Fred Imbert, Sam Meredith
At around 8 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a drop of 371.46 points at the open. Futures on the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 also pointed to a weak open.
The moves in premarket trade come after a private sector survey showed manufacturing activity in the world's second-largest economy contracted for the first time in 19 months. China's Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for December dipped to 49.7 from 50.2 in November.
The weaker-than-expected data follows a poor official survey on factory output, compounding concerns about a possible economic slowdown this year.
Futures also fell after The New York Times reported that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has told friends and associates he wants to prevent President Donald Trump from accepting "empty promises" from China on the trade front. The report also says Lighthizer has warned Trump that additional tariffs may be needed to get meaningful concessions from the Chinese. The two countries are currently negotiating a trade deal after exchanging tariffs on billions of dollars worth of their goods.
Wall Street concluded trading in 2018 on Monday, with all major stock indexes registering their worst yearly performances since the financial crisis.
Despite solid gains on Monday, the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 6.2 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively, for 2018. Both indexes posted their biggest annual losses since 2008, when they plunged 38.5 percent and 33.8 percent, respectively. The Nasdaq Composite lost 3.9 percent in 2018, its worst year in a decade, when it dropped 40 percent.
The S&P 500 and Nasdaq also registered their worst quarterly performances since late 2008, while the Dow logged its biggest quarterly loss since 2009. A sizable chunk of this quarter's losses came during a violent December. The indexes all dropped at least 8.7 percent for the month. The Dow and S&P 500 also recorded their worst December performance since 1931.
On the data front, investors are likely to closely monitor manufacturing PMI data for December at around 9:45 a.m. ET.