U.S. Stocks Fall Sharply On Renewed Coronavirus Concerns

Stocks have moved sharply lower in morning trading on Friday, adding to the losses posted in the previous session. The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 are pulling back further off the record closing highs set on Wednesday.

The major averages have climbed off their worst levels in recent trading but remain firmly negative. The Dow is down 248.09 points or 0.9 percent at 28,971.89, the Nasdaq is down 129.18 points or 1.3 percent at 9,621.78 and the S&P 500 is down 30.78 points or 0.9 percent at 3,342.45.

The sell-off on Wall Street comes as traders keep a close eye on the latest coronavirus news, with Chinese officials reporting 1,109 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, up sharply from 349 cases the previous day.

South Korean health authorities also reported 52 new cases of the fast-spreading disease, raising the national tally to 156, while the number of confirmed cases in Japan increased by 23 to 728.

Stocks have recently shown some volatility in reaction to the daily headlines regarding the number of newly confirmed coronavirus cases.

A number of companies have warned about the impact of the coronavirus, with Coca-Cola (KO) forecasting the outbreak will trim 1 to 2 cents per share off its first quarter earnings.

On the U.S. economic front, the National Association of Realtors released a report showing a pullback in existing home sales in the month of January.

NAR said existing home sales slumped by 1.3 percent to an annual rate of 5.46 million in January after surging up by 3.9 percent to a revised rate of 5.53 million in December. Economists had expected existing home sales to tumble by 1.8 percent.

Despite the monthly decrease, the report noted existing home sales in January were up by 9.6 percent compared to the same month a year ago.

Oil service stocks are turning in some of the market’s worst performances in morning trading, dragging the Philadelphia Oil Service Index down by 4.2 percent to its lowest intraday level in over four months.

The sell-off by oil service stocks comes amid a notable decrease by the price of crude oil, with crude for April delivery slumping $0.85 to $53.03 a barrel.

Substantial weakness has also emerged among semiconductor stocks, as reflected by the 2.7 percent nosedive by the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index.

Natural gas, software, brokerage and computer hardware stocks are also seeing considerable weakness, while gold stocks are bucking the downtrend amid a sharp increase by the price of the precious metal.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly lower during trading on Friday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index fell by 0.4 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index slumped by 1.1 percent.

The major European markets have also come under pressure over the course of the session. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index has slid by 0.9 percent, the French CAC 40 Index is down by 1 percent and the German DAX Index is down by 1.1 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries are extending the notable upward move seen in the previous session. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by 6.9 basis points at 1.456 percent.

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