost 10.55 points, or 0.37 per cent, to 2,878.05 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 72.45 points, or 0.91 per cent, to 7,922.73.

Among bright spots, shares of CBS Corp rose 3.2 per cent after reports that the media company's board was in settlement talks with Chief Executive Les Moonves to negotiate his exit.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.49-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.89-to-1 ratio favoured decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 41 new 52-week highs and 11 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 98 new highs and 72 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 6.66 billion shares, compared to the 6.18 billion average over the last 20 trading days.

Austrlaian Associated PressBack to Breaking News

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