Apple warning of weak sales in China sends US stocks sinking

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 600 points about an hour into trading

Stocks went into a steep slide Thursday morning after Apple reported a slowdown in iPhone sales over the holidays in China, a hugely important market for the company.

The rare warning from Apple sent a shudder through markets and confirmed fears among investors that the world’s second-largest economy was weakening.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 600 points about an hour into trading.

Apple’s stock plunged 10 per cent, erasing $67 billion in value. Other big exporters including technology and machinery companies also took big losses.

Some of the worst drops went to chipmakers that make components used in smartphones and other gadgets. The trade dispute, nearly a year old, threatens to snarl their supply lines and reduce demand for their products. Tariffs and other trade sanctions could add to their difficulties.

The losses deepened after a survey of U.S. manufacturers also showed signs of weakness. The benchmark S&P 500 index was down 2.4 per cent as of 10:45 a.m.

In a letter to shareholders on Wednesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said iPhone demand was waning in China and would hurt revenue for the October-December quarter. Cook said Apple expects revenue of $84 billion for the quarter. That’s $7 billion less than analysts expected, according to FactSet.

Apple’s warning, its first since 2002, deepened concerns about the Chinese economy, which had been showing signs of stress.

The S&P 500 dropped 60 points to 2,449. The Dow slid 642, or 2.7 per cent to 22,707. The Nasdaq composite, which has a high concentration of tech stocks, retreated 185 points, or 2.8 per cent, to 6,482.

“For a while now there’s been an adage in the markets that as long as Apple was doing fine, everyone else would be OK,” said Neil Wilson, chief markets analyst at Markets.com. “Therefore, Apple’s rare profit warning is a red flag for market watchers. The question is to what extent this is more Apple-specific?”

READ MORE: Got $1,100? Apple shows off its most expensive iPhone yet

Apple’s warning couldn’t have come at a worse time for stock market investors given the wipeout in late 2018, when many global indexes posted their worst performances in a decade amid concerns about the global economy and the prospect of further U.S. interest rate hikes.

A weak report on U.S. manufacturing was also weighing on the market. The Institute for Supply Management said its index of manufacturing fell to its lowest level in two years, and new orders have fallen sharply since November. Manufacturing is still growing, but at a slower pace than it has recently.

In times of market stress and volatility, there are some assets that traditionally do well as investors perceive them as safer to hold. U.S. government bond prices, gold and high-dividend stocks like utilities all rose.

Apple stock has slumped 38 per cent since early October as investors feared a sales slowdown in China. The company also recently announced that it would stop disclosing how many iPhones it sold each quarter, and many investors felt that suggested the company was trying to hide signs that its sales were cooling off. Its stock fell to $143.58.

Other major tech companies have also taken huge losses over the last three months as the market endured its worst slump in almost a decade. While stocks rebounded slightly at the end of 2018, Apple’s troubles added to their losses Thursday. Microsoft shed 1.6 per cent to $99.46. In the chip industry, Intel fell 4.1 per cent to $45.17 and Qualcomm lost 2.4 per cent to $56.04 while Skyworks skidded 7.6 per cent to $62.77.

Among big industrial companies, Caterpillar gave up 3.5 per cent to $121.90 and Deere lost 2.5 per cent to $144.93. Companies that make heavy machines like construction equipment are facing less demand as China’s economy, the largest in the world after the U.S., loses strength. They’re also dealing with higher costs for metals as a result of import taxes.

Bonds prices jumped. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.58 per cent from 2.66 per cent late Wednesday, a large move.

Markets overseas held up a bit better. Germany’s DAX and the French CAC 40 both fell 1.2 per cent, and Britain’s FTSE 100 dipped 0.2 per cent. In Asia, tech-related stocks suffered most. South Korea’s Kospi ended 0.8 per cent lower and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gave up 0.3 per cent.

Oil prices were little changed. U.S. crude stayed at $46.52 a barrel in New York and Brent crude rose 0.4 per cent to $55.13 a barrel in London. Oil prices have nosedived almost 40 per cent since early October, and investors’ fears about falling demand in China and elsewhere were a key reason for the decline.

The dollar weakened. It fell to 107.46 yen from 109.21 yen. The euro rose to $1.1403 from $1.344. The British pound fell to $1.2596 from $1.2690.

Gold also rose, by 0.6 per cent to $1,291 an ounce.

Some experts believe that the market volatility could eventually lead to changes in the policies that are concerning investors. The Fed, for example, could slow the pace of its interest rate increases if markets continue to drop. And U.S. President Donald Trump could become more open to settling the trade dispute with China.

“It is a well-known fact that Trump perceives the markets as a true barometer of his presidency,” said Piotr Matys, a strategist at Rabobank International.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Council meetings now closed to the public in Chilliwack

Changes comply with provincial orders for no public gatherings and help development applications

Chilliwack elementary schools roll parades through their neighbourhoods, past students’ homes

Unsworth and Central are two of many schools trying to connect teachers with students in fun way

Kinneman appointed CAO of the Fraser Valley Regional District

Her ‘experience and connection with the staff and FVRD partners was unparalleled’ says board chair

Chilliwack school district rolls out next year’s budget, expects COVID-19 costs to change things

Public is being encouraged to connect with the district with any questions about 2020/2021 budget

Chilliwack residents upset by blasting ‘nightmare’ in their hillside neighbourhood

Little Mountain neighbour says blasting ‘unconscionable’ while they’re following advice to stay home

UPDATE: Canadians awake to extra COVID-19 emergency benefit money, feds clarify changes

The CRA and federal officials are working to clarify the confusion around payments

B.C. sorting medical equipment sales, donation offers for COVID-19

Supply hub has call out for masks, gowns, coronavirus swabs

B.C. records five more deaths due to COVID-19, 45 new cases

A total of 838 people have recovered from the virus

Major crimes investigating sudden death of North Okanagan child

The 8 year old was flown to Kelowna General Hospital and died hours later

BC institution has highest number of positive results for COVID-19

11 inmates in Mission test positive for coronavirus, more than any other federal prison in Canada

Easter Bunny added to B.C.’s list of essential workers

Premier John Horgan authorizes bunny to spread “eggs-ellent cheer” throughout province

Travellers returning to B.C. must have self-isolation plan or face quarantine: Horgan

Premier John Horgan says forms must be filled out by travellers

More than 400 animals have been adopted amid pandemic: B.C. SPCA

People are taking this time of social distancing to find a loyal companion through the animal welfare group

Most Read