US stocks slipped today as global growth worries were resurrected on news out of China and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The Dow Jones industrial average sank 462 points, or almost 2 per cent, at its low - dragged down by DowDuPont, 3M, Boeing and Caterpillar, companies with significant exposure to the Chinese economy.
The blue-chip benchmark rallied late in the day as presidential economic adviser Larry Kudlow appeared on CNBC and denied news reports that talks between the Trump administration and Chinese trade officials had been cancelled. In fact, he said, no meeting was ever scheduled.
"There's no cancellations," Kudlow said. "None. Zero. Let me just try to put that to rest."
The Dow immediately snapped back, closing the day down almost 302 points, or 1.2 per cent, at 24,404.
The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index fell about 1.4 per cent, its biggest drop since Jan. 3. The S&P slid back into correction territory, with 10 of 11 sectors down on the day. A correction is a 10 per cent retreat from a recent high. It was the first S&P decline in five sessions.
The Nasdaq composite was well off its recent highs, down 1.9 per cent, as technology stocks suffered.
The renewed volatility after several weeks of relative calm followed weekend reports from China that its official economic growth for 2018 came in at 6.6 per cent, its slowest in 30 years. There was also news earlier this month that German industrial production had sharply slowed, in part because of declining exports to China.
"China is dealing with something very new, which is consumer-driven slowdown in growth," said Glenn Youngkin, co-chief executive of the Carlyle Group during an appearance on Fox Business Network with anchor Maria Bartiromo. "One of the great recognitions is that China, which used to be this big export economy, is really driven by this giant consumer class that's been created over the last 20 years.
"And that consumer class is nervous," Youngkin said. "They're nervous for all the same reasons that other people in the world are nervous, and that's reflecting itself on the Chinese economy."
Data released Tuesday morning (Wednesday NZT) also indicate US homes sales are at a three-year low.
Adding to the pessimism in the markets were additional forecasts out of Davos that global growth, including for the United States would be less in 2019 than it was last year.
"It's going to be globally a slow-up," billionaire investor Ray Dalio told CNBC during an interview from Davos. Dalio, co-chairman of Bridgewater Associates, warned that the US could slide into a recession in 2020.
"It's not just the United States. It's Europe. And it's China and Japan," Dalio said on CNBC's "Squawk Box."
A letter from respected investor Seth Klarman warning of a potential financial crisis, rising out of global debt, international trade tensions and a retreat of the United States from the world stage, added to the gloom coming out of Switzerland.
Klarman runs the Baupost Group, which manages about $27 billion. His letter was reported in the New York Times by DealBook columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin.
The sentiment is far from unanimous. Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone Group, on the same show, predicted a decline in US economic growth to 2.5 to 2.75 per cent this year, well below the peak of above 4 per cent in mid-2018. "I don't see any recession," he said. "I don't know where that came from the last two months of the year."
The drop in stocks occurs after four weeks of gains and as worries deepen over the partial shutdown of the US government, which has lasted a month with no end in sight.
"Both sides of the shutdown debate need to figure out how to get out of this mess," said Jared Bernstein, who served as the economic adviser to former vice president Joe Biden.
"There's a real sense that a lot of people in charge not only don't get it, but they are making things worse," Bernstein said. "Whether it's Trump and the shutdown, Theresa May and Brexit or Emmanuel Macron and the Yellow Vests, our leaders don't have answers. That creates a lot of chaos and anxiety that spills into financial markets."
Today's pullback arrived after a four-week rally spurred by a wild December that saw stocks hit a bear market, only to rocket upward as the Dow scored its highest single-day point gain in history.
Investors pounced on the decline in stock prices, which was brought on by a final quarter of 2018 that wiped out the year's gains.
Then came today's report from the National Association of Realtors showing sales of existing US homes fell to an annual rate of 4.99 million units in December - the lowest in more than three years.
"It's kind of natural to give back some of this big gain, at least in the short term," said Scott Wren, senior global equity strategist at the Wells Fargo Investment Institute. "The magnitude of the rally off of the Christmas Eve low, combined with some less than great Chinese data and some existing-home data that came out today, brings the fears of global growth back to the forefront."
Crude oil prices were also feeling the pain of growth fears. Oil prices dropped, with benchmark Brent Crude sliding 2.8 per cent to just under $61 per barrel and West Texas Intermediate dropping 2.8 per cent to $52.
- Washington Post