Stock futures point to lower start after coronavirus fears put market on track for worst week since 2008 financial crisis

Stock-index futures trimmed overnight losses but continued to point to a lower start Friday, a day after major benchmarks tumbled into correction territory, as investor fears heightened over just how much damage the fast-spreading COVID-19 virus will wreak on the global economy.

U.S. stocks were on track for their biggest weekly decline since 2008.

How are major benchmarks trading?

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures YM00, -0.68%  were off 102 points, or 0.4%, at 25,450, while S&P 500 futures ES00, -0.79%  dropped 10.65 points, or 0.4%, to 2,946.25. Nasdaq-100 futures NQ00, -0.74% fell 28.75 points, or 0.4%, to 8,354. 

On Thursday, the Dow industrials DJIA, -4.42% lost 1,190.90 points, or 4.4%, to close below 26,000 at 25,766.60, while the S&P 500 SPX, -4.42%  slid 137.63 points, or 4.4%, to end at 2,978.76. The Nasdaq Composite COMP, -4.61% slumped 414.29 points, or 4.6%, finishing at 8,566.48.

Read: Dow’s weekly skid would rank within the top 15 worst in its 124-year history

All three U.S. benchmark stock indexes closed in correction territory Thursday, defined as a decline of at least 10%, but not more than 20%, from a recent peak. For the S&P 500 and Nasdaq, it marked the worst daily percentage drop since Aug. 18, 2011, but the steepest since Feb. 5, 2018, for the Dow.

See: S&P 500 tumbles from record finish to correction in just 6 trading days as stock-market rout accelerates

The Dow is now down 9.71% for the year, while the S&P 500 is off 7.80% year-to-date, and the Nasdaq has lost 4.53%.

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

What’s driving the market?

Analysts said there were few signs investors were eager to wade back into the market following the acceleration of the selloff on Thursday.

“There is no sign of widespread bargain hunting by investors despite the cut-price shares on offer. That might not happen until there is a clearer picture of how far and wide coronavirus has spread and how different countries are trying to contain it,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, in a note.

Analysts at UniCredit Bank said a bottom for stocks would probably require a clear sign of a leveling off in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases outside of China. Based on latest statistics, that looked unlikely to materialize in the next few days.

“Consequently, the rout in equity markets, and with it, the ongoing decline in U.S. Treasury and (German) bund yields, is most probably not over yet,” they wrote. Treasurys and other core government bonds have rallied sharply, pushing down yields, which move in the opposite direction of bond prices, as the stock-market rout has intensified.

Investors have endured days of increasingly grim updates on the spread of the coronavirus, as new infections continue to rise even as countries enact stronger and stronger measures. New Zealand and Nigeria were among the latest countries to report their cases.

The outbreak has the potential to become a pandemic and is at a decisive stage, the head of the World Health Organization said on Thursday. Investors failed to find reassurances from remarks by President Donald Trump late Wednesday on U.S. efforts to contain the spread of the outbreak.

Read: 5 reasons stocks are seeing their worst decline since 2008, and only one is the coronavirus

The U.S. economic calendar features data on personal income and consumer spending for January at 8:30 a.m., along with January figures on advance trade in goods. A reading of the Chicago-area purchasing managers index is set for 9:45 a.m. Eastern, while a February consumer sentiment index reading is due at 10 a.m. Eastern.

Which companies are in focus?
What are other markets doing?

Asian markets took up the baton from Wall Street on Friday, with the Nikkei 225 index NIK, -3.67%  finishing down nearly 3.7%, as Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked schools to close for a month and Tokyo Disney Resort operator Oriental Land Co. 4661, +0.66% said it would close its theme parks for two weeks. The Stoxx Europe 600 SXXP, -2.71% pushed further into correction territory, sinking 2.8%.

Government bonds saw a massive rally on Friday as investors scrambled for safety, sending yields further into record-setting territory. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury TMUBMUSD10Y, -3.74%  remained 7.7 basis points lower at 1.219%.

Crude oil prices CLJ22, -1.42%  on Friday slid over 2%, while gold, a traditional haven investment, was down 1%. The ICE Dollar Index DXY, +0.00%  fell 0.2%. Investors flocked to the yen, with the currency up 0.8% against the dollar at 108.87, while the New Zealand dollar NZDUSD, -1.1257%  plunged 1% on news of the country’s first infection.

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