NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Economists knew the first quarter was bad but not this bad. Stocks sold off on Tuesday after weak trade data prompted worries that revised macro numbers could show the U.S. economy contracted in the first quarter.
The S&P 500 dropped 1.2% while the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 0.79% and the Nasdaq tumbled 1.6%.
The U.S. trade deficit jumped to $51.4 billion in March, hitting a six-year high and far wider than the $41.7 billion some had estimated. Imports increased after the nine-month slowdown at West Coast ports caused a backlog of cargo that is now being cleared.
"The revisions to the trade data will be enough to reduce the real GDP growth rate in Q1 by 0.5 percentage point," Wells Fargo's Jay H. Bryson and Tim Quinlan wrote in a note. "With the preliminary estimate showing that real GDP edged up at an annualized rate of only 0.2% in Q1, revised GDP data could very well show a slightly negative growth rate in the first quarter."
Salesforce.com (CRM) shares were briefly halted after volatile trading. The price of the cloud-computing company's shares jumped 1.7%, to $72.78, after the pause was lifted. Shares have been on the move over the past week on reports the company has been approached by an unnamed potential acquirer. Bloomberg reported Microsoft (MSFT) is evaluating a possible bid for Salesforce.
Crude oil jumped above $60 a barrel for the first time since Dec. 11, 2014. Commodity prices were higher after protesters shut down a Libyan port, temporarily halting exports. Oil prices have plummeted since last summer as markets faced oversupply and weakening demand. West Texas Intermediate crude was up 2.5% to $60.40 a barrel.