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Equities slump as growth worries resurface

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A gauge of world stock markets fell on Tuesday as concerns over global growth spurred investors to look toward safe-haven assets such as the Japanese yen and government bonds, with equities extending losses on additional trade worries.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Investors shunned risk assets like equities as the International Monetary Fund warned of a dimmer outlook on Monday, China confirmed its slowest growth rate in nearly 30 years, and as Brexit uncertainty continued to drag on sentiment.

On Wall Street, stocks took another step lower in the wake of a report from the Financial Times that the U.S. had turned down an offer of preparatory trade talks from China. The benchmark S&P 500 index fell to a session low and tested a technical support level at its 50-day moving average.

“It’s a risk-off trade today and a lot has to do with just concerns over global growth,” said Ryan Nauman, market strategist at Informa Financial Intelligence in Zephyr Cove, Nevada.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 379.25 points, or 1.54 percent, to 24,327.1, the S&P 500 lost 42.66 points, or 1.60 percent, to 2,628.05 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 135.21 points, or 1.89 percent, to 7,022.02.

The decline put the benchmark S&P index on track for its biggest daily percentage fall since Jan 3.

European shares fell for a second straight session, with Swiss bank UBS sinking over 3 percent on disappointing earnings, spelling continued trouble for European banks which lost nearly 30 percent last year.

In its World Economic Outlook report, the IMF predicted the global economy would grow at 3.5 percent in 2019 and 3.6 percent in 2020, down 0.2 and 0.1 percentage point respectively from estimates in October.

The downgrade mainly reflected weakness in Europe, with Germany hurt by new car-emission rules, Italy under market pressure due to Rome’s recent budget standoff with the European Union, and Britain’s planned exit from the EU hanging over the bloc as well.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 1.15 percent, after climbing 2.7 percent in the prior four sessions. The pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 0.36 percent.

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The Japanese yen strengthened 0.41 percent versus the greenback to 109.24 per dollar. The dollar index, which rose to its highest since Jan. 4 helped by safe-haven demand, erased gains after data showed U.S. home sales tumbled to their lowest in three years in December and house price increases slowed sharply, suggesting a further loss of momentum in the housing market.

The dollar index, tracking the greenback against six major currencies, fell 0.08 percent.

The slowdown concerns also pushed U.S. Treasury yields lower as investors shifted some cash back into the bond market. Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 14/32 in price to yield 2.732 percent, from 2.782 percent late on Friday.

U.S. crude fell 2.79 percent to $52.53 per barrel and Brent was last at $60.91, down 2.92 percent on the day.

Additional reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal, Sruthi Shankar and Saqib Iqbal Ahmed; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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