Stock futures wobble as investors remain focused on coronavirus spread outside China

Stock-index futures were slightly lower Wednesday after flipping between gains and losses as investors looked for a respite from a selling stampede that’s sent equities sharply lower over the past four days amid rising worries about the spread of COVID-19 outside of China.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average YM00, -0.14% were off 113 points, or 0.4%, at 27,003, while S&P 500 futures ES00, -0.03% gave up 9.35 points, or 0.3%, to 3,122.25. Nasdaq-100 futures NQ00, +0.02% were off 32.50 points, or 0.4%, at 8,821.75.

The Dow DJIA, -3.15% on Tuesday dropped 879.44 points, or 3.2%, to 27,081.36, while the S&P 500 SPX, -3.03% shed 97.68 points, or 3%, to close at 3,128.21. The Nasdaq Composite COMP, -2.77% dropped 225.67 points, or 2.8%, to finish at 8,965.61. Tuesday’s decline was the fourth straight for all three major indexes.

Worries about the rapid spread of COVID-19 outside of China continue to hang over markets, analysts said. The number of confirmed cases and deaths outside China has continued to rise, particularly in Italy, Iran, Japan and South Korea. Stocks extended losses Tuesday after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Americans should prepare for the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S.

“All these developments add further credence to our view that the effects of the virus may not prove as temporary as many initially believed and that the economic wounds could well drag into Q2,” said Charalambos Pissouros, senior market analyst at JFD Group, in a note.

“With the spreading outside China appearing to be out of control at the moment, and with the world’s largest economy signaling that it is not immune to the virus, we believe that there is still room for equities to keep sliding, and safe havens to attract flows,” Pissouros said.

Analysts said stocks may be due for a near-term bounce from the rout. Losses were particularly sharp Monday and Tuesday, with the Dow falling 6.6% over the past two sessions, the S&P 500 down 6.3% and the Nasdaq off 6.4%.

For the S&P 500, the two-day decline was the largest since August 2015, while the slump was the biggest for the Dow since February 2018 and the largest for the Nasdaq since June 2016, in the wake of the Brexit