The Dow dives 500 points as Apple letter adds to China growth fears

Stocks fell Thursday after a warning from Apple fanned fears about the prospect of slowing economic growth around the world, adding to jitters about political turmoil in Washington and rising rates.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed about 500 points, or 2.14%. The S&P 500 fell 1.82%, meanwhile, and the Nasdaq Composite lost 2.27%. Stocks have suffered several weeks of dramatic swings, recording their worst year since 2008 on Monday.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook partly blamed weak iPhone sales in China in a letter lowering Apple's revenue forecast Wednesday, the same day data showed private-manufacturing activity in the second largest economy contracted for the first time in 19 months. Shares of the company plunged more than 9% following the announcement. 

RELATED: Take a look at the cost of Apple products throughout the years:

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Cost of Apple products through the years
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Cost of Apple products through the years

Apple II (1977)

Cost Then: $1,298
Cost Now: $5,333

Compared to 1976's Apple I, the Apple II was a revelation. While the first Apple lacked a monitor, separate keyboard or casing, the Apple II included the whole package, complete with the introduction of five-color on-screen graphics.

Adjusted for inflation, you could buy a used car for what the Apple II costs, but its price tag had brought the budding company $7.8 million in sales by 1978 — about $30 million in today's money.

Macintosh (1984)

Cost Then: $2,495
Cost Now: $6,036

This is when the world started calling Apples "Macs."

Though dropping six grand on a computer today is cringe-worthy, the original Macintosh was considered the first relatively affordable computer with a graphical interface at the time. Its specs included a whopping 128 KB of RAM, 400 KB of storage, a floppy disk drive and a 9-inch monochrome display.

LaserWriter (1985)

Cost Then: $6,995
Cost Now: $16,207

Apple no longer makes printers, but the LaserWriter was a huge initiative at the time. Its professional print quality aimed for the business market, and it was the first network-capable printer.

It also introduced the world to Adobe Systems, which provided the PostScript programming language that powered the machine. If the original price looked scary, it was, so Apple dropped it to $5,000 by fall 1986.

Newton (1993)

Cost Then: $700
Cost Now: $1,192

Developed while legendary Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs was away from the company, and famously derided by him, the tablet-like touchscreen Newton paved the way for the success of the PDA, and later, the iPad. This small, hand-held product didn't catch on at the time, but it played a role in inspiring today's "all-in-one" device design, and even featured ahead-of-its-time handwriting recognition capabilities.

Power Macintosh (1994)

Cost Then: $2,600
Cost Now: $4,282

The closest modern equivalent of the Power Mac, the Mac Pro, starts at $2,999. Of course, its specs are just a little different.

While the original Power Macintosh — which was sold as the Macintosh Performa 6110CD for home use — sported a 60 MHz PowerPC 601 processor, the Pro rocks a 3.5GHz, 6-core Intel Xeon E5 processor and its 8 MB of RAM are dwarfed by the Mac Pro's 16 GB of RAM.

iMac G3 (1998)

Cost Then: $1,299
Cost Now: $1,967

The introduction of the iMac in 1998 marked the first time Apple used its much-imitated "i" branding. At the time, the "i" in "iMac" stood for "internet," as the all-in-one desktop computer featured a built-in modem, which was uncommon when it launched. The first model came in a blue-green hue, called "bondi blue and ice" by Apple, but it later was available in a rainbow of colors. It marked the first major Apple work by iconic designer Jony Ive.

The iMac line looks a lot different — and less colorful — today, but it's still kicking, with 21.5-inch models starting at $1,099.

Final Cut Pro (1999)

Cost Then: Starting at $300
Cost Now: $450

With so much focus on slick hardware, it's easy to overlook the fact that Apple is a software company, too — unless you're a filmmaker who just dropped $300 on Final Cut Pro, that is.

The pitch remains the same today as it was in 1999: For one price, you get editing, compositing and effects in one professional software package. Apple positioned Final Cut as a "post-production studio in a box," though the philosophy changed a bit as numerous software expansions continued to add features.

AirPort (1999)

Cost Then: $299
Cost Now: $442

AirPort started with multiple offerings, and the tradition continues. Introduced as a wireless networking solution for 802.11b connections, the AirPort Base Station looked like a tiny UFO, but you always could opt for an AirPort card to add wireless functionality to your Mac.

Today, you can get AirPort models spanning from the Express to the 3TB Time Capsule, ranging from $99 to $399.

Power Mac G4 Cube (2000)

Cost Then: $1,799
Cost Now: $2,567

The Power Mac G4 Cube's beautiful design couldn't offset the high price tag, which, consequently, led to its marketplace struggles.

By 2001, its entry-level price had been slashed to $1,299. The cube-shaped brains of the box live today in the form of the Mac Mini series, however. Though the Mini doesn't include a monitor, keyboard or speakers like the G4 Cube, it starts at a much more reasonable $499.

iPod (2001)

Cost Then: Starting at $399
Cost Now: Starting at $554

From 2001 to 2011, Apple sold 300 million iPods. Though the idea of a dedicated MP3 player seems outdated today, the at-the-time appeal of carrying 1,000 songs on the original, scroll-wheel-equipped model's 5 GB hard drive cannot be overstated.

