China Virus Fears Infect U.S. Airline Stocks

Shares of U.S. airlines fall amid growing fears surrounding an outbreak of a mysterious virus in China that has killed six and infected hundreds more.

Shares of U.S. airlines glided lower on Tuesday amid growing fears surrounding an outbreak of a mysterious virus in China that so far has infected hundreds and killed six ahead of one of the busiest holiday travel seasons for the country.

Shares of Delta Air Lines  (DAL) - Get Report , American Airlines  (AAL) - Get Report and United Airlines  (UAL) - Get Report, the three carriers with more international-bound flights, all dropped in premarket trading on Tuesday, following airline stocks listed in Hong Kong, which also took a hit.

Chinese authorities on Tuesday confirmed six deaths in an ongoing coronavirus outbreak in the country, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to more than 200. It was also confirmed that the virus can spread from person-to-person contact.

Outside China, cases have also been confirmed in Thailand, Japan and South Korea, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens are expected to travel domestically and internationally during the extended Lunar New Year holiday, which starts on Saturday. The annual migration has sparked fears of a further spread of the virus similar to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) pandemic in 2002 and 2003 that killed some 800.

Officials in the U.S. and abroad already have begun taking measures to screen passengers for symptoms of the coronavirus, which resemble the common cold. 

Meanwhile, shares of Chinese pharmaceutical stocks surged on Monday on expectations that drug makers will benefit from the sudden flare-up of the virus. 

The ChiNext Price Index, which tracks mainly health care and information technology companies, closed at its highest level in three years on Tuesday, ending the trading session up 2.6% at its highest since January 2017.

Shares of Delta were down 1.50% at $61.08 in morning trading on Tuesday, while shares of American were down 2.18% at $27.78. United was down 2.81% at $87.18. United will report its fourth-quarter earnings figures later on Tuesday.