Signs of a Weaker Global Economy Send Stocks Sharply Lower

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Tuesday. (Reuters/Brendan McDermid)

Stocks across the world are down Tuesday following new signs the global economy is weakening. The International Monetary Fund trimmed its economic forecasts for 2019 and 2020 and pointed to risks including trade tensions and rising interest rates. China’s government said its economy grew in 2018 at the slowest pace since 1990.

Technology companies skidded, and so did industrial companies, which were hurt by the slower growth forecast as well as some weak fourth-quarter earnings. Bond prices climbed as investors looked for safer investments, and oil prices fell as traders expected weaker demand.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index lost 43 points, or 1.6 percent, to 2,627 as of 1:10 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 374 points, or 1.5 percent, to 24,332. The Nasdaq composite fell 132 points, or 1.9 percent, to 7,024. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks dropped 25 points, or 1.7 percent, to 1,457.

Stocks in Europe and Asia also fell. Global markets have rallied over the last month as investors began to feel that a slowdown in the world economy might not be as painful as they feared. Even with the decline Tuesday, the S&P 500 is up 5.1 percent in 2019 and has jumped more than 12 percent since hitting its recent low on Dec. 24.

GLOBAL GROWTH: The IMF is now says the global economy will grow 3.5 percent this year, down from its previous forecast of 3.7 percent. Managing Director Christine Lagarde said the global economy was growing more slowly than expected as risks increase. She also said the bank cut its estimate for growth in 2020 to 3.6 percent from 3.7 percent.

Earlier in the day, China reported its economy expanded by 6.6 percent in 2018. This was the slowest pace of growth since 1990 and it fueled fears a trade dispute with Washington is putting a drag on the world’s second largest economy.

Technology and industrial companies took some of the worst losses. Construction and mining equipment maker Caterpillar shed 3 percent to $132.55 and farm equipment company Deere fell 3.5 percent to $158.88. Among technology companies, chipmakers absorbed sharp losses. Nvidia fell 4.2 percent to $150.40 and Texas Instruments lost 2.9 percent to $96.55.

ANALYSIS: “The IMF’s prognosis is fairly dire, and the prescription is a sensible approach of preventive management; to avoid escalating trade disputes, lower tariffs and build fiscal or financial buffers,” wrote Vishnu Varathan of Mizuho Bank in a note to clients.

METAL MELTDOWN: Aluminum products maker Arconic slumped 16.2 percent to $17.04 after it said it is no longer considering a sale. Formerly a part of aluminum giant Alcoa, Arconic said it didn’t receive any offers it thought were in its best interests. The stock has gyrated over the last few months following reports the company was considering a sale.

Power tools maker Stanley Black and Decker sank 14.5 percent to $117.1 after its forecast for 2019 fell short of Wall Street estimates.

BONDS: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.73 percent from 2.78 percent.

BUY IT NOW?: eBay jumped 6 percent to $32.86 after activist investment firm Elliott Management disclosed a 4 percent stake in the online marketplace and pushed it to make changes. It said eBay’s classifieds and StubHub ticket resale division are both struggling, and eBay should consider separating them from its marketplace business.

CONVENIENCE, IN CARS, GETTING COFFEE: Starbucks is expanding delivery to some stores in New York, Boston, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles in the next few weeks. The company said it intends to offer delivery from almost one-fourth of its U.S. company-operated shops through a partnership with Uber Eats. There will be a $2.49 booking fee.

The stock rose 1.5 percent to $65.68.

HOUSE OF HORRORS: Homebuilders sank after U.S. home sales cratered in December and price growth declined to the lowest level in more than six years. The National Association of Realtors said Tuesday that sales of already-built homes plunged 6.4 percent. Years of rising prices and the more recent increase in mortgage rates have both affected sales, as has the limited number of homes available for sale.

Tri Pointe Group fell 3.1 percent and D.R. Horton lost 1.5 percent to $36.61.

BREXIT PLAN: British Prime Minister Theresa May presented her Plan B for Britain’s exit from the European Union on Monday, but it looks a lot like the original and it’s not clear if she can win approval in Parliament, which gave her previous plan a resounding “no” last week. The European Union has said it won’t renegotiate the deal that Parliament already rejected.

Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union in a little more than two months, and if Britain departs without a trade deal it could cause major hardships for numerous companies, especially banks.

ENERGY: U.S. crude lost 2.8 percent to $52.32 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, dropped 2.8 percent to $61 a barrel in London.

Natural gas dropped 10.8 percent to $3.11 per 1,000 cubic feet.

OVERSEAS: The British FTSE 100 index slid 1 percent. Germany’s DAX and the French CAC 40 both gave up 0.4 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index shed 0.5 percent and the Kospi in South Korea sank 0.3 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.7 percent.