Dow Ends Flat on Coronavirus Fears, S&P 500 and Nasdaq Set Intraday Record Highs

Dow loses ground in late trading over mounting concerns about the spread of the deadly coronavirus in China.
  1. Stocks end mixed Wednesday, losing ground over mounting concern about the spread of the deadly coronavirus in China.
  2. China's National Health Commission confirmed more than 500 cases of the deadly coronavirus, which causes pneumonia, and 17 fatalities.
  3. International Business Machines is Real Money's Stock of the Day. The tech giant posted stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings and issued a robust profit outlook for 2020. 

Stocks finished mixed Wednesday, giving up ground in late trading as concerns increased about the spread of the deadly coronavirus in China.

China's National Health Commission said Wednesday it has confirmed 17 fatalities and more than 500 cases of the contagious disease, which causes pneumonia-like symptoms.

Wuhan, the Chinese city of 11 million people at the center of the outbreak, suspended outbound flights and rail service. Beginning Thursday morning, all public transportation out of the Wuhan city limits will close.

Five other countries, including the U.S., have reported cases of the coronavirus, which is said to cause fever, cough, and shortness of breath in patients.

World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the organization is not ready to declare the coronavirus a global public health emergency, NBC reported.

"To proceed, we need more information," he said. "For that reason, I have decided to ask the emergency committee to meet again tomorrow."

China's reaction to the virus, as well as its cooperation with World Health Organization officials, helped global markets steady initially, with investors shifting their focus to strong earnings reports from the likes of Netflix  (NFLX) - Get Report and International Business Machines  (IBM.) - Get Report

But concerns about the virus chipped away at gains during the day.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 9.77 points, or 0.03%, to 29,186, the S&P 500 ended up 0.03% and the Nasdaq gained 0.14%. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq hit all-time intraday highs.

IBM was the top gainer on the Dow. Boeing  (BA) - Get Report declined but came off the day's lows after CEO Dave Calhoun said the planemaker wouldn't cut its dividend despite the prolonged grounding of the 737 MAX jet.

President Donald Trump, in an interview with CNBC, said growth in the U.S. economy would have been closer to 4% if it weren’t for the lingering effects of Federal Reserve rate hikes.

“That was a big blip that should not have taken place. It should not have happened. But it’s one of those things. But we had Boeing. We had the big strike with General Motors. We had things happen that are very unusual to happen,” Trump said in an interview from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

He also called Boeing a "very disappointing company" in the CNBC interview.

International Business Machines posted stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings and issued a robust profit outlook for 2020 as a long-term shift to cloud computing gains traction.  

Netflix declined Wednesday after the streaming giant added fewer domestic subscribers than expected in the fourth quarter but topped expectations for overseas expansion.

Netflix added 550,000 subscribers in the U.S. and Canada, below estimates of 600,000. The company pinned the miss on pricing changes and the launch of rival services in the U.S., such as those from Walt Disney  (DIS) - Get Report and Apple  (AAPL) - Get Report

Johnson & Johnson  (JNJ) - Get Report posted stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings but slowing sales of Remicade hit the healthcare giant's revenue growth.

Abbott Laboratories  (ABT) - Get Report posted fourth-quarter earnings that were largely in line with Wall Street forecasts and the medical device maker raised its first-quarter and full-year profit forecasts amid strong demand for its diabetes monitoring devices.

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Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Report rose Wednesday, lifting the market cap of Elon Musk's electric vehicle company past the $100 billion mark and extending a run that has taken his company past the likes of Ford  (F) - Get Report, General Motors  (GM) - Get Report and Volkswagen in less than a decade.