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CNN Business Before the Bell

CNN's Christine Romans has the day's top business headlines before the opening bell on Wall Street on Monday, December 17.

Posted: Dec 18, 2018 8:26 AM
Updated: Dec 18, 2018 8:45 AM

The US stock market sank deeper into the red following sluggish economic reports on Monday and bad news from a couple of blue chip giants.

The Dow fell more than 200 points before bouncing back a bit. The S&P 500 hit its lowest level of the year. And the Nasdaq joined the Dow & S&P 500 in negative territory for 2018. All three indexes have plunged more than 6% so far this December.

A weaker reading from the New York Federal Reserve about manufacturing in the Empire State and a drop in confidence from the nation's homebuilders weighed on the markets.

"Investors are zeroing in on this idea of slower growth for 2019," said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors. "More people are worried about a recession in late 2019 or 2020."

The political noise in Washington isn't helping either. President Trump, in a tweet Monday morning, repeated his criticism of the Federal Reserve for its recent rate hikes. The Fed meets Wednesday and is widely expected to raise rates again.

But Trump tweeted that "it is incredible that with a very strong dollar and virtually no inflation, the outside world blowing up around us, Paris is burning and China way down, the Fed is even considering yet another interest rate hike. Take the Victory!"

The Fed is supposed to be politically independent. Any evidence that it might be swayed by attacks from Trump could unnerve the markets.

"If the Fed doesn't raise rates it will look like it's succumbing to the bullying of Trump's tweets," Arone said.

Investors had more to worry about than the economy and politics though.

The Dow's losses were led by a continued drop in healthcare and consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson.

J&J (JNJ) plunged 10% Friday following a bombshell report by Reuters alleging that J&J was aware its trademark baby powder contained asbestos. J&J has said the Reuters report is factually incorrect. But the stock still fell nearly 2% more Monday.

Dow component UnitedHealth (UNH) fell 2% after a federal judge in Texas ruled late Friday that the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, was unconstitutional.

This is unlikely to affect health coverage for Americans for quite some time, but it does lead to further uncertainty about the ultimate fate of the landmark law.

Shares of rival insurer Cigna (CI) -- which is in the process of merging with pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts (ESRX) -- and drugstore giant CVS (CVS), which recently acquired insurer Aetna -- were lower Monday as well.

And Dow component Goldman Sachs (GS) was weighing on the broader market too. The Wall Street investment banking giant is in the middle of a scandal in Malaysia.

The Malaysian government filed criminal charges against Goldman Sachs Monday due to its involvement with investment fund 1MDB.

Malaysia has accused Goldman Sachs of misleading investors about bond sales for the fund that were underwritten by Goldman Sachs. The Fed is said to be looking into Goldman Sachs' ties to 1MDB as well.

Shares of Goldman Sachs fell 2% Monday and are now down nearly 35% this year, making the stock the Dow's worst performer of 2018.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 99134

Reported Deaths: 2089
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin27728936
Ramsey11209325
Dakota7724127
Anoka6343138
Stearns411925
Washington395055
Scott266333
Olmsted254428
Nobles197916
St. Louis174742
Blue Earth17437
Wright17137
Clay145741
Carver14517
Rice13518
Mower13486
Sherburne118514
Kandiyohi10573
Winona92318
Lyon7384
Waseca7228
Benton5683
Crow Wing56318
Steele5602
Nicollet55317
Freeborn5484
Watonwan5354
Chisago5221
Todd5142
McLeod5032
Le Sueur4804
Beltrami4735
Otter Tail4734
Martin46211
Goodhue3929
Douglas3622
Pine3610
Itasca35616
Polk3344
Isanti3241
Becker2862
Carlton2861
Morrison2802
Dodge2680
Pipestone23910
Chippewa2331
Cottonwood2290
Meeker2142
Wabasha2080
Sibley2033
Yellow Medicine2003
Brown1992
Cass1884
Rock1841
Redwood1805
Murray1762
Mille Lacs1723
Renville1638
Jackson1541
Unassigned15453
Faribault1490
Swift1451
Houston1350
Fillmore1340
Kanabec1318
Hubbard1261
Roseau1250
Koochiching1234
Pennington1201
Lincoln1180
Stevens1071
Pope1000
Aitkin881
Big Stone830
Wadena730
Lac qui Parle721
Wilkin713
Grant644
Lake610
Norman580
Marshall531
Mahnomen491
Red Lake451
Traverse360
Clearwater320
Lake of the Woods241
Kittson120
Cook70

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 88834

Reported Deaths: 1349
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk16204264
Woodbury568268
Johnson520327
Black Hawk455992
Linn4199115
Story350717
Dubuque347443
Scott312829
Dallas286038
Pottawattamie222539
Buena Vista202612
Marshall180235
Sioux17533
Wapello134557
Webster132714
Plymouth119121
Clinton115222
Muscatine113856
Crawford11176
Cerro Gordo107622
Warren9726
Jasper88334
Des Moines8249
Marion7799
Henry7774
Tama75732
Carroll7115
Lee6667
Wright6031
Dickinson5546
Boone5328
Bremer5137
Washington49311
Delaware4663
Louisa43915
Mahaska43520
Lyon3904
Jackson3683
Floyd3575
Franklin35318
Clay3504
Winneshiek3468
Benton3441
Hamilton3373
Poweshiek3278
Winnebago32514
Hardin3111
Buchanan2991
Jones2953
Kossuth2900
Butler2802
Emmet27910
Shelby2781
Sac2750
Chickasaw2741
Clayton2713
Guthrie27110
Clarke2703
Harrison2705
Cherokee2692
Allamakee2656
Cedar2561
Madison2452
Fayette2402
Grundy2294
Iowa2291
Palo Alto2140
Page2080
Hancock2032
Mills2031
Humboldt1963
Calhoun1953
Mitchell1950
Howard1937
Cass1812
Osceola1810
Pocahontas1682
Monona1671
Monroe16311
Lucas1596
Union1463
Appanoose1443
Taylor1431
Jefferson1411
Ida1352
Davis1304
Fremont1250
Van Buren1221
Keokuk1201
Worth1100
Greene1090
Montgomery1005
Audubon911
Wayne893
Adair761
Decatur670
Ringgold532
Adams380
Unassigned40
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