Wall Street set for weekly loss on gathering virus fears

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street lost ground on Friday as mounting worries over the scope of the coronavirus outbreak overshadowed positive corporate earnings.

All three major U.S. stock averages extended their losses after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the second case of the virus on U.S. soil, this time in Chicago.

For the holiday-shortened week, all three indexes are on course to post a decline with the Nasdaq set to snap a six-week winning streak.

Market participants kept a wary eye on developments surrounding the coronavirus, which the World Health Organization (WHO) deemed “an emergency in China,” having now killed 26 people and infected more than 800 on the eve of the Lunar New Year holiday.

“There’s not much confidence in actual fundamentals, and a scare like the virus can be enough to force investors to rethink if markets have run too far too fast for too long,” said David Carter, chief investment officer at Lenox Wealth Advisors in New York. “There’s lots of uncertainty in the markets and the virus scare has only added to that.”

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Intel Corp’s (INTC.O) stock surged 7.8% after reporting jumps in data center and cloud computing revenue and forecasting better-than-expected 2020 earnings.

Consumer credit company American Express Co (AXP.N) benefited from a robust U.S. retail sales environment, posting a better-than-expected 9% annual revenue increase. Its stock advanced 2.3%.

Fourth-quarter reporting season is well under way, with 74 companies in the S&P 500 having reported, 68.2% of which have beaten Wall Street estimates, according to Refinitiv data.

Analysts now expect earnings to have contracted by 0.5%, on aggregate, in the October to December quarter.

Next week, a swarm of closely watched results are expected, notably from Apple Inc (AAPL.O), McDonald’s Corp (MCD.N), Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O), Tesla Inc (TSLA.O), Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), Boeing Co (BA.N), Facebook Inc (FB.O) and Caterpillar Inc (CAT.N), among others.

Perhaps more than ever, investors will be scrutinizing the quarterly reports for strong forward guidance.

“We view 2019 as a year of hope and belief that corporate profit growth would accelerate in 2020,” Carter added. “Earnings growth is critical to see in 2020.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 242.56 points, or 0.83%, to 28,917.53, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 34.7 points, or 1.04%, to 3,290.84 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 95.23 points, or 1.01%, to 9,307.25.

Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, all but utilities .SPLRCU were in the red, with energy .SPNY healthcare .SPXHC, and financial .SPSY suffering the largest percentage losses.

Broadcom Inc (AVGO.O) inched up 0.7% after entering an agreement with Apple Inc (AAPL.O) for the supply of wireless components used in its products.

Rivals Skyworks Solutions (SWKS.O) and Qorvo Inc (QRVO.O) were down 4.8% and 4.9%, respectively, on the news.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 2.70-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 3.29-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 84 new 52-week highs and 4 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 112 new highs and 50 new lows.

Reporting by Stephen Culp; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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