US markets start 2019 with a whimper as government shutdown drags on

US stocks started the new year with a more than 1% decline on Wednesday, as weak data in Asia and Europe confirmed fears of a global economic slowdown while the US government shutdown dragged on.

All 11 major S&P sectors were lower in early trading, with declines in the technology and healthcare indexes weighing the most on the market. All 30 of the Dow Industrial components were in the red.

Markets dive as China manufacturing weakens in bleak start to 2019

China’s factory activity contracted for the first time in 19 months in December, hit by the Sino-US trade war, with the weakness spilling over to other Asian economies. Euro zone manufacturing activity dropped for the fifth month and barely avoided contraction.

The grim readings come ahead of the closely watched US manufacturing survey on Thursday, payrolls data on Friday and the US earnings season later this month, which is expected to show corporate profit shrunk in the October-December quarter.

“Increasing evidence of China’s economy weakening further has sent chills throughout global markets. This fear has been a depressing factor for the markets,” Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities, said in a client note.

At 9.56am ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 259.33 points, or 1.11%, at 23,068.13; the S&P 500 was down 27.61 points, or 1.1%, at 2,479.24 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 79.29 points, or 1.2%, at 6,555.98.

The tech index slipped 1.15%, with Microsoft Corp and Apple down nearly 2%. Amazon and Netflix fell over 1% to drag the consumer discretionary sector down by 0.90%.

Healthcare, 2018’s best performing sector, dropped 1.61%, while energy, last year’s worst performing sector, fell 0.94% as concerns about an economic slowdown also hit oil prices.

A low appetite for risk sparked demand for US Treasuries, sending yields on 10-year debt to a 12-month low of 2.6%.

Meanwhile, the US Congress is set to reconvene with no signs of a workable plan to end a 12-day-old partial shutdown and Donald Trump not budging on his demand for $5bn to fund a border wall. A Democrat plan to approve a two-part spending package does not include these funds.

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