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(CNN Business) —  

Global stock markets kicked off 2019 with another wild day of trading triggered by new signs of economic weakness in China.

Major stock indexes in Asia dropped sharply on Wednesday after new data suggested that China’s vast manufacturing sector contracted in December.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng closed down 2.8%. The Shanghai Composite fell 1.2% and Australia’s ASX dropped 1.6%. Japan’s markets were closed for a public holiday.

European stocks opened sharply lower but mostly reversed course later. France’s CAC ended down 0.8%, while the UK’s FTSE and Germany’s DAX closed with small gains.

The Dow fell as much as 399 points. But the market recovered from those early losses, and was flat by late morning in the United States.

The New Year volatility comes after a difficult 2018 for many investors. Last year was the worst for US stocks since 2008. December was a particularly dreadful month, with the Dow plunging 8.7%.

Chinese economy under pressure

Among the top concerns for investors is faltering growth in China, the world’s second biggest economy, and continuing trade tensions with the United States. The Shanghai Composite slumped almost 25% last year, making it the world’s worst-performing major market.

There were new signs of weakness in China on Wednesday.