Dow futures down over 300 points as spread of coronavirus fuels stock-market selloff

Stock-index futures pointed toward a potential sixth straight day of losses for the Dow and S&P 500 as investors around the world continued to flee equities on worries over the rapid spread of COVID-19 outside of China.

What are major indexes doing?

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average YM00, -1.48% were off 317 points, or 1.2%, at 26,597, while S&P 500 futures ES00, -1.39% shed 34.70 points or 1.1%, to trade at 3,075.50. Nasdaq-100 futures NQ00, -1.69% dropped 110 points, or 1.3%, to 8,740.25.

Read: Stock market slammed by fears coronavirus will deliver a ‘supply shock’ that central bankers can’t fix

On Wednesday, the Dow DJIA, -0.46%  closed 123.77 points lower, a loss of 0.5%, at 26,957.59, while the S&P 500 dropped 11.82 points, or 0.4%, to finish at 3,116.39. The Dow’s five-day loss stood at 8.2%, while the rout has seen the S&P 500 fall nearly 8% — the biggest five-day declines for both indexes since February 2018. The Nasdaq Composite COMP, +0.17%, however, hung on to a gain, snapping a four-day losing streak to finish at 8,980.77, up 15.16 points, or 0.2%.

What’s driving the market?

Stock index futures saw renewed pressure Wednesday night, after a news conference by President Donald Trump failed to reassure investors and as more new cases of the disease were reported outside China than inside for the first time.

“The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus is on the rise, and so is the number of countries that have infections. Dealers are dreading a pandemic as they are afraid economic activity will be reduced as lockdowns will disrupt the business world,” said David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK, in a note.

Trump on Wednesday evening said Americans were at very low risk from the outbreak and said the nation was well prepared. He also announced that Vice President Mike Pence would be in charge of the country’s outbreak response.

A new coronavirus case was confirmed in Northern California, the first in the U.S. by someone who hasn’t traveled to infected areas or been in known contact with anyone who has, raising the worrisome prospect that the virus is spreading by other means.

Jeffrey Halley, senior Asia Pacific market analyst at Oanda, wrote in a note: “President Trump finally addressed the arrival of coronavirus on U.S. shores, and the government’s response to controlling its potential spread. . .Neither inspired an already shaky North American market.”

Also rattling investors, Germany’s health minister said Wednesday that the country was at the “beginning of an epidemic,” as it struggled to track the contacts of a 47-year old, hospitalized in a serious condition with the virus.

Also late Wednesday, Microsoft Corp. MSFT, +1.25%  warned it won’t meet its quarterly forecasts due to the effects of the outbreak, likely signaling more widespread guidance misses across the tech industry. Microsoft shares were down 2.4% in premarket trade.

See: Consumer-facing companies will be the first hit if the coronavirus spreads across the U.S.

The U.S. economic calendar features data on weekly jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. Eastern. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expect first-time claims for unemployment benefits to come in at 214,000 for the week ended Feb. 22, up from 210,000 the previous week.

January durable goods orders are forecast to show a 1% drop after a 2.4% rise in December. An updated estimate of fourth-quarter gross domestic product is also due at 8:30 a.m., with economists looking for a 2.1% annualized growth rate.

Data on January pending home sales is set for release at 10 a.m. Eastern, while Chicago Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Evans is scheduled to deliver remarks at 11:30 a.m. Eastern.

Which companies are in focus?
  • Shares of Best Buy Co. Inc. BBY, +0.35%  rose in premarket trade after reporting fourth-quarter profit and revenue that topped Wall Street expectations.
  • Perrigo Co. PLC PRGO, +0.00%  shares were lower ahead of the bell after the provider of over-the-counter health and wellness products reported fourth-quarter adjusted profit that was shy of expectations, sales that were in line, and a downbeat full-year earnings forecast.
What are other markets doing?

Most Asian markets fell Thursday, with Japan’s Nikkei NIK, -2.13% down 2.1%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng HSI, +0.31%  rose 0.3% and South Korea’s Kospi 180721, -1.05% slipped 1.1%.

After falling for a fourth consecutive session Wednesday, oil futures continued to drop, with West Texas Intermediate crude for April delivery CLJ20, -3.20% and Brent crude, the global BRNJ20, -2.99% down more than 2%.

Meanwhile, haven assets found support as investors looked for safety. Gold futures GC00, +0.66%  rose 0.5%, while the a continued rally for U.S. Treasurys pushed down yields, with the 10-year TMUBMUSD10Y, -4.37%  rate falling 1.9 basis points to 1.292% as it notched another all-time low.

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