Trump-Xi to Miss Meeting Deadline, Stocks Plunge

Stocks fell sharply on Thursday as it became clear that a trade meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping would not happen before a key March deadline.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 220.77 points to 25,169.53, as Apple and DowDuPont led the decline.

The S&P 500 lost 25.56 points to 2,706.05, led lower by the energy and tech sectors.

The NASDAQ Composite slouched 86.93 points, or 1.2%, to 7,288.35.

Reports circulated throughout the day that a meeting between the two leaders was "highly unlikely." China and the U.S. have until the start of March to strike a trade deal. Otherwise, additional tariffs on Chinese goods take effect. The source said a meeting between Xi and Trump could happen shortly after the deadline passes, but noted both sides have too much work ahead of them.

Shares of Caterpillar and Deere both fell more than 1%. Boeing dropped 0.9%. These companies' stocks are seen as bellwethers for global trade given their exposure to overseas markets.

The market was already on edge as worries about the global economy were rekindled. The European Commission slashed its growth outlook for the euro zone this year as it expects the bloc's largest economies to be held back by global trade tensions, among other issues. The Commission said euro zone growth will slow to 1.3% this year from 1.9% in 2018, before rebounding in 2020 to 1.6%.

That growth outlook sparked worries that the global economy could be slowing down. Similar fears contributed to the market's sharp downturn in December. That decline briefly sent the S&P 500 into bear-market territory on an intraday basis.

The Bank of England also cut its 2019 outlook and sees the U.K. economy growing at its slowest pace since 2009.

Thursday's decline comes as the corporate earnings season continues. Twitter reported quarterly earnings that beat analyst expectations on Thursday. However, shares of the social media company fell 9.8% as Twitter also issued light guidance. Fiat Chrysler and Cardinal Health are also among the companies that reported better-than-expected earnings.

Companies are reporting solid earnings growth for the fourth quarter with profits showing an increase of 14.1% on a year-over-year basis. However, the outlooks accompanying those earnings reports are not as rosy.

Because of those poor forecasts, earnings for the first quarter of 2019 are expected to drop more than 1%. That's the first year-over-year decline in earnings in more than two years.

Shares of BB&T gained 4%, and SunTrust Banks flew 10.2%, bucking the overall negative trend. The two stocks rose after BB&T agreed to buy SunTrust for more than $28 billion. The deal — the biggest in a decade within the banking sector — creates a $66-billion company and the sixth-largest U.S. bank by assets.

Prices for the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury gained ground, lowering yields to 2.66% from Wednesday’s 2.7%. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.

Oil prices skidded $1.33 to $52.68 U.S. a barrel.

Gold prices dropped 80 cents to $1,313.60 U.S. an ounce.