The new year got off to an inauspicious start on Wall Street as stocks tumbled Monday in a global sell-off triggered by new fears of a slowdown in China and rising tensions in the Middle East.
NEW YORK — The new year got off to an inauspicious start on Wall Street as stocks tumbled Monday in a global sell-off triggered by new fears of a slowdown in China and rising tensions in the Middle East.
The Dow Jones industrial average clawed its way back from an early 467-point decline but still ended down 1.6 percent — its biggest loss in two weeks and the worst start to a year since 2008. Markets in Asia and Europe were down more.
The wave of selling on the first trading day of 2016 served as a reminder that worries over the fragile global economy, which weighed on financial markets last year, are not going away anytime soon.
“It’s going to be a turbulent year,” said Kevin Kelly, chief investment officer of Recon Capital Partners. “This isn’t a blip.”
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Still, the Dow industrial index recouped almost half its early steep drop by the close.
“I think the sell-off did bring in some bargain hunters at the end of the day,” said Jim McDonald, chief investment strategist at Northern Trust. “That is somewhat a reflection that the worries in the market were predominantly based overseas. If you look at the way the market traded, it didn’t scream fear.”
Monday’s market troubles started in China, where weak manufacturing figures in the world’s second-largest economy sent the Shanghai composite index plunging 6.9 percent before Chinese authorities halted trading.
Investors were also unnerved by heightened tensions between Saudi Arabia, a huge oil supplier, and Iran. Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shiite cleric, prompting Iranian protesters to set fire to the Saudi Embassy in Tehran on Sunday. In the U.S., the Dow closed down 276.09 points at 17,148.94. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 31.28 points, or 1.5 percent, to 2,012.66. The Nasdaq composite fell 104.32 points, or 2.1 percent, to 4,903.09.
Some of the stocks that soared in 2015 were among the hardest hit Monday. Netflix, the top-performing stock in the S&P 500 last year, declined nearly 3.86 percent, while Amazon, the second-biggest gainer last year, plunged 5.76 percent.
The selling in China spread quickly to other Asian countries. Japan’s Nikkei 225 tumbled 3.1 percent Monday and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng retreated 2.7 percent. Then the selling spread to Europe. The DAX index in Germany tumbled 4.3 percent and Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 2.4 percent.
Huang Cengdong, an analyst for Sinolink Securities in Shanghai, said he expects more turmoil in the Chinese stock market ahead of earnings reports. “There will be heavy selling in the near future,” Huang said.
Chinese authorities have tried for months to restore confidence in the country’s market after a plunge in June rattled global markets and prompted a panicked, multibillion-dollar government intervention.
The slowdown in China is worrisome around the globe because the country’s manufacturers are huge buyers of raw materials, machinery and energy from other nations. Also, many automakers and consumer-goods companies are hoping to sell more to increasingly wealthy Chinese households.
In the U.S., investors were also worried about data suggesting that slow overseas growth and low oil prices are continuing to hurt U.S. manufacturers.
A report from the Institute for Supply Management showed manufacturing contracted last month at the fastest pace in more than six years as factories cut jobs and new orders shrank.
Ernie Cecilia, chief investment officer of Bryn Mawr Trust, warned that investors shouldn’t overreact.
“A weak first day of the year doesn’t portend that 2016 will be a down year,” Cecilia said. “There are a lot of trading days left.”
One segment of the U.S. market wasn’t affected by the global sell-off: gun makers. The stock of Smith & Wesson rose 6 percent and Sturm Ruger shares climbed almost 3 percent after President Obama said he will use his executive authority to introduce restrictions that are designed to curb gun violence.
“When the government attempts to tighten gun regulation, near-term sales of firearms tend to go up,” said Rommel Dionisio, an analyst at Wunderlich Securities. “Consumers are fearful of a certain class of firearms being restricted or legislated against.”