U.S. stocks closed sharply lower Friday ahead of the onslaught of earnings season, after a slew of disappointing U.S. data, a plunge in oil to below $30 a barrel, and a sell-off in Chinese stocks added to mounting concerns about slowing global growth.
In the U.S., markets remained closed on Monday for Martin Luther King Day, but stocks ended more than 2 percent lower Friday, with the S&P 500 and Dow Jones industrial average still posting their worst two-week start to a year on record.
In Asia, major indexes in Australia and Japan were nearing bear market territory, down over 18 percent from their 52-week closing highs.
"You look at the U.S. earnings pattern, it is very negative, huge reductions in earnings over the last 4-5 months. I have been calling this a recession, 2016 is a year of recession. Global growth has been so dominated by China and China capital expenditure on the one hand and oil and gas on the other," said fund manager at Martin Currie, Michael Browne.
But Browne said other positive forces at work -- such as consumers continuing to benefit from a fall in oil prices, strong corporate balance sheets and a pick-up in government spending this year in Europe -- are creating a "push and pull effect"