Tuesday tumble: Stocks drop on weak China data

Stock markets were plunging again Tuesday, continuing Wall Street’s month-long rocky ride, after gloomy economic data out of China rekindled fears that the world’s second-largest economy is slowing much faster than anticipated.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 359 points, or 2.2 percent, to 16,169 as of 10:11 a.m. ET. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 42 points, or 2.1 percent, to 1,931 and the Nasdaq composite fell 85 points, or 1.8 percent, to 4,691.

An official index of Chinese manufacturing fell to a three-year low last month, another sign of slower-than expected growth in that country. The manufacturing index, which surveys factory purchasing managers, dropped to a reading of 49.7 points in August from 50.0 in July. A reading below 50 indicates a contraction.

China’s stocks sank on the news and China’s Shanghai Composite Index closed down 1.2 percent.

The Chinese economy has been the focus for investors all summer and concerns have intensified in the last three weeks. China devalued its currency, the renminbi, in mid-August a move that investors interpreted as an effort to boost economic growth.

“Monday’s relatively peaceful markets are a distant memory as Chinese data and shares sparked another severe overnight reaction from the developed world,” said John Briggs, head of fixed income strategy at RBS.

Markets in Europe were broadly lower, with Germany’s DAX down 2.6 percent, France’s CAC-40 falling 2.4 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 index falling 2.8 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 was also volatile, dropping 3.8 percent. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong sank 2.2 percent. Stocks also fell in South Korea and Australia.

August was a miserable month for investors. Worries over China’s slowdown and the timing of a possible interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve pushed shares sharply lower. Moves by the Chinese central bank helped to stabilize the markets, at least temporarily. The Standard & Poor’s 500 still finished August down 6.3 percent, its worst showing since May 2012.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.99 to $47.19 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It had surged $3.98, or nearly 9 percent, to $49.20 on Monday after the U.S. Energy Department cut its oil output estimate.

Bond prices rose, pushing down the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note to 2.18 percent from 2.22 percent on Monday. The dollar fell to 119.97 yen from 121.20 yen on Monday. The euro rose to $1.1271 from $1.1225.

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