The Dow drops 350 points as Caterpillar, Nvidia stoke China growth fears

  • Stocks fell sharply Monday after weaker-than-expected economic data and earnings added to fears about a slowdown in China.
  • Wall Street had rallied Friday after the longest shutdown on record ended.
  • Watch stocks trade in real time here.

Stocks fell Monday after another round of dismal economic data from China, adding to long-standing fears about slowing growth in the second-largest economy and around the world.

China’s government said industrial earnings shrank for a second month in December, underscoring weakening factory activity and demand in the country.

Not helping the mood, industrial bellwether Caterpillar reported earnings and guidance on that missed analyst estimates and warned of waning Chinese demand. Nvidia, the chipmaker, also cited weakness in China as it lowered its fourth-quarter guidance Monday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.4%, or about 350 points. The S&P 500 shed 1.1%, and the Nasdaq Composite lost 1.6%.

Stocks had rallied Friday after the longest government shutdown on record temporarily ended, with President Donald Trump backing down from vows to keep a fourth of federal agencies shuttered until his border wall was funded.

But the deal only reopens the government through February 15 unless a resolution on border security is reached, raising concerns that another shutdown could continue to damage the economy.

“Parallel to the trade truce with China informally reached in December, the temporary reprieve on the government shutdown announced on Friday afternoon removes immediate risk from the landscape without taking away an overhang of concern for the markets,” said John Stoltzfus, head of investment strategy at Oppenheimer Equity Research.

China’s slowdown has put additional focus on high-level trade talks between Washington and Beijing expected to take place Wednesday and Thursday. If no deal is reached by March 2, the Trump administration is scheduled to more than double tariff rates on $US200 billion worth of Chinese products.

Offering some relief to investors, the Federal Reserve is expected to leave interest rates unchanged at its two-day policy meeting starting Tuesday. The central bank has signalled flexibility on its rate path for the year, saying in its latest minutes that it could “afford to be patient.”

“Markets are now pricing in no rate hikes this year, and Chair Jerome Powell will need to reinforce the accommodative rhetoric at this week’s Federal Open Market Committee press conference,” said Vincent Heaney, a strategist at UBS Global Wealth Management.

Oil fell more than 1.5% Monday, with West Texas Intermediate trading around $US52.50 and Brent just under $US61.

The rest of the week is busy with quarterly corporate earnings and economic data. AMD and Apple report Tuesday, and Tesla reports Wednesday. Fourth-quarter gross domestic product is scheduled for Wednesday, though it is unclear if that will be reported on time due to potential shutdown-related delays at the Commerce Department. The Labour Department is set to release the January employment report on Friday.

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