China's manufacturing activity contracted for an 11th consecutive month in September, according to HSBC on Thursday. Its preliminary manufacturing PMI rose to 47.8 this month, a small improvement from 47.6 in August.
Asian markets reacted badly to the report. The Shanghai Composite Index led the losses, tumbling 2.08 percent to 2,024.84, its lowest close since February 2009. Hong Kong stocks fell 1.20 percent while Japanese stocks fell 1.57 percent.
Things were worse in the euro area, where Markit's flash composite index fell to a 39-month low of 45.9 in September from 46.3 in August. The manufacturing PMI rose to 46.0 in September from 45.1 in August but the services PMI fell to 46.0 from 47.2.
In further bad news for the euro area on Thursday, the European Commission reported that its consumer confidence index for the region fell to minus 25.9 in September, the lowest since May 2009, from minus 24.6 in August.
One bright spot for the euro area, however, was that Spain successfully sold 4.8 billion euros of bonds on Thursday, the most since January.
Elsewhere in Europe, the UK reported a 0.2 percent fall in retail sales in August.
Even the more resilient US economy saw only mixed data on Thursday.
Markit's flash US manufacturing PMI held at 51.5 in September, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank's business activity index improved to minus 1.9 this month compared with minus 7.1 in August and initial claims for state unemployment aid edged down 3,000 to 382,000 last week.
However, the Conference Board's leading economic index fell 0.1 percent in August after rising 0.5 percent in July.