U.S. stocks ended mixed Thursday, recovering from early losses, as investors digested earnings reports and took heart from a World Health Organization decision to refrain from declaring China’s coronavirus outbreak a global emergency.
Investors watched travel and consumer good stocks in particular for any impact from China’s struggles to contain the viral outbreak that has killed 17 people and infected about 650 in several countries.
What are the major indexes doing?
The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.29% ended down 26.18 points, or 0.1%, at 29,160.09 but the S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.58% closed up 3.79 points or 0.1% at 3,325.50, and the Nasdaq Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP +0.81% recovered to gain 18.71 points or 0.2%, to end at 9,402.48 for a record close.
What’s driving the market?
Reports on U.S. quarterly earnings poured in Thursday with investors eager to glean more news about the health of the domestic economy in the midst of a historic run-up in the stock market.
Meanwhile, Wall Street was keeping one eye on the coronavirus outbreak that has rocked Chinese markets and threatens to hurt an already-sluggish economy, along with the potential to harm global economic growth.
Worries about the coronavirus accelerated after Beijing quarantined two cities with a combined population of about 17 million in an effort to contain the spread of the disease which is being compared with a deadly outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic in 2003 that killed about 800 people.
However, U.S. stocks recovered from early losses after the World Health Organization said it wouldn’t declare the coronavirus outbreak in China to be a global health emergency yet.
Losses for shares of Dow components Procter & Gamble Co. /zigman2/quotes/202894679/composite PG +0.16% and Travelers Cos. Inc . /zigman2/quotes/206313935/composite TRV -0.09% after reporting earnings weighed on the blue-chip gauge.
“The sustainable valuations of equities in general are probably higher now than 20 years ago, given a decline in the normal level of interest rates,” wrote John Higgins, chief markets economist at Capital Economics, in a Thursday note. But “we anticipate that the outperformance of megacap equities will end soon,” he said. “This is partly because we forecast an uneven global economic recovery in 2020, in which the U.S. fares quite well while China and Europe struggle. This ought to benefit smaller U.S. firms more than the biggest U.S. multinationals.”
On the economic front, the number of Americans who applied for first-time unemployment benefits in mid-January rose slightly, but layoffs remain near a 50-year low and there’s no sign of deterioration in the strongest U.S. labor market in decades. Initial jobless claims increased by 6,000 to 211,000 in the seven days ended Jan. 18, the government said Thursday.
Meanwhile, the European Central Bank concluded a monetary policy meeting on Thursday by holding interest rates steady.