US stocks tumble as Apple slump and trade war fears trigger market rout

A fresh wave of paranoia has spread across Wall Street triggered by Apples slump and mounting fears of an global economic slowdown.

Sentiment worsened as US manufacturing activity slowed to a two-year low after a sharp drop in new orders in December, helping knock more than 550 points off the Dow Jones during an unforgiving market rout.

Dismal ISM manufacturing data – which is closely watched by traders – saw construction giant Caterpillar slump 2.5 per cent, while chemical company DowDuPont fell three per cent and manufacturing giant 3M dropped 3.1 per cent.

All three major US indices tumbled as Apples dramatic nine per cent fall at the open sparked another painful day for investors.

The iPhone-maker said lower demand for its products in China and the Asian countrys economic deceleration were to blame for its second revenue warning issued late on Wednesday night.

The warning brought the effects of the ongoing US-China trade war into sharp focus as many firms reliant of Chinese sales saw their shares hit.

US President Donald Trump ramped up his trade war rhetoric further yesterday, boasting that American tariffs had earned the treasury “many billions of dollars” from China and other countries.

White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett caused a stir by admitting “a heck of a lot” of US companies, particularly those with sales in China, would see their earnings downgraded until a deal was struck.

IG analyst Joshua Mahony said Hassetts comments were a “wake-up call” and that the selling that dominated the end of 2018 was likely to continue as the trade war rumbles on.

He said: “While many will see Apple as a prime example of a firm that is overly reliant on a single product line – iPhone – the bigger issue is that many mature companies have seen China as their growth source after reaching saturation point in developed markets.”

Luxury retailers also suffered in the aftermath of Apples warning of a slowdown in China as analysts said investors were concerned Chinese consumers may lose their appetite for high-end brands.

Ralph Lauren slumped 2.5 per cent and Tiffany & Co slid 1.3 per cent, while French fashion brand Hermes fell 2.8 per cent and Burberry – the second biggest faller on the FTSE 100 – dropped six per cent.

“Investors are fearful the Chinese middle class might lose their appetite for Western luxury brands,” CMC Markets analyst David Madden said.

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