US markets have tumbled as a dismal report on manufacturing exacerbated fears that the slowing economy could tip into recession. The Dow Jones was down 343 points, or 1.3 percent at 26,573. The S&P 500 lost 1.2 percent to 2,940, while the Nasdaq fell 1.1 percent to 7,908.

Stocks had opened the session higher but fell sharply after the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) rated US manufacturing activity at its weakest level since the Great Recession.

The ISM report was a “game changer,” said LBBW’s Karl Haeling. “There’s a growing recognition that the spread of negative economic impulses around the world is starting to land on US shores in a meaningful way.”

The ISM’s index fell 1.3 points to 47.8 percent in September, the lowest since June 2009 and well below the 50 rating that separates growth from contraction.

The institute pointed to trade conflicts as the biggest factor.

“Global trade remains the most significant issue, as demonstrated by the contraction in new export orders that began in July 2019,” said Timothy Fiore, chair of ISM’s manufacturing survey. “Overall, sentiment this month remains cautious regarding near-term growth.”

Analysts have pointed to upcoming trade talks between Beijing and Washington as critical to the market’s fortunes in the coming period.

Other key potential catalysts include the third-quarter corporate earnings period and upcoming Federal Reserve meetings that could lead to lower interest rates.

Among individual companies, General Motors dropped 3.7 percent as a United Auto Workers strike further pinched operations. The company announced it will lay off 6,000 workers in Mexico due to the strike, while JPMorgan Chase estimated the strike has cost the company around US$1 billion so far.

McDonald’s fell 2.6 percent following a downcast note from JPMorgan, which said the company’s sales are trending below expectations.

Shares of online brokerage firms plunged after Charles Schwab announced plans to eliminate commissions for many trades. Schwab fell nearly 10 percent, while Etrade sank 16.4 percent and TD Ameritrade nosedived 25.8 percent. (AFP)