Shares in technology firms fell after Apple slashed its revenue outlook blaming weak sales in China and citing the US trade row

London (AFP) - Stock markets retreated once more Thursday as China’s slowing economy forced Apple to slash its revenue forecast, wiping as much as $55 billion from its value and dragging down share prices in the wider technology sector.

Apple on Wednesday cut its revenue outlook for the latest quarter, citing steeper-than-expected “economic deceleration” in China and emerging markets, factors that have contributed to sharp falls across stock markets since late last year.

The rare revenue warning from Apple suggested weaker-than-anticipated sales of iPhones and other gadgetry, in part because of trade frictions between Washington and Beijing.

Apple shares tumbled more than 7.5 percent in pre-market trading, valuing the group at about $700 billion – far off the landmark $1.0 trillion level reached in August.

“For a while now there’s been an adage in the markets that as long as Apple was doing fine, everyone else would be OK. Therefore, Apple’s rare profits warning is a red flag for market watchers,” noted Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com.

“A lot of this is Apple specific (…) But the warning also tells a lot about what is happening on in the broader global economy, specifically China. It tells us that China is experiencing a period of softness,” he added.

Apple’s announcement hit the tech sector, in particular its suppliers.

In late morning deals, shares in Franco-Italian group STMicroelectronics dived 9.7 percent to just below 11 euros.

German semiconductor giant Infineon was down five percent.

Asian tech firms earlier took their own hit, with Hong Kong-listed Sunny Optical and AAC Technologies down 6.8 and 5.4 percent, while Apple supplier TSMC shed 1.8 percent in Taipei.

“A flagging Chinese economy and fewer (iPhone) upgrades are the headline reasons for Apple’s stumble, but read between the lines and the tech giant is just a whisker away from suggesting it may have pushed customers too hard on price,” said Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

Apple’s warning sent the yen soaring, with the Japanese currency viewed as a haven investment in times of turmoil.

The yen surged nearly four percent to 104.87 against the dollar before the greenback recovered.

The Japanese unit reached also to a 10-year high against the Australian dollar, which is seen as a bellwether for China.

The Aussie has been battered by slowing growth in China, a key export destination for the country’s commodities sector.

“The moves were very violent,” said Stephen Miller, an adviser at Grant Samuel Funds Management.

Apple’s news “would have caught some by… surprise”.

The yen also reached multi-month highs versus the dollar and euro.

“Stock markets have been wildly volatile over the last few weeks with almost daily large swings on Wall Street,” said James Hughes, chief market analyst at Axitrader.

“Worries about global growth continue to lead investors to seek out safe havens, with focus seemingly switching to the yen.”

- Key figures around 1000 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.3 percent at 6,711.15 points

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 1.2 percent at 10,454.81

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 1.2 percent at 4,635.19

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 1.0 percent at 2,964.23

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.3 percent at 25,064.36 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: FLAT at 2464.36 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: Closed for public holiday

New York - Dow: UP 0.1 percent at 23,346.24 (close)

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 107.63 yen from 109.10 yen at 2130

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1369 from $1.1346

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2570 from $1.2611

Oil - Brent Crude: DOWN eight cents at $54.83 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 22 cents at $46.32

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