China worries weigh on Wall Street, earnings expectations tepid

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stocks declined on Monday as an unexpected drop in China’s exports reignited worries of a global economic slowdown and prompted caution among investors as the corporate earnings season kicks off.

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., January 10, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Data showed that China’s exports unexpectedly fell the most in two years in December and imports also contracted. The drop pointed to further weakening of the world’s second-largest economy and faltering global demand.

Chipmakers, which get a sizable portion of their revenue from China, took a hit, with the Philadelphia SE Semiconductor Index .SOX down 1.3 percent. The technology sector’s .SPLRCT 0.8 percent fall was the biggest drag on the S&P 500.

As worries over global growth have mounted, lofty expectations for U.S. corporate growth have subsided. Analysts now estimate that S&P 500 earnings will grow 14.3 percent year-over-year for the fourth quarter, whereas in October they forecast a 20.1-percent jump, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

“People are less inclined to take large positions going into the start of earnings season,” said Robert Phipps, director at Per Stirling Capital Management in Austin, Texas. “There’s not a whole lot of reason to be buying now.”

Even so, earnings season began on a positive note as Citigroup Inc (C.N) beat profit estimates. The bank’s shares rose 4.4 percent and bolstered the S&P financial sector .SPSY, which rose 0.9 percent.

JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) and Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) are set to report earnings on Tuesday.

Adding to the downbeat mood on Monday was a partial government shutdown, which entered its 24th day, making it the longest shuttering of federal agencies in U.S. history.

Despite Monday’s drop, the S&P 500 has climbed more

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