Wall Street on firm footing after virus-driven selloff


(Reuters) – U.S. stocks rose on Wednesday after a rocky start to the week that shaved off more than 6% from each of the main indexes on growth fears as the coronavirus spread in several countries.

However, the indexes had briefly hit session lows in early afternoon trading and the Dow Jones Industrials turned negative after several health officials expressed concerns about the outbreak.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials warned the outbreak was on path to becoming pandemic, according to a report.

Germany is at the beginning of an epidemic after new cases sprung up which can no longer be traced to the virus’s original source in China, its health minister said.

“The selloff isn’t driven by fundamentals, it is driven by fear,” said John Ham, associate advisor at New England Investment and Retirement Group. “At the end of the day, it is a buying opportunity for investors with a long-term focus.”

Earlier in the day, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans to prepare for the virus to spread in the United States. President Donald Trump is scheduled to hold a news conference on the coronavirus at 6 p.m. ET (2300 GMT).

The main indexes have declined in the past four sessions and the Dow shed more than 1,900 points in the last two days on fears of a pandemic. The S&P 500 is still about 7% off its all-time high it hit last Wednesday.

At 12:54 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 108.42 points, or 0.40%, at 27,189.78 and the S&P 500 was up 14.81 points, or 0.47%, at 3,143.02. The Nasdaq Composite was up 71.79 points, or 0.80%, at 9,037.40.

Gains in shares of marquee companies such as Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp and Netflix Inc boosted the benchmark S&P 500.

Ten of the 11 major S&P sectors were trading higher, with technology leading the charge with a 1.1% gain. The energy sector dropped 1.3%.

Among stocks, TJX Cos Inc jumped 7.1% as the offprice retailer beat quarterly same-store sales estimates.

Walt Disney Co slipped 2.9% on news that Robert Iger will step down as chief executive officer, handing the reins to Disney Parks head Bob Chapek.

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Beyond Meat Inc rose 3.4% as Starbucks Corp said its Canadian stores would start selling its plant-based breakfast sandwich next week.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.00-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.10-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded two new 52-week highs and 29 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 18 new highs and 144 new lows.

Reporting by Medha Singh and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Arun Koyyur

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