Market Snapshot: S&P 500, Nasdaq fight to hold near records as rise in coronavirus cases injects doubt in bullish sentiment

Market Snapshot: S&P 500, Nasdaq fight to hold near records as rise in coronavirus cases injects doubt in bullish sentiment

13 Feb    Finance News

Stock indexes traded under pressure Thursday afternoon, with the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq struggling to maintain altitude in record territory and the Dow tilting lower after a change in the methodology reported by China resulted in a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

What are major indexes doing?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.29%  was 63 points, or 0.2%, lower at 29,488, while the S&P 500 index SPX, -0.04% gained less than 0.1% to trade at 3,381, after establishing an intraday record at 3,385.09. The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, -0.05% advanced 6 points, or 0.1%, to 9,731, after hitting its own intraday record in afternoon dealings at 9,748.32.

All three major benchmarks posted record finishes on Wednesday, with the trio trading off opening losses on Thursday.

What’s driving the market?

China on Thursday reported 254 new deaths from the virus over the past 24 hours, while the number of new cases jumped 15,152, after the government applied a new diagnostic method was applied in hard-hit Hubei province. The World Health Organization said Thursday that the total deaths from the outbreak stood at 1,369, while the total number of confirmed cases rose to 60,329.

Seema Shah, chief strategist at Principal Global Investors, said that the market may have exhibited a knee-jerk response to fresh reports on the outbreak. “The surge in reported cases reported today is a one-off change due to methodology and by itself, doesn’t imply an acceleration in the pace of infection,” she said in emailed comments.

“However, if the change in methodology does result in a rise in the growth rate of reported cases, market sentiment will inevitably deteriorate, reversing the more upbeat tone of recent days as markets had become increasingly reassured that the virus will soon plateau,” she said.

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Meanwhile, in economic news, January consumer prices rose by a modest 0.1%, but ticked 0.2% higher once the figures were stripped out for food and energy prices. U.S. initial jobless claims for the week ending in Feb. 8 edged up 2,000 to 205,000, underlining the strength of the labor market.

On Capitol Hill, a pair of President Donald Trump’s nominees to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors — Judith Shelton and Christopher Waller — faced scrutiny from the Senate Banking Committee.

See: Democrats open campaign to defeat Trump Fed nominee Shelton

Which companies are in focus
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What are other markets doing?

Oil prices erased early losses to turn higher. The price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude for March delivery CLH20, +0.86%  rose 22 cents, or 0.4%, to $51.39 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In precious metals, gold for April delivery GCJ20, +0.48% rose 0.5% to $1,578.80 an ounce on Comex.

The U.S. dollar DXY, +0.02% was virtually unchanged relative to a basket of a half-dozen currency rivals.

U.S. government bonds rallied, pushing yields lower, with the benchmark 10-year note rate TMUBMUSD10Y, -0.71% down 2 basis points at 1.61%. Bond prices rise as yields fall.

In Europe, the Stoxx Europe 600 SXXP, -0.02% shed less than 0.1% to end at 431.08. The FTSE 100 FTSE, -0.95% finished 1.1% lower at 7,452.03.

In Asia overnight, the China CSI 300 000300, -0.62% fell 0.6%, the Shanghai Composite SHCOMP, -0.71%  declined 0.7%, and the Hang Seng Index HSI, -0.34% closed 0.3% lower. Japan’s NIKKEI 225 Index NIK, -0.14% slipped 0.1%.

—William Watts contributed to this report.

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