The Dow drops 200 points after Chinese economic data sparks growth fears

Wall Street opened lower Friday as weaker-than-expected economic data in China stirred fears about slowing growth around the globe, with equities erasing most gains for the week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.8%, or about 200 points. The Nasdaq Composite stumbled 1.4%, and the S&P 500 shed 0.9%. Last week, stocks posted their largest weekly decline since March.

Government figures out Friday showed retail sales in China grew at their slowest pace in more than 15 years and industrial output rose the least in three years, adding to concerns about a slowdown in the second-largest economy as Beijing works to defuse trade tensions with the Washington.

Asian markets slid following the data, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 down 2% and China’s Shanghai Composite 1.5% lower. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 also fell 0.8% for a second day.

“The sharp change of attitude towards global equities clearly highlights how global trade developments are heavily influencing market sentiment and risk appetite,” said Lukman Otunuga, an analyst at FXTM.

China said it wanted to speed up trade negotiations ahead of a March 1 deadline, adding it would temporarily suspend additional 25% tariffs on American cars and parts for three months at the start of 2019.

The British pound held close to 20-month lows, falling nearly 1% against the dollar. After surviving a vote of no confidence this week, Prime Minister Theresa May has struggled to shore up key concessions on her plan to leave the European Union.

Treasury yields fell as investors focused on a Federal Reserve meeting next week, where borrowing costs are expected to increase, with the 10-year down 2.3 basis points to 2.888%. The dollar climbed 0.6% against a basket of peers.

Also on Friday, the Commerce Department said retail sales in the US rose at a pace slightly above estimates in November. Sales were up a seasonally-adjusted 0.2% on the month and 4.2% from a year earlier to $US513.5 billion.

“Overall, then, this is a very strong report, behind the gasoline price hit to the headline and non-auto numbers,” said Ian Sheperdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. “The kick from the tax cuts is gone, but the huge and rapid drop in retail gas prices is freeing-a great deal of cash at just the right time for retailers.”

Oil prices fell, with West Texas Intermediate trading just under $US53 per barrel and Brent at around $US61.50. OPEC and other major producers agreed this month to cut production levels amid concerns about oversupply.

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