Updated at 12:32 p.m.
NEW YORK — Wall Street's main indexes hovered near one-month lows on Tuesday, as comments from President Donald Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross stoked fears of a significant delay in resolving a trade dispute with China.
Trump, speaking to reporters in London, raised the possibility of the trade deal being delayed until after the U.S. presidential elections in November 2020.
Ross told CNBC that planned tariffs on Chinese imports will be imposed on Dec. 15 unless there is some real reason to postpone, such as substantive progress in talks.
"This is sort of a last-minute negotiation tactic," said Robert Pavlik, chief investment strategist and senior portfolio manager at SlateStone Wealth LLC in New York.
"If the Dec. 15 tariffs go into effect, then I think people start thinking that this could have additional ramifications on a 'phase-one' ever getting done."
Nine of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors were trading lower, with tech heavyweights Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc weighing the most.
The trade-sensitive Philadelphia semiconductor index dropped 2.24% to hit an over one-month low.
Tuesday's declines added to the pullback in the previous session, signaling a rough start to the month. The indexes hit record highs last week on hopes that the two sides will hammer out a "phase one" deal soon.
The benchmark S&P 500 is still up about 23% this year, helped by interest rate cuts from the Federal Reserve, even as conflicting headlines on trade have caused volatility.
The blue-chip Dow and the benchmark S&P 500 were on course for their worst day in nearly two months.
At 12:55 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 381.19 points, or 1.37%, at 27,401.85, and the S&P 500 was down 31.44 points, or 1.01%, at 3,082.43. The Nasdaq Composite was down 87.22 points, or 1.02%, at 8,480.77.
Audentes Therapeutics Inc's shares more than doubled in value after Japan's Astellas Pharma Inc said it would buy the U.S. drugmaker for about $3 billion in cash.
AK Steel Holding Corp rose 3.1% after miner Cleveland Cliffs Inc agreed to buy the steel maker for about $1.1 billion in an all-stock deal. Shares of Cleveland-Cliffs slumped 12.0%.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 2.10-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.95-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded one new 52-week high and five new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 23 new highs and 63 new lows.