U.S. tech stocks slumped in pre-market trading Thursday, with companies exposed to markets in China leading the declines, as investors scrambled to re-price risk in the wake of the shock arrest of a key executive at Huwaei Technologies that threatens to end the uneasy trade war truce between Washington and Beijing.
Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of China's Huawei Technologies and the daughter of the company's founder, was detained in Vancouver on December 1 and faces extradition to the United States amid reported allegations that she assisted the company in evading U.S. sanctions on Iran. News of the arrest, which only came to light late Wednesday, sent global stocks into a tailspin and hammered U.S. semiconductor stocks linked to the world's second-largest smartphone maker and the world's biggest semiconductor market.
"The US already has a low-key conflict simmering with the Chinese tech giant and has, alongside New Zealand, already blocked Huawei from selling their 5G technology in the country for fear that it could be used for malicious purposes," said Fiona Cincotta, a market analyst with London-based financial bookmaker City Index. "The latest arrest will be seen as a heavy slap in the face in China."
Advanced Micro Devices (AMD , shares which provides chips for Huawei's MateBook D tablet, were marked 4.5% lower in pre-market trading, indicating an opening bell price of $20.17 while Micron Technology (MU shares were seen 3.6% lower at $35.56 each. Intel Corp. (INTC , which only yesterday announced it had completed some 5G network tests with Huawei, was marked 2.6% lower at $46.50 each. Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM , another Huawei supplier, was marked 2.8% lower at $56.10.
Apple Inc. (AAPL shares, too, were under pressure in pre-market trading, with traders suggesting an opening bell price of $172.06 each, 2.62% lower from Tuesday's closing levels, as investors worry of reprisals from Beijing in one of the tech giant's fastest-growing markets.
Huawei said it had been provided "very little information regarding the charges and is not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng" in a statement to the media, while China officials in its Canadian embassy said it "firmly opposes and strongly protests over such kind of actions which seriously harmed the human rights of the victim."
China is the world's biggest market for semiconductor imports and consumes around 20% of all DRAM chips, which make smartphones run faster and last longer than with standard memory chips.