By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch
European stock markets were headed for a fifth straight day of losses, though with fewer steep declines as U.S. stocks attempted some early gains and investors tried get a grip on their coronavirus fears.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index /zigman2/quotes/210599654/delayed XX:SXXP -0.57% came back from a session low of 392.89 to 403.04, a loss of 0.3%. For the week, the index is down nearly 6%, after sliding roughly 1.8% on Tuesday. That follows deep losses in global markets, notably on Wall Street where the Dow finished Tuesday down nearly 880 points to mark its sharpest-ever two-session slide in point terms, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Americans to prepare for outbreaks.
But Wall Street stocks were attempting to crawl back from punishing back to back sessions that wiped nearly 2,000 points off the Dow. Major indexes opened firmly in the green.
Europe has been grappling with an outbreak in Italy that has led to infections in Germany, France Spain, while South Korea and Iran have seen climbing case numbers. The German DAX 30 index /zigman2/quotes/210597999/delayed DX:DAX -0.24% went from an 0.8% drop to a near 0.1% rise, while the French CAC 40 index /zigman2/quotes/210597958/delayed FR:PX1 -0.56% managed a modest rise, though the FTSE 100 index /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX -0.30% fell 0.2%.
“So, as we always need to ask ourselves, what’s priced in? I think 2,000 Dow points in two days just about does a broad shutdown in the U.S. for a couple of weeks, the same in Europe,” said Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, in a note to clients. He said what investors are seeing now is panic and perhaps selling that has gone too far.
“But…if you get a big outbreak in New York or San Francisco, or you have to lockdown a major capital like London or Paris, and whoosh you could see another 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 points go just like that,” he said.
Luc Filip, head of discretionary portfolio management at SYZ Private Banking, said in a note that the company cut its exposure to European equities earlier this month “as we considered the market much too complacent about the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak in China, and Europe is a highly trade-reliant economy.”
Shares of Danone /zigman2/quotes/205561941/delayed FR:BN -0.94% rose 1.1% even as the French food group reported higher fourth-quarter sales and trimmed its guidance for 2020 organic sales growth, blaming “volatile and uncertain” economic conditions this year related to the coronavirus outbreak.
Shares of Wolters Kluwer /zigman2/quotes/207940915/delayed NL:WKL -0.09% jumped 3.5% after the Dutch provider of professional information reported a 2% rise in 2019 profit and said it would buy back shares worth 350 million euros ($380.1 million) this year.
Shares of ASM International /zigman2/quotes/201180544/delayed NL:ASM -1.86% soared nearly 10% after the Dutch chip group reported a strong fourth quarter and delivered solid guidance for the first half of this year. Frédéric Yoboué, analyst at Bryan Garnier, said his team doesn’t think the company has much exposure to China, which would mean it doesn’t suffer supply-chain disruptions due to the coronavirus.
On the downside, Rio Tinto /zigman2/quotes/202627887/composite RIO -1.20% /zigman2/quotes/208934945/delayed UK:RIO -0.81% shares fell 0.9% after the mining giant posted a fall in annual profit and said it was preparing for short-term impacts such as supply-chain issues due to the virus.
Solvay SA /zigman2/quotes/208629835/delayed BE:SOLB -1.48% shares tumbled 2% after the German chemical maker, which had already flagged a soft 2020 at its third-quarter update, said the coronavirus would be an “additional headwind.”