China virus concerns, mixed earnings dampen Wall St mood


(Reuters) – Wall Street was set to open lower on Thursday on rising worries over the coronavirus outbreak in China that prompted a lockdown of two cities in the country, while a mixed bag of results added to the dour sentiment.

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., January 21, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The benchmark S&P 500 closed slightly higher on Wednesday but well below its record high after attempting to bounce back from sharp losses earlier in the week on concerns about the virus outbreak hitting the global economy.

China put on lockdown on Thursday two cities at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak that has killed 17 people and infected nearly 600 amid fears the transmission rate will accelerate as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel for the Lunar New Year holidays.

“There is some concern that this will turn from an epidemic to a pandemic,” said Robert Pavlik, chief investment strategist at SlateStone Wealth LLC in New York.

However, Pavlik added it was a reason for investors to take some profits in an “overbought” market.

Casino and hotel operators including Wynn Resorts Ltd (WYNN.O), Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd (MLCO.O) and Las Vegas Sands Corp (LVS.N), which draw a large portion of their revenue from China, were down between and 4% and 5% in premarket trading.

Airlines stocks were mostly weaker, with Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N) slipping 0.8% after reporting a 21% fall in fourth-quarter profit due to Boeing 737 MAX costs. American Airlines Group Inc (AAL.O) rose 1%, while JetBlue Airways Corp (JBLU.O) fell 0.5% despite a better-than-expected profit.

Consumer products firm Procter & Gamble Co (PG.N) and insurer Travelers Cos Inc (TRV.N), both members of the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI, fell about 2% after reporting results.

At 8:51 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis 1YMcv1 were down 62 points, or 0.21%. S&P 500 e-minis EScv1 were down 3.5 points, or 0.11% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis NQcv1 were up 2.25 points, or 0.02%.

Of the 58 S&P 500 companies that have reported so far, 67.2% have topped Wall Street’s profit estimates, according to Refinitiv IBES data. On an average, 65% of the companies beat profit estimates.

Chipmaker Texas Instruments Inc (TXN.O) fell 1.3% despite forecasting first-quarter revenue above market expectations, but bullish brokerage actions on Micron Technology Inc (MU.O) and Western Digital Corp (WDC.O) were set to boost the sector.

Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

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