Dow futures drop nearly 300 points amid rising fears over global growth

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Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were sharply lower Friday morning, after weaker-than-expected data in China exacerbated concerns of a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy.

At around 04:40 a.m. ET, Dow futures fell 289 points, indicating a decline of more than 324 points at the open. Futures on the S&P 500 and Nasdaq were also seen relatively downbeat.

The Dow finished Thursday’s trading session higher by 0.29 percent at 24,597.38 points. The other two major U.S. benchmarks — the S&P 500 and Nasdaq composite — ended in negative territory. 

Global equity markets started the week on a volatile note, but investor sentiment improved over the last two days when various news reports on U.S.China relations pointed to an easing in tensions between the two world powers.

That turnaround in sentiment helped markets recover some ground, but that momentum has started to fade. On Friday, Asia shares traded lower as a slew of Chinese economic data came in lower than expected.

The data underscored the rising risks to China’s economy as Beijing works to resolve an ongoing trade war with the U.S. 

Analysts at ING said the general market tone on Friday was “risk off,” implying that investors’ appetite to take risks by buying more stocks has gone down.

“Investors (are) likely to book gains and keep to the sidelines digesting the developments on US-China trade and the ECB decision,” the analysts wrote in a note on Friday.

On the data front, investors are likely to closely monitor retail sales figures for November at around 8:30 a.m. ET. Industrial production data for November and manufacturing and services PMI data for December is scheduled to follow later in the session.

The European Central Bank announced Thursday it was bringing to an end a crisis-era bond-buying program this month.