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Stocks plunge on fears virus outbreak will dent the economy

Posted at 3:07 PM, Jan 31, 2020

Stocks plunged on Wall Street as investors feared that a virus outbreak that originated in China will dent the global economy. Technology companies, which do a lot of business with China, led the losses. Airlines fell after Delta and American suspended flights to and from China. The sell-off erased the S&P 500's gains for January and gave the benchmark index its biggest weekly loss since August. The S&P 500 sank 58, or 1.8%, to 3,225. The Dow Jones industrials fell 603, or 2.1% to 28,256. The Nasdaq dropped 148, or 1.6%, to 9,150. Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.51%.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP's earlier story follows below.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped more than 600 points Friday as a virus outbreak that originated in China continued to widen, stoking stock investors' worries about the potential global economic fallout.

The broad sell-off erased the S&P 500's gains for January, which began with the market benchmark at record highs. The index is on track for its second weekly loss and its biggest weekly decline since early August.

The virus has infected almost 10,000 people globally in just two months, a troublesome sign of its spread that prompted the World Health Organization to declare the outbreak a global emergency. That designation signals that the virus is now a significant risk to other countries and requires a global response.

Cases have spiked in China, along with deaths there, and the U.S. is now advising against all travel to the world's second-largest economy. The move weighed on airline and energy stocks. It also helped push oil prices lower.

American Airlines fell 3.2% and Delta Air Lines slipped 2.4% after both companies suspended flights to and from China.

"The economic and market impact now are becoming much more significant and those two sectors are probably the most important to keep an eye on," said Sameer Samana, senior global market strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute. "If you're going to restrict travel and you're going to restrict movement, you're by default going to hit energy prices."

Technology stocks led the losses. Apple, which relies on Chinese consumers for sales and factories for supplies, fell 3.9%. Nvidia slid 3.8% and other chipmakers slipped.

Banks and energy companies also broadly fell. Exxon and Chevron both fell after issuing fourth-quarter results.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.51% from 1.55% late Thursday. In another sign of how much fear is in the market, the yield on teh three-month Treasury rose above the 10-year yield, a relatively rare ocurrence that hasn't happened since October. Investors see such inversions as a fairly reliable warning signal of a recession within a year or so, though its track record isn't perfect.

Amazon was a standout as a stellar earnings report helped push its market value to slightly more than $1 trillion. Colgate-Palmolive and other makers of household goods held up better than most of the market, as did utilities.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index fell 1.9% as of 3:27 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow fell 624 points, or 2.2%, to 28,234. The Nasdaq fell 1.6%. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks fell 2%.

VIRUS STATUS: The new virus outbreak that began in China has now spread to more than 20 nations. Most of the cases and all of the 213 deaths are in China. But, health officials are now increasingly worried as the virus shows signs that it is more easily spreading from person to person.

FEELING FEVERISH: The S&P 500 had been off to a solid start for the year until concerns about the virus stunted it. The technology-heavy Nasdaq is also on track for its second straight weekly loss, though it is still holding on to gains of 2.1% for January.

PRIME RESULTS: Online retailer Amazon surged 7.5% after blowing past Wall Street's fourth-quarter profit forecasts. The company said Prime membership exploded 50% since it last disclosed that figure in 2018. Analysts have said that Prime subscribers, who pay $119 a year for faster shipping and other perks, typically spend more of their money at Amazon than at other retailers.

LOW TANK: Exxon Mobil slipped 4.4% after the country's biggest oil producer's profit slid more than 5% in the fourth quarter and fell short of Wall Street forecasts. The company is also facing pressure from falling oil prices as the spreading virus threatens demand.

RECOMPUTING: IBM climbed 4.8% after the technology company said it is changing leadership and putting a cloud computing leader at the helm. Arvind Krishna will take over as CEO in April to replace Ginni Rometty, its first female CEO in the company's century-long history. Cloud computing has become an increasingly important part of the company's operations and is a highly competitive area.

OVERSEAS: European markets closed broadly lower. The United Kingdom is officially leaving the European Union later Friday after more than three years of wrangling over the terms of its exit. It's the first time a country has left the trading bloc.

Markets in Asia finished mostly lower, though Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 1%. Indexes in mainland China open on Monday after an extended shutdown of more than a week for the Lunar New Year. A lot of pent-up selling has likely built up in the meantime.