While you were sleeping: Bank results in focus

JPMorgan and Intel are set to report their earnings after the market close.

Equities on Wall Street and in Europe fell as disappointing import data from China renewed concern about the global economy and corporate profits at the start of a fresh quarterly US earnings season.

JPMorgan and Intel are set to report their earnings after the market close.

Last month the US Federal Reserve held off on raising its target interest rate, and while policy makers have since reminded investors a 2015 hike remains on the table, not all officials agree.

"Right now my expectation is, given where I think the economy would go, I wouldn't expect it would be appropriate to raise rates," Fed governor Daniel Tarullo told CNBC when asked if interest rates should rise this year.

Meanwhile St Louis Fed president James Bullard acknowledged it would be challenging for US policy makers to hike rates at this month's meeting, on October 27-28.

"It is very tough for the committee to make a big decision and then change it after only one meeting," Mr Bullard said, Reuters reported. "Roughly speaking, the data has not been that different from what would have been expected, and the jobs report was weaker."

Slowing growth elsewhere, notably in China, has become the focus. A report showed China's imports plunged a larger-than-expected 20.4% from a year earlier to US$145.2 billion last month, after a 5.5% slide in August. Exports fell 3.7%, which was less than expected.

"The big concern is not rising interest rates anymore, it's slowing growth and corporate profits," Patrick Spencer, equities vice chairman at Robert W Baird & Co in London, told Bloomberg. "Earnings are starting this week and some of the biggest banks are reporting, so that is going to set the scene."

In New York trading at about 2.55pm, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.1%, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index slid 0.4%, while the Nasdaq Composite Index declined 0.5%.

In the Dow, declines in shares of United Technologies and those of IBM, down 1.1% and 1% respectively, outweighed gain in shares of UnitedHealth and those of Goldman Sachs, last up 1.8% and 1% respectively.

The data from China lifted the appeal of US treasuries, pushing yields on the benchmark 10-year note three basis points lower to 2.06%.

"I doubt 10-year Treasury yields will exceed 2.3% by year-end given fears that weaker emerging-market growth will spill over to developed economies," Nick Stamenkovic, a fixed-income strategist at broker RIA Capital Markets in Edinburgh, told Bloomberg.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index ended the session with 0.9% drop from the previous close. The UK's FTSE 100 Index fell 0.5%, Germany's DAX Index shed 0.9%, while France's CAC 40 Index sank 1%.