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U.S. stocks struggle for direction as growth fears weigh

Disappointing Chinese PMIs highlight concerns about the slowdown in the country’s economy

U.S. stocks switched between small gains and losses in early trade Wednesday, as investors wrestled with global-growth concerns after disappointing data from China and the eurozone.

The S&P 500 SPX, +0.16% was off less than a point to 1,942, with six of its 10 main sectors trading higher. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.02% declined 23 points to 16,307. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite COMP, +0.29% was 5 point higher, or 0.1%, to 4,763.

The latest Chinese factory gauge underscored concerns about slowing growth in the world’s second-largest economy. The preliminary Caixin China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index fell to the lowest level since the financial crisis and missed analyst forecasts. Stocks ended mostly lower in Asia after the numbers, with the Shanghai Composite Index SHCOMP, -2.19%...