New Zealand share prices edged lower following on from another volatile session on Wall Street, which saw the Dow Jones industrial index drop by 2.8 per cent on the back of a profit warning from the US tech giant Apple.

News that the iPhone maker had cut its revenue forecast for the first time in 16 years based on weak sales in China caused turbulence in most US and world share markets as investors fretted about what that will mean for world growth.

Those concerns centred on China - the world's second-biggest economy - which in turn led traders to bet that the US Federal Reserve's next move could be a cut, rather than the widely expected two rate increases officially slated for 2019.

Adding to the bearish tone was news from America's Institute of Supply Management that showed manufacturing activity as at its lowest level since November 2016.


In the all-important US Treasuries market, yields fell as doubts emerged about the strength of the US economy.

Wall Street's Dow Jones Index dropped by 660 points or 2.8 per cent at 22,686 but the local market's response to that was muted.

By 1.30pm the benchmark NZX50 index was down by 60 points, or 0.7 per cent, at 8707.

At the same time, Australia's All Ords was down by 61.40 points, or 1 per cent, at 5,633.20.

Financial markets have started the new year in much the same rocky way as they ended 2018.

"People were quite spooked by the Apple news - not for what it means for Apple necessarily but for what it tells us about the Chinese economy and what's happening over there, and what that might mean for other parts of the world," Mark Lister, Craigs Investment Partners head of private wealth research, said.

Read more:
Apple drops bombshell on sharemarket

"Obviously China is a bit of a closed shop when it comes to information, so when you get a credible company like Apple saying that things are going a bit slower than expected, then that does make people a bit nervous about what's happening," he said.


Read more:
China credit crunch is another red light to the global economy

The local market, while weaker, has shown some resilience in the face of very weak offshore markets thanks to its defensive, utilities-laden, makeup.

"As we have seen over the last few months, we will probably hold our own more than some of the more volatile markets overseas," Lister said.

Harbour Asset Management portfolio manager Shane Solly said local stocks were "selectively" coming off the boil. "But it's an eclectic market at the moment," he said.

In the all-important US Treasuries market, the closely-watched US 10 year bond dropped in yield 10 basis points to 2.45 per cent - its lowest point in just under a year.

The rush to bonds is a defensive move as people sell stocks in favour of capital protection. When bond prices rally, yields fall.

In its earnings update, Apple chief executive Tim Cook raised concerns about the company's sales in China.

"While we anticipated some challenges in key emerging markets, we did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in Greater China," he said.

"In fact, most of our revenue shortfall to our guidance, and over 100 per cent of our year-over-year worldwide revenue decline occurred in Greater China across iPhone, Mac and iPad," Cook said.

China's economy began to slow in the second half of 2018 and GDP growth during the September quarter was the second lowest in the last 25 years.

"We believe the economic environment in China has been further impacted by rising trade tensions with the United States," Cook said.

"As the climate of mounting uncertainty weighed on financial markets, the effects appeared to reach consumers as well, with traffic to our retail stores and our channel partners in China declining as the quarter progressed," Cook said.

Apple's share price dropped by 10 per cent the back of the update.