Dow in Bear Market, Stocks Sell Off, NBA Suspends Season as Coronavirus Spreads - 5 Things You Must Know Thursday

Stock futures sink after the World Health Organization declares the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic; President Donald Trump suspends travel between the U.S. and Europe for 30 days; the NBA season is put on ice after a Utah Jazz player tests positive for the virus.
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Here are five things you must know for Thursday, March 12:

1. -- Stock Futures Extend Steep Declines

Stock futures extended steep declines Thursday and shares in Asia and Europe sank after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic and after President Donald Trump said travel between the U.S. and Europe would be suspended for 30 days.

The president also laid out financial measures to stem the threat to the economy from the virus but his announcements from the Oval Office late Wednesday failed to calm investors.

Contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1,204 points, or 5.11%, S&P 500 futures declined 127 points and Nasdaq futures dropped 381 points.

The Dow sank 1,465 points, or 5.9%, to close at 23,553 on Wednesday, putting the blue-chip index in a bear market, which is defined as a decline of at least 20% from its recent high. The Dow set a closing record of 29,551.42 on Feb. 12.

The S&P 500 declined 4.6% on Wednesday and the Nasdaq slumped 4.7%.

Trump said he would order the Small Business Administration to provide relief loans to hard-hit companies as well as seek congressional approval of a suspension of payroll taxes.

Trump said his administration was "marshalling the full power of the federal government" and private sector to combat what he called this "foreign virus."

"The government probably should have been thinking about stimulus last month,” said Kristina Hooper, Invesco’s chief global market strategist. “Every day that passes makes the economic impact of coronavirus that much worse.”

2. -- Stocks Sell Off: What Wall Street Is Saying

    • The tide rises, the tide falls, and so does the market," said Phil Bak, CEO of Exponential ETFs. "Bear markets test the fragility of markets, asset managers and investors - they are a necessary part of the cycle."
    • “We continue to see the day-to-day flow of news really exhibiting itself in extreme volatility,” Jim Baird, chief investment officer at Plante Moran Financial Advisors, told The Wall Street Journal. “It’s a whole host of things that are really coming together to put investors in a pretty cautionary stance at this point.”
    • “I want all retail investors to expect this environment will continue: sharp down days, sharp up days,” said Patrick Schaffer, global investment specialist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank. “This feeling of whiplash that people feel probably continues for some period of time.”
    • While (Wednesday's) selloff was scary, the major indices closed right at Monday's lows, and that gives hope to bulls that another technical breakdown might still be avoided," said Gorilla Trades strategist Ken Berman. "While small-caps led the way lower and breadth was awful on Wall Street, long-dated Treasury yields edged higher while gold also fell ... meaning that safe-haven flows were weaker than on Monday, and that could support equities later on this week."
    • “We can see the panic in the equity market,” Jerry Braakman, chief investment officer of First American Trust, told CNBC. “The big question for most people is, are we at the bottom yet? I think we’re only about halfway there.”

    3. -- Coronavirus - The Latest

    The number of confirmed global cases of the coronavirus has risen to 126,258, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, and deaths increased to 4,638.

    The U.S. has 1,312 cases of the virus and deaths have climbed to 38.

    Donald Trump said he was halting all travel to the U.S. from Europe, with the exception of the U.K., in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The restrictions go into effect Friday at midnight.

    "Travel restrictions equal slower global economic activity, so if you need any more coaxing to sell ... after a massively negative signal from overnight trading in U.S. markets, it just fell in your lap," said Stephen Innes, global chief markets strategist at AxiCorp.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised its travel warning for Europe, advising Americans to avoid nonessential travel to specific countries, including Germany, France and Italy. "There may be limited access to adequate medical care in affected areas," the CDC said.

    The National Basketball Association suspended the season until further notice after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. The NCAA earlier Wednesday said its men's and women's basketball tournaments would be held without fans.

    Actor Tom Hanks and his wife, actress Rita Wilson, announced they were infected. Hanks said the couple were in Australia and felt tired, with colds, body aches and slight fevers. “To play things right, as is needed in the world right now, we were tested for the coronavirus and were found to be positive,” Hanks said.

    Twitter  (TWTR) - Get Report mandated that all employees must work from home - it previously had just recommended they do so.

    4. -- Carl Icahn Boosts Stake in Occidental to Nearly 10%

    Carl Icahn increased his stake in Occidental Petroleum  (OXY) - Get Report to nearly 10%, up from 2.5%, after shares of the oil producer have declined nearly 60% this week as oil prices tumbled.

    Occidental on Tuesday said it would cut its quarterly dividend by 86% to 11 cents a share from 79 cents, and would slash capital spending as oil prices fell significantly after Saudi Arabia and Russia launched a price war.

    Icahn, the billionaire activist investor, has been critical of Occidental Petroleum's leadership, particularly following its takeover of Anadarko Petroleum.

    “The board voted to roll the dice and bet the company by risking shareholder’s money on a disastrous acquisition,” Icahn told Bloomberg by phone Wednesday. “They lost the bet.”

    5. -- Broadcom, Adobe, Oracle Report Earnings

    Earnings reports are expected Thursday from Broadcom  (AVGO) - Get Report, Adobe  (ADBE) - Get Report, Oracle  (ORCL) - Get Report, Slack Technologies  (WORK) - Get Report, Dollar General  (DG) - Get Report, Gap  (GPS) - Get Report and Ulta Beauty  (ULTA) - Get Report.

    Broadcom is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS member club. Want to be alerted before Jim Cramer buys or sells AVGO? Learn more now.

    The economic calendar in the U.S. Thursday includes weekly Jobless Claims at 8:30 a.m. ET, and the Producer Price Index for February at 8:30 a.m.