Stocks slide as China closes down more cities in bid to contain Wuhan virus
Stocks are sliding again on Thursday morning as China takes further actions to try to contain the outbreak of the latest new coronavirus variant plaguing the country and worrying others worldwide. According to several media reports, Chinese authorities have expanded their strict travel bans to include at least five cities, after first imposing the travel ban on Wuhan, where the virus appears to have originated. Wuhan, a port city of over 11 million people, was closed off this week, with authorities cancelling flights and trains leaving the city, and suspending buses, subways and ferries within it.
ECONOMIC EVENTS: In the U.S., initial jobless claims rose 6,000 to 211,000 in the week ended January 18, which was a little less than expected. The leading economic indicator index declined 0.3% to 111.2 in December.
TOP NEWS: Shares of Comcast (CMCSA) are 3.5% lower at midday despite the fact that the cable, broadband and broadcasting giant reported higher than expected quarterly earnings and increased its dividend 10%. The stock was initially reacting positively to the report but appeared to reverse as Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said during the associated call that Comcast expects higher video subscriber losses in 2020.
Shares of Procter & Gamble (PG) are also slipping after the packaged goods company reported better than expected quarterly earnings but lower than expected sales.
Dow member Travelers (TRV) is a drag on the blue chip index as the insurers' stock slides nearly 5% after the company reported on its results in the fourth quarter.
Shares of Micron (MU) and Western Digital (WDC) are on the rise after Morgan Stanley analyst Joseph Moore upgraded both stocks to Overweight, a Buy-equivalent rating. Meanwhile, Cowen analyst Karl Ackerman said in his own note that he believes investors generally understand new smartphone launches should reduce excess memory inventory, but that many do not yet fully appreciate the incremental memory content on new 5G flagship launches in 2020.
MAJOR MOVERS: Among the noteworthy gainers was Paycom (PAYC), which rose 5% after it was named to join the S&P 500. Also higher were Sallie Mae (SLM) and JetBlue (JBLU), which gained a respective 23% and 4% after reporting quarterly results.
Among the notable losers was GasLog Partners (GLOP), which slid 12% after Evercore ISI analyst Jonathan Chappell downgraded the shares to Underperform from Outperform with a price target of $11, down from $24. Also lower were Freeport-McMoRan (FCX) and VF Corp. (VFC), which fell 7% and 10%, respectively, after reporting quarterly results.
INDEXES: Near midday, the Dow was down 133.58, or 0.46%, to 29,052.69, the Nasdaq was down 10.10, or 0.11%, to 9,373.66, and the S&P 500 was down 8.94, or 0.27%, to 3,312.81.