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 some $87 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 plunged by 8.8 percent in opening trading. That values the group at about $685 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 afternoon deals, shares in Franco-Italian group STMicroelectronics dived 8.7 percent to just below 11 euros.

German semiconductor giant Infineon was down 3.6 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.

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.”

In other corporate news, New York-based pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb announced it will buy US biotech firm Celgene in a massive $74 billion cash and stock deal to create a specialized biopharma company.

Shares in Bristol-Myers shares dropped 11.8 percent to $44.75 – while the New Jersey-based Celgene spiked 29 percent.

- Key figures around 1430 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.2 percent at 6,750.00 points

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.7 percent at 10,502.83

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.7 percent at 4,658.41

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.4 percent at 2,980.12

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.9 percent at 23,126.06

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

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 107.88 yen from 109.10 yen at 2130

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1364 from $1.1346

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2588 from $1.2611

Oil - Brent Crude: UP $1.13 at $56.04 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 70 cents at $47.24

burs-rl/klm