Dow Futures Rise, World Stocks Gain as WHO Says Coronavirus Not Yet Global Crisis

Global stocks are steady after WHO labels coronavirus a China emergency but not a global one.

The Friday Market Minute

  • Global stocks steady after WHO labels Coronavirus a China emergency, but not a global one, as the deadly disease spreads through the world's second-largest economy.
  • China health officials put the virus death toll at 26, with some 900 others thought to be infected, while Beijing locks down travel in 13 cities, affecting some 30 million people, heading into the New Year celebrations.
  • European stocks open firmer as the euro slides to a seven-week low against the dollar following a dovish tone from ECB President Christine Lagarde during yesterday's rate meeting, and January PMI surprises to the upside.
  • Global oil prices extend slide as transport restrictions tamp demand and Energy Department data shows a smaller-than-expected drawdown in domestic crude stocks.
  • U.S. equity futures suggest firming opening bell gains on Wall Street ahead of earnings from American Express before the start of trading and January PMI data at 9:45 Eastern time..

Wall Street futures edged higher Friday, although gains were capped by lingering concerns over the spread of the deadly coronavirus in China which has taken the lives of 26 people and forced authorities to restrict travel for some 30 million more heading into the start of the Lunar New Year celebrations.

The World Health Organisation has said the outbreak, which was first recorded in the central industrial city of Wuhan late last year, has infected some 900 people, but has not yet risen to the level of a global health emergency. 

"Make no mistake, though, this is an emergency in China. But it has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Tedros during a press conference in Geneva late Thursday. "I wish to reiterate that the fact I am not declaring a (global emergency) today should not be taken as a sign that WHO does not think the situation is serious, or that we are not taking it seriously,"

China, for its part, has locked down travel in two major cities, and restricted movements from ten more, in an effort to contain the virus during the busy New Year holidays, which have kept financial closed for the day and for the balance of next week.

U.S. stocks, however, found support from stronger-than-expected earnings last night from semiconductor maker Intel Corp  (INTC) - Get Report, which forecast 2020 revenues in the region of $73.5 billion as cloud providers increase their purchases of data-center chips.

Futures contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average suggest an 86 point gain for the 30-stock average, while those linked to the S&P 500 are indicating an 8.5 point bump higher for the broader benchmark, which has gained 3% so far this year.

Overnight in Asia, market liquidity was thinned by the close of bourses in China, Taiwan and South Korea for New Year celebrations, while Japan's Nikkei 225 scraped out a narrow 0.13% gain as the safe-haven yen held at 109.53 against the U.S. dollar.

European stocks were firmer by mid-day, as well, with the Stoxx 600 rising 1.18% in Frankfurt, helped in part by the fact that the euro is trading at a seven-week low of 1.1035 against the U.S. dollar following yesterday's European Central Bank policy decision and press conference, during which new President Christine Lagarde struck a dovish tone on near-term rate projections.

January PMI data from France and Germany, meanwhile, came in stronger than forecast, with the composite reading for Europe's largest economy rising to 51.1.

Global oil prices extended declines to a fifth session, pulling Brent crude closer to the $62 per barrel mark, amid ongoing concerns over the demand impact from the coronavirus spread and a smaller-than-expected 405,000 barrel decline in U.S. crude stocks reported by the energy department yesterday.

Brent crude futures contracts for March delivery, the global benchmark for pricing, were last see seen 35 cents lower from their Thursday close and trading at $62.39 per barrel, while WTI contracts for the same month were marked 32 cents lower at $55.91 per barrel.