The iPod line eventually included a wide variety of models — from the Nano to the Shuffle — but Apple has since consolidated its offerings to just the iPod touch, which retails for $199 or $299, depending on storage size.

MacBook (2006)

Cost Then: $1,099
Cost Now: $1,338

Remember the early 2000s, when all the coolest tech products — from the iPod to the Wii — were glossy white? Yep, the MacBook was, too.

Starting a legacy that still thrives, the original 13-inch MacBook laptop was powered by a 1.83 GHz Intel "Core Duo" processor and featured a 13-inch widescreen display, complete with modern perks, such as a built-in iSight camera, USB ports and Bluetooth compatibility. Nowadays, an entry-level MacBook starts at a fairly comparable $1,299.

iPhone (2007)

Cost Then: Starting at $499
Cost Now: $608

Before you can sell a billion, you've got to start with one. The iPhone might not have been the first all-in-one hand-held device, but its mainstream appeal and standard feature set established the baseline for the modern smartphone. If your current device has WiFi support, Bluetooth, a camera, glass screen, accelerometer and multi-touch, you probably can thank the iPhone.

In 2018, an iPhone 8 with a 4.7-inch display will cost you $699, meaning Apple actually has raised the price in this arena.

MacBook Air (2008)

Cost Then: $1,799
Cost Now: $2,191

Originally touted for its crazy-thin dimensions, the MacBook Air eventually caught up in terms of power and completely replaced the MacBook line from 2012 to 2015. Because Apple has had a full decade to get a better handle on squeezing more power into less space, modern MacBook Air laptops come at a much lower cost — in 2018, a 13-inch MacBook Air can be had for $999.

iPad (2010)

Cost Then: Starting at $499
Cost Now: $568

Microsoft introduced the tablet format in 2000, but it was Apple that finally got the tablet to catch on in 2010. Even Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates acknowledges that Apple "did some things better than I did," noting that Apple nailed it in terms of "timing," "engineering work" and "just the package that was put together."

That slick package ended up being the biggest product launch of 2010 and went on to sell more than 350 million units, across various iPad models.

Today, Apple offers standard 32GB model iPads from $329.

iPhone 6 (2014)

Cost Then: Starting at $549
Cost Now: $569

The iPhone 6 makes the list not necessarily for its feature set, but for its groundbreaking mainstream penetration. Between the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, this model has sold more than 100 million units since its introduction in 2014, making it the best-selling iPhone to date.

Perhaps due to this ubiquity, you still can get a 4.7-inch iPhone 6s, the phone's more advanced update, straight from Apple for $449.

iPhone X (2017)

Cost Then and Now: $999

Buoyed by crazy hype and endless rumors, Apple premiered the iPhone X in 2017, using its curved Super Retina screen and facial recognition features to test the waters of a high-priced, premium smartphone market.

With reports suggesting that Apple aims to halve iPhone X output in the first quarter of 2018 because of weak holiday sales, the gambit might not have paid off. But with a quarterly revenue of $88.3 billion in the fiscal quarter ending on Dec. 30, 2017, the giants from Cupertino, Calif., probably aren't sweating too much.

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Cook also said the technology giant hadn't anticipated the degree of deceleration taking place there, underscoring expectations for major economies to lose steam in coming months. 

High-flying technology companies led the sell-off in morning trading Thursday, with the FANG+ Index down 2.7%. Bellwether industrial companies, including Boeing, Caterpillar and 3M, fell as much as 4%.

"This adds fuel to the fire of concerns about slowing global growth and/or a trade war, and compounds this week’s China PMI Manufacturing misses," Accendo Markets analysts Mike van Dulken and Artjom Hatsaturjants said in an email. "After Tesla announced price cuts, that’s two New Year kicks for the Tech sector which has resumed its October and December sell-off."

On Wednesday, Tesla said it delivered fewer Model 3 vehicles than expected in the fourth quarter and lowered prices on its models by $2,000 to help offset federal tax credits that were cut in half this week.

Also keeping investors on edge, the federal government in its second full week of a partial shutdown. House Democrats taking control of the chamber plan to pass a proposal to reopen the government Thursday as the 116th Congress convenes, but it could face opposition in the Senate or from President Donald Trump.

"The shutdown increases uncertainty and adds to the laundry lists of risks affecting both the global and domestic economy including: Fed policy, Brexit, US-China trade relations and others," Bank of America Merrill Lynch economists said in a research note Thursday.

On the commodities front, oil prices climbed more than 2%, with West Texas Intermediate trading just under $47 per barrel and Brent around $55.60. Prices have shed more than a third from October highs as as traders fret over the possibility of oversupply and expectations for dampened demand.

The dollar and Treasury yields edged lower after ADP said US firms added the most workers to payrolls in nearly two years in December. The Labor Department is set to release its jobs report Friday.

Now Read: The world's biggest stock bear explains why the battered market is still doomed to lose another 50%

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