U.S. Stocks Little Changed as Virus Fears Abate Again

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02/14/2020 | 03:54 pm

By Avantika Chilkoti

U.S. stocks were little changed Friday as investors' concerns about a sharp rise in coronavirus cases from earlier in the week faded.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 22 points, or less than 0.1%, shortly after the opening bell. The S&P 500 added less than 0.1% and the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.1%.

Investors had briefly grown concerned this week about when the coronavirus outbreak might peak after Chinese authorities changed the criteria for diagnosis, leading to a dramatic increase in the new cases. But stocks in the U.S. and in Europe have largely continued their rally from last year on speculation that central banks and governments will take steps to shield the global economy from the impact of the outbreak.

"The market wants to believe this is a one-quarter blip and we're back to the races," said Neil Dwane, global strategist at Allianz Global Investors.

Investors also largely shrugged off the signs of fresh tensions between Washington and Beijing that emerged overnight after the U.S. charged Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei and two of its U.S. subsidiaries with racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to steal trade secrets. Tensions between the two nations had roiled markets for large parts of last year, and eased only briefly after they sealed an initial trade accord that failed to address a number of crucial issues.

"We always thought the 'phase one' trade deal would not actually resolve tensions between the U.S. and China," said Simona Gambarini, markets economist at Capital Economics in London. "The two economies are based on totally different foundations."

Meanwhile, American shoppers increased their spending in January, signaling a key engine of the economy remained on steady footing. Retail sales increased a seasonally adjusted 0.3% in January from a month earlier, the Commerce Department said Friday.

Shares of Nvidia advanced 7.4% after the graphics-chip maker's fourth-quarter earnings topped Wall Street's expectations.

Expedia Group gained over 11% after the online travel company projected cost savings and growth in a measure of profit for this year.

Elsewhere, the Stoxx Europe 600 index was little changed. Over in Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index closed 0.4% higher.

Among European equities, Royal Bank of Scotland Group was among the biggest losers after the U.K. bank reduced the size of its investment banking business and projected as much as GBP1 billion ($1.3 billion) in costs this year, stemming from strategic changes it plans to make.

Write to Avantika Chilkoti at Avantika.Chilkoti@wsj.com


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