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Stocks Plunge As US Proposes Tariffs On Chinese Imports

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U.S. stocks fell sharply on Thursday after President Donald Trump announced new tariffs on Chinese goods.  

President Trump signed a memorandum directing the U.S. Trade Representative to impose an estimated $50 billion in tariffs on China, which will take at least 45 days. Investors have worried about rising trade tensions after the administration announced tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 724 points, or 2.9 percent, to close at 23,958, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq index slid 2.5 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively. 

Industrial and technology companies slumped. Boeing (BA) fell 3.7 percent and Caterpillar (CAT) lost 4.11 percent.

Chinese companies were among the biggest laggards midday.  E-commerce firm Baozun (BZUN) fell 8.8 percent, while social network firm Weibo (WB) slid 5.6 percent. Internet platform provider Baidu (BIDU) dropped more than 5 percent. 

Wall Street is also waiting to see how China would respond to any proposed tariffs, and what that might mean for U.S. companies. 

"We think that China's response to the U.S. continuing to take a tougher line on trade might well involve a range of arbitrary non-tariff measures designed to put pressure directly on U.S. firms. These might include implementing much stricter regulatory and compliance checks, or directly instructing Chinese firms to cut orders from the US," analysts at Capital Economics said in a note. "This would directly affect some of the largest firms in the S&P 500, who either produce their goods in, or sell a significant proportion of them to, China."

Facebook (FB) shares, which had seen a brief reprieve on Wednesday, were again under pressure in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.  Shares fell 3.73 or 2.2 percent to 165.66. CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke about the incident Wednesday night, saying in a statement: "We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can't then we don't deserve to serve you. I've been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn't happen again."

The company is under increasing scrutiny from the government, as some lawmakers on Capitol Hill are calling for Facebook's management to testify about the incident. 

--The Associated Press contributed reporting

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