Dow declines by triple digits on trade war concerns

U.S. stocks continued to slump on Wednesday, as concerns over U.S. trade tensions weighed on the market.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 248.91 points, or 1%, to 24,758.12. The S&P 500 fell 15.83 points, or 0.57%, to 2,749.48. The Nasdaq Composite was down 14.2 points, or 0.19%, at 7,496.81.

Boeing was the biggest loser of the Dow component stocks amid concerns that Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs could impact the company. The sell-off came as the White House confirmed that Larry Kudlow, a free-market economist and former adviser to Ronald Reagan, will replace Gary Cohn as director of the National Economic Council. Kudlow has argued against blanket tariffs, though he said tariffs should be targeted at China.

Before news of Trump's demand for a $100 billion cut in the U.S. trade deficit with China, investors were digesting the latest economic data reports that included key measures on retail sales, wholesale inflation and business inventories.

U.S. producer prices increased slightly more than expected in February, with the Labor Department reporting that the producer price index (PPI) rose 0.2% during the month, compared with the 0.1% increase analysts polled by Reuters were expecting. The year-on-year increase in the PPI rose to 2.8% in February from 2.7% in January.

Other data, released by the Commerce Department, showed that retail sales declined by 0.1% in February while the January reading was revised to show a 0.1% dip versus the 0.3% drop previously reported. It was the first time since April 2012 that retail sales decreased for three straight months. The latest reading was affected by consumers curbing their purchases of big-ticket items, sparking concern that economic growth may slow.

U.S. business inventories jumped 0.6% in January, with a big rise in autos.

Stocks dropped Tuesday, after an early rally, when the news broke that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was being replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Ken Martin contributed to this report.