Virus outbreak, data stoke growth worry to drive stocks lower

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street’s major averages tumbled more than 1.5% on Friday, sealing its worst week in six months, as the spreading coronavirus outbreak, coupled with sluggish U.S. economic data and a mixed batch of corporate earnings, fueled concerns about global growth.

After suffering its biggest one-day percentage decline since Oct. 2, the S&P 500 <.SPX> is down more than 3% from its closing high hit earlier in January, as businesses struggle with supply problems from the coronavirus epidemic that has killed 213 people in China and been declared a global emergency.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it had issued a quarantine order for all Americans repatriated from China to an air base in California. However, stocks pared losses late in the session as the agency director, Robert Redfield, said the risk to the U..S public is low.

Delta Air Lines Inc <DAL.N> lost 2.38% and Inc <AAL.O> fell 3.17% after the companies said they would suspend all flights to mainland China.

Economists fear the coronavirus could have a bigger impact than Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed about 800 people between 2002 and 2003 at an estimated cost of $33 billion to the global economy, since China’s share of the world economy is now far greater.

U.S. data showing consumer spending rose steadily in December while wage gains indicated moderate growth in consumption amid contracting business investment added to the growth concerns. Additionally, a report on manufacturing in the Midwest hit a four-year low for January.

“We spent most of this week still with this kind of euphoric optimism about the U.S. market, and today that began to fade… people are finally starting to get concerned,” said Michael O’Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading in Stamford, Connecticut.

“(The virus is) going to take a toll on the global economy, and investors are just starting to realize that now here in the U.S.” Inc <AMZN.O> was a bright spot, surging 7.38% on better-than-expected results for the holiday-quarter that pushed it back into the $1 trillion market capitalization club.

Gains in Amazon helped the consumer discretionary index <.SPLRCD> rise 0.82%, the only sector on the plus side. Energy <.SPNY> was by far the worst performer, tumbling 3.%.

Oil majors Exxon Mobil Corp <XOM.N> and Chevron Corp <CVX.N> were the primary drags on the sector as each dropped more than 4% after disappointing results.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> fell 603.41 points, or 2.09%, to 28,256.03, the S&P 500 <.SPX> lost 58.14 points, or 1.77%, to 3,225.52 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> dropped 148.00 points, or 1.59%, to 9,150.94.

For the week, the Dow fell 2.5%, the S&P lost 2.1% and the Nasdaq declined 1.8%. Both the Dow and S&P 500 had their worst weekly performances since early August. For the month, the Dow lost 1%, the S&P slipped 0.2% and the Nasdaq rose 2%.

Visa Inc <V.N> fell 4.44% after its quarterly revenue missed estimates and the payments network warned of incentives hitting 2020 results.

International Business Machines Corp <IBM.N> gained 5.09% after it named a new chief officer.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 3.58-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 3.35-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 33 new 52-week highs and 12 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 54 new highs and 121 new lows.

About 9.03 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges, compared with the 7.61 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.

(Additional reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Tom Brown and Dan Grebler)