Asian stocks dipped amid weak manufacturing reports by China, the eurozone and the U.S., while oil prices dropped again.
Japan’s Nikkei was down by 0.3 percent, Australia’s ASX 200 by 0.5 percent, South Korea’s KOSPI by 0.6 percent and Singapore’s STI by 1 percent.
In the U.S., major stock indexes were down most of the day until Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent, and Facebook Inc. helped them end little changed.
China’s manufacturing sector slowed more than expected in January, to its weakest level since 2012, dragged down by small and midsize enterprises, the government reported Monday. That indicates a sixth straight month of contraction for the world’s second-biggest economy. Eurozone manufacturing growth also slowed. And U.S. manufacturing contracted for a fourth month, a survey showed.
“We’re in for a period of continuing caution,” said Angus Gluskie, a managing director who oversees $550 million at White Funds Management in Sydney, told Bloomberg News. “It’s a period of uncertainty. China remains the biggest concern for investors. If the Chinese situation develops more adversely, it could have greater ramifications.”
China’s report was a drag on oil prices, with the U.S. benchmark falling $2 per barrel, 5.9 percent, to $31.62 per barrel. It earlier slumped as much as 6.9 percent. Meanwhile, the global benchmark declined 4.9 percent to $34.24.
“China is the last standing consumer of oil outside of the U.S. The problem is that everyone is relying on them,” said Carl Larry, director of business development at Frost & Sullivan in Houston, according to Reuters.
“As long as we keep in this scenario where China is the only real consumer to pick up the pace, we’re going to see moves lower every time China has an issue with their economy.”