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Dow Tanks Following Sullen Report on Chinese Manufacturing

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is feeling dejected this morning, after manufacturing data out of China showed a distinct slowing of that country's economy for the first time in six months. Since the opening of the market, the Dow has plummeted nearly 180 points, and a slew of U.S. economic data certainly hasn't help halt the slide.

U.S. initial jobless claims moved up by 1,000 last week, bringing the total to 326,000 versus a market expectation of 330,000. The Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing PMI report noted that January's reading fell to 53.7 from December's even 55, though much of the decrease was blamed on inclement weather conditions.

Housing data was also slightly disappointing. Existing home sales for December came in at 4.87 million, compared to a predicted 4.90 million, reflecting slight rise from November's 4.82 million. The Federal Housing Finance Agency reported that home price increases appeared to be slowing, and November's slight uptick of 0.1% was less than the consensus of a rise of 0.4%.

Freddie Mac's weekly survey showed 30-year fixed mortgage rates moved down to an average of 4.39% this week, compared to the prior week's 4.41%.

A general lethargy was reflected in Bloomberg's Consumer Comfort Index as well, as the index hovered at minus 31 last week, unchanged from the previous week. The report noted that, despite a slightly improving job market, Americans seem concerned about wage gains and debt incurred during the holiday shopping season.

Banks slump despite upbeat talk at Davos
Both JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) and the Goldman Sachs  (NYSE: GS  ) have dipped about 2% as of noon EST. This is despite a jovial interview with CNBC by JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, taking a break from the action yesterday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Dimon was generally upbeat, saying that the U.S. economy has recovered to the point where all businesses, including small and midsized enterprises, are poised for growth. In other comments, he asserted that many of the charges levied against his bank by regulators were "unfair," since many of the problems involved acts committed by Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, long before JPMorgan Chase acquired the two entities.

Shareholders at several big banks, including Goldman Sachs, have filed proposals ahead of annual meetings in an attempt to have more say in how the banks comprise their boards of directors. In a proposal from an activist investor at Goldman, for instance, there was mention of a "widespread perception" that bank managers are not putting investors' interests above their own. It looks like Goldman will have an exciting annual meeting, at least.

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Amanda Alix

Foolish financial writer since early 2012, striving to demystify the intriguing field of finance -- which, contrary to popular opinion, is truly what makes the world go 'round.

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