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Wall Street Slips After China Data Reignites Global Slowdown Worries

Category: Business,Finance

(Reuters) - Technology shares pulled Wall Street lower on Monday, after an unexpected drop in China's exports in December reignited worries of a slowdown in global economic growth.

The China trade data reinforced concerns that U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods were taking a toll on the world's second-largest economy, prompting companies such as Apple Inc to issue profit warning.

Chipmakers, which get a sizable portion of their revenue from China, took a hit, with the Philadelphia SE semiconductor index slipping 1.60 percent. Trade-sensitive Boeing Co and Caterpillar Inc fell more than 1 percent.

Citigroup Inc shares reversed course to rise 3 percent despite reporting lower-than-expected revenue, after Chief Financial Officer John Gerspach said the slowdown in China was not particularly disruptive to its global operations and that the bank saw improvements in trading conditions in the first few days of the quarter. [vnL1N1ZE0G1]

"Since banks stocks have been at the epicenter of what has been a very tough 2018, investors are going to focus on any encouraging trends or reassuring commentary," said Yousef Abbasi, global market strategist at INTL FCStone in New York.

Citigroup kicked off fourth-quarter earnings season for large U.S. banks, with JPMorgan Chase & Co and Wells Fargo & Co set to report earnings on Tuesday.

Ten of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower, with the technology sector's 0.87 percent fall being the biggest drag on the S&P 500. The S&P financial sector was the only gainer, lifting U.S. stocks off their early lows.

A recent rally in stocks, fueled by U.S.-China trade optimism and hopes of a slow pace of interest rate hikes, has driven a 10 percent gain in the S&P 500 from its Christmas Eve low. The benchmark index is about 12 percent away from its Sept. 20 record close.

"Obviously the biggest concern is the China trade data and people are seeing it in terms of a global synchronized slowdown that is potentially picking up," said Abbasi.

"We're definitely in an area where it could be a combination of things including the fact that we have rallied really nicely off the bottom."

At 11:22 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 132.35 points, or 0.55 percent, at 23,863.60, the S&P 500 was down 16.34 points, or 0.63 percent, at 2,579.92 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 61.20 points, or 0.88 percent, at 6,910.28.

Adding to the downbeat mood was a partial government shutdown, which entered its 24th day, making it the longest shuttering of federal agencies in U.S. history.

Analysts expect S&P 500 companies to post a 14.3 percent growth in fourth-quarter earnings, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. Profit for 2019 is likely to increase by 6.3 percent this year, much slower than the estimated 23.4 percent growth in 2018 that was mostly fueled by a cut in corporate tax rates.

Among other stocks, PG&E Corp plunged 49.22 percent after the biggest U.S. power utility said it was preparing to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for all of its businesses.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 2.24-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and for a 2.36-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded no new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 11 new highs and 11 new lows.

(Reporting by Medha Singh and Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)


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