US Markets

Dow drops more than 200 points as weak Caterpillar, Nvidia guidance stokes China fears

Poor outlooks from Caterpillar and Nvidia hit the markets--here's what four experts are watching now

Stocks fell sharply on Monday after weaker-than-expected quarterly earnings and guidance from Caterpillar, as well as a big revenue forecast cut from chipmaker Nvidia, stoked fears about the Chinese economy slowing.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 208.98 points to 24,528.22 as Caterpillar lagged. The dropped 0.8 percent to 2,643.85, led lower by the tech, communications services and health care sectors. The Nasdaq Composite declined 1.1 percent to close at 7,085.68 as Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Facebook all fell at least 0.9 percent.

Monday's decline came after the Dow and Nasdaq notched their fifth straight weekly gain last week. The major indexes have been climbing back since a December plunge that culminated in a sharp decline on Christmas Eve. In that time, the major indexes have jumped at least 12 percent.

Caterpillar shares fell 9.1 percent after the industrial giant posted weaker-than-expected earnings for the fourth quarter. The company said its sales in the Asia/Pacific region declined because of lower demand in China. Caterpillar is considered a bellwether for global trade given the company's exposure to overseas markets. The company also issued disappointing guidance.

Nvidia, meanwhile, dropped 13.8 percent after slashing its fourth-quarter revenue guidance to $2.2 billion from $2.7 billion. The chipmaker said "deteriorating macroeconomic conditions, particularly in China," impacted demand for its graphics processing units.

"The one thing with China is it's not a made-up story. It's not like companies are blaming just the Fed or the weather," said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial. "As we go through the week, if this becomes a theme in many different sectors, it's going to lend urgency to the idea that the global economy is slowing and the need for more stimulus."

Cramer: There are better stocks than Caterpillar

Nvidia's decline pressured other chipmakers. Advanced Micro Devices dropped 8 percent while Micron slipped 2.3 percent. The VanEck Vectors Semiconductor ETF (SMH) dropped nearly 2 percent.

The two companies cited China as the second-largest economy in the world tries to bat off concerns that is economic growth is slowing. China is also trying to strike a deal with the U.S. to end a trade war that started last year.

"Reports last week showed that China's economy grew at the slowest pace in nearly three decades in 2018," said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at Baird. "In order for the market to continue on an upward path, investors will need to feel more positive that trade worries are on the decline and global growth concerns are abating."

These reports come as investors brace for the busiest week of the corporate reporting season. More than 100 S&P 500 companies are scheduled to report, including Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook. Their shares all traded lower ahead of their earnings.

So far, the earnings season is off to a solid start. About 70 percent of the companies that have already reported have beaten analyst expectations, according to data from FactSet.

On the data front, the monthly U.S. jobs report is scheduled for release later this week. Elsewhere, money managers are also waiting for another round of trade talks between China and the U.S., which are set to start later this week. Investors are also bracing for the latest monetary-policy decision from the Federal Reserve, which is due Wednesday afternoon.

The moves Monday also come after Congress and the Trump administration agreed to reopen the government for three weeks. The government had been shutdown for 35 days — the longest stoppage in U.S. history — as both sides could not agree on funding for a border wall. President Donald Trump told The Wall Street Journal on Sunday that another government shutdown is "certainly an option."

General Electric shares fell more than 2 percent. The move lower comes ahead of the company's quarterly earnings release scheduled for next week. Gordon Haskett analyst John Inch said in a note the report may have a key change to General Electric's accounting, which could come as a "shock" to the market.

—CNBC's Silvia Amaro contributed to this report.