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US stocks near one-month lows as China data weighs

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[NEW YORK] US stocks were trading near one-month lows on Thursday, amid losses across sectors, as investors fretted about China's weak economic data and the prospects of an interest rate hike by the end of the year.

Data showed China's exports fell 10 per cent in September, far worse than the markets had expected, while imports unexpectedly shrank, reviving concerns about the health of the world's second-largest economy.

The Fed on Wednesday released the minutes of its last rate-setting meeting that showed several policymakers felt a rate hike was warranted "relatively soon" if the US economy continued to strengthen.

Traders slashed their bets on a December rate hike to 65.6 per cent from 70 per cent shortly after the markets opened, data from the CME Group's FedWatch tool showed.

Prices of gold, a safe haven, ticked higher, while the dollar, which is near a seven-month high, was trading near session lows of 97.76.

"China's trade data spooked global markets and it comes at a time when we have a Federal Reserve that wants to raise rates soon," said John Brady, senior vice president at RJ O'Brien & Associates in Chicago. "It's a modest risk-off sentiment today."

Market valuations will be put to test during the earnings season, with profits of S&P 500 companies currently expected to fall 0.7 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters data.

The benchmark S&P 500 index is trading at 17 times forward earnings, compared with its 10-year median of 14.7, according to StarMine data.

At 9:36 am ET, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 117.24 points, or 0.65 per cent, at 18,026.96.

The S&P 500 was down 15.37 points, or 0.72 per cent, at 2,123.81 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 39.80 points, or 0.76 per cent, at 5,199.22.

Ten of the 11 major S&P indexes were lower, with materials and financials falling more than 1 per cent.

Utilities, perceived as safer equity assets, were the only gainers.

Deutsche Bank's Frankfurt-listed stock fell 3.12 per cent after sources told Reuters that the bank was introducing a hiring freeze as it seeks to cut costs amid a deep strategic overhaul.

The bank's US shares were down 2.9 per cent.

Big US banks, including Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, Bank of America and Citigroup, fell about 1.5 per cent.

Wells Fargo fell slightly to US$44.96 after chief executive John Stumpf abruptly departed on Wednesday following a sales scandal that damaged the reputation of the lender.

Marriott Vacations plunged nearly 10 per cent after reporting a sharp decline in quarterly revenue from Europe.

Wynn Resorts is scheduled to report after market close on Thursday, while U.S. banks start reporting from Friday.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 2,246 to 420. On the Nasdaq, 1,784 issues fell and 395 advanced.

The S&P 500 index showed no new 52-week highs and five new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded seven new highs and 35 new lows.