U.S. stocks fall over worries about virus outbreak spreading

Stocks fell on Wall Street in midday trading Thursday as investors worried that a deadly virus outbreak in China could continue spreading and hurt the global economy

NEW YORK —
Stocks fell on Wall Street in midday trading Thursday as investors worried that a deadly virus outbreak in China could continue spreading and hurt the global economy.

The slump for U.S. indexes follows a sell-off for global markets as authorities worldwide take measures to monitor and contain the virus. The central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus is concentrated, closed down its train station and airport Thursday to prevent people from entering or leaving the city.

The coronavirus has been confirmed in five countries, including China, the U.S., Thailand, Japan and South Korea. More than 500 people have fallen sick and 17 have died from the illness, which can cause pneumonia and other severe respiratory symptoms. A World Health Organization committee was scheduled to meet for a second day Thursday as it decides whether to declare China’s virus outbreak a global health emergency.

Banks and other financial companies led the losses. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.72% from 1.77% late Wednesday. Financial institutions rely on higher bond yields to set lucrative interest rates on mortgages and other loans. Bank of America fell 1.5%.

Health care stocks also broadly fell. Edwards LifeSciences, which makes heart valves, slipped 5.6%.

Crude oil prices slumped and weighed on energy stocks. Exxon Mobil fell 1.5%.

Utilities and real estate companies held onto slight gains as investors shifted money into the safe-play sectors.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index fell 0.4% as of 11:45 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 113 points, or 0.6%, to 29,076. The Nasdaq fell 0.2%. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks fell 0.5%.

OVERSEAS: European and Asian markets fell. The European Central Bank is launching its first re-examination of bank policies since the global financial crisis as it struggles to meet its inflation target despite massive monetary stimulus and record low interest rates.

Concern about the coronavirus’ potential impact weighed heavily on stock indexes in China. The outbreak coincides with the annual travel of hundreds of millions of Chinese for the Lunar New Year festival, which begins Friday. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng dropped 1.5%, while the Shanghai Composite index declined 2.8%.

FRAYED LACES: V.F. Corp. slid 8.2% after the maker of Vans and Timberland shoes cut its profit forecast for the year following weak fiscal third-quarter sales.

EARNINGS ROUNDUP: Investors rewarded and punished several companies as earnings reports continued flowing. Software company Citrix Systems jumped 8.4% after handily beating Wall Street’s profit forecasts. Financial services firm Raymond James fell 7.4% after falling short of profit forecasts.

Student loan company SLM surged 22% after beating earnings forecasts and saying it will sell $3 billion in assets to help fund stock buybacks.