December 14, 2018 / 12:39 PM / 5 months ago

Wall St. tumbles on global growth worries, J&J decline

(Reuters) - Wall Street’s three major indexes tumbled on Friday and the Dow confirmed a correction as weak data from China and Europe stoked fears of a global economic slowdown, while Johnson & Johnson shares were the biggest drag after Reuters reported the company knew for decades that its Baby Powder contained asbestos.

The S&P 600 .SPCY small cap index confirmed it was in a bear market after closing 20.05 percent below its Aug. 31 peak, falling 1.6 percent on the day.

The Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) report, which the company has disputed, sent its shares tumbling 10 percent in heavy volume, making it the biggest weight from a single stock on the S&P 500 and the Dow Industrials.

Investors focused on global growth concerns and worried about U.S. growth after China reported weak monthly retail sales growth and industrial output numbers, as disappointing economic data was released from the euro zone.

“Weakness showing through in the Chinese economy in terms of the numbers that were reported as a result of the ongoing trade war was certainly a concern that bleeds into global growth concerns,” said Ryan Larson, head of U.S. equity trading at RBC Global Asset Management in Chicago.

Larson also pointed to concerns about a Reuters poll of economists which found the risk of a U.S. recession in the next two years rose to 40 percent and found a significant shift in expectations toward fewer 2019 Federal Reserve interest rate rises.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 496.87 points, or 2.02 percent, to 24,100.51, 10 percent below its Oct. 3 closing high.

The S&P 500 .SPX lost 50.59 points, or 1.91 percent, to 2,599.95, 11.3 percent lower than its Sept. 20 record close, marking the poorest performance for the benchmark since it fell more than 14 percent between May 2015 and January 2016.

And with Friday’s close the losses inflicted by the correction are deeper than the declines suffered earlier this year.

The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 159.67 points, or 2.26 percent, to 6,910.67.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Johnson & Johnson helped pull down the S&P healthcare index .SPXHC 3.4 percent, making it the biggest percentage decliner among the S&P’s 11 major sectors. The technology index .SPLRCT, which includes a number of companies with global operations, especially China, dropped 2.5 percent.

The energy index .SPNY fell 2.4 percent.

Strong U.S. retail sales data appeared to have little impact on markets, with the S&P retail sector .SPXRT falling 2.4 percent.

“Solid fundamental data that gets to the core of the U.S. economy is overshadowed by the potential for a global slowdown washing up on our shores,” said Phil Blancato, chief executive of Ladenburg Thalmann Asset Management in New York but he said the sell off was buying opportunity.

The market struggled all week with choppy trading, on concerns ranging from U.S.-China trade talks, interest rates and a flattening U.S. Treasury yield curve and the shape of Brexit.

For the week, the S&P fell 1.25 percent and the Dow lost 1.2 percent while the Nasdaq shed 0.84 percent.

Investors appeared to shrug off Beijing’s announcement it would suspend additional tariffs on U.S.-made vehicles and auto parts for three months starting Jan. 1.

Amazon.com (AMZN.O) was the S&P’s second biggest drag with a 4 percent drop. Another highflyer, Apple Inc (AAPL.O), fell 3.2 percent, with reports citing a top analyst slashing iPhone sales estimates for the decline.

Costco Wholesale Corp (COST.O) dropped 8.5 percent after reporting a fall in quarterly gross margin and was the biggest laggard in consumer staples.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 3.61-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 3.17-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

Slideshow (2 Images)

The S&P 500 posted nine new 52-week highs and 85 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded six new highs and 425 new lows.

On U.S. exchanges 7.89 billion shares changed hands compared with the 7.97 billion-share average for the last 20 sessions.

Additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak in New York, Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Jonathan Oatis

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