FedEx 's bleak preliminary earnings and outlook sent shockwaves through the market and stocks lower during last Friday's trade. The Tennessee-based shipping and logistics company announced preliminary earnings for the fiscal first-quarter that missed Wall Street's expectations by a landslide. It also withdrew its full year guidance — issued just three months ago — and said it was "aggressively accelerating" efforts to cut costs. FedEx's warning is not the first in an increasingly tumultuous transportation sector. Air cargo traffic fell by 9.7% in July compared to a year ago, according to data from the International Air Transport Association — the fifth straight month of decline on a year-on-year basis. Economic bellwethers like FedEx are great for gauging the underlying health of the economy. Therefore, the magnitude of the recent earnings miss — the worst relative to expectations in 20 years —and subsequent market reaction should not be underestimated chief investment officer, Titan Asset Management John Leiper Sea freight rates have also fallen on the back of slowing global trade volumes, according to a Sept. 7 note by S & P Global Market Intelligence, with the research group expecting weaker trade volume ahead . And the World Trade Organization similarly painted a grim picture, with an August report pointing to "stagnating global trade growth." Should investors be worried? A marked slowdown in global freight volumes has repercussions not just for FedEx , but also the broader stock market, according to analysts. "Economic bellwethers like FedEx are great for gauging the underlying health of the economy. Therefore, the magnitude of the recent earnings miss — the worst relative to expectations in 20 years — and subsequent market reaction should not be underestimated," John Leiper, chief investment officer at Titan Asset Management, told CNBC Pro. Hedge fund manager David Neuhauser said investors should see shipping volume as one of several indicators of economic health. However, he stressed that the FedEx announcement "flashes red lights" for investors. "It's a warning sign for sure. It's one of those tea leaves you can take when you look at the global economy. But I don't think it's something that reflects trends are forming or that a recession is forming," Neuhauser said. Brian Arcese, portfolio manager at Foord Asset Management, told CNBC Pro that any weakness in FedEx's air freight shipments from Asia is likely to indicate continued economic malaise in China. "Our base case forecast includes an economic slowdown brought on in parts by accelerating inflationary pressures and rising interest rates, which impact consumer discretionary spending and corporate investment, respectively," Arcese added. "Both result in fewer shipments of goods which impacts both FedEx and peers across the transport and logistics space." "While freight volumes can be a leading indicator of a weakening economy (and in this case likely are, in part), it is too early to forecast the extent of the downturn, if any," he said. "Only time and more data points will really tell." Investors are not entirely sure which way the global economy, inflation and growth are going. They are optimistic some days, but there are also days when there is a lot more fear, and in this case, heightened by the FedEx announcement. Economist, CIMB Song Seng Wun Elsewhere however, signs have emerged that the economy could be headed for more trouble. Both Arcese and Neuhauser pointed to profit warnings from consumer firms such as Electrolux and Thule , as well as industrials companies such as General Electric and Nucor that are "reflective of a more deepening and sustained downward trend." What's behind the market negativity While FedEx is not the only company to flag challenges ahead, the sharp market reaction that accompanied its results highlighted the current fragility in the market. CIMB economist Song Seng Wun said the steep selloff underlined the level of anxiety and fear in today's volatile markets. "Investors are not entirely sure which way the global economy, inflation and growth are going. They are optimistic some days, but there are also days when there is a lot more fear, and in this case, heightened by the FedEx announcement," he said. Several market watchers also attribute the market anxiety to uncertainty over the current and future course of the U.S. Federal Reserve's monetary policy. Selena Ling, head of treasury research and strategy at OCBC Bank in Singapore, said: "The more obsessed major central banks are to combat inflationary pressures and re-anchor inflationary expectations in the face of softening business and consumer confidence, the more uncertain the growth outlook going into end of 2022 and into 2023."