March 4, 2019 / 6:37 PM / 3 months ago

US STOCKS-Wall Street sinks after bleak data, trade optimism fades

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* Trade optimism fades; all major S&P sectors fall

* Healthcare stocks lead declines

* U.S. Dec. construction spending unexpectedly falls

* S&P 500 seeing resistance at 2,800-pt mark - analyst

* Indexes down: Dow 1.38 pct, S&P 1.07 pct, Nasdaq 0.94 pct (Updates prices to afternoon)

By Medha Singh and Amy Caren Daniel

March 4 (Reuters) - Wall Street’s main indexes reversed from early gains to fall 1 percent on Monday after data showed a surprise drop in December construction spending, which triggered profit-taking and offset optimism that a U.S.-China trade deal was imminent.

A report over the weekend that U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping could sign a formal trade pact at a summit around March 27 sparked a 0.5 percent jump in the S&P 500 index early in the session.

But the benchmark index pared gains after the Commerce Department reported construction spending fell 0.6 percent in December after an unrevised 0.8 percent rise in November, further evidence the economy lost momentum at the end of 2018.

“What pushed investors’ nerves is the fact that we’ve been up such a long time with no reprieve, so the data provided an excuse for investors to take money off the table,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York.

Hopes of a U.S.-China trade deal and a dovish Federal Reserve has spurred a strong run in stocks. The S&P 500 has surged nearly 11 percent this year and is now about 6 percent away from its Sept.20 record closing high.

The S&P 500 breached 2,800 twice last week, before finally closing above that mark on Friday for the first time since Nov.8.

“Right above the 2,800 level is a significant amount of resistance. Above this level is free air, above it is a return to the highs,” said Michael Antonelli, market strategist at Robert W. Baird in Milwaukee.

All the major S&P sectors fell, with seven indexes posting a more than 1 percent drop. The healthcare sector tumbled 1.85 percent, taking the biggest hit.

At 13:19 p.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 359.19 points, or 1.38 percent, at 25,667.13, the S&P 500 was down 30.07 points, or 1.07 percent, at 2,773.62 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 71.35 points, or 0.94 percent, at 7,524.00.

Among stocks, CenturyLink Inc dropped 9.2 percent after the telecom services company delayed an annual report with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Packaged food maker Kraft Heinz Co gained 2.38 percent after brokerage Morgan Stanley raised its rating on the stock.

Dish Network Corp rose 2.4 percent after brokerage Guggenheim Partners said the satellite TV service provider’s shares will see significant upside in 2019.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 2.48-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and for a 2.37-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 40 new 52-week highs and two new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 75 new highs and 22 new lows. (Reporting by Medha Singh and Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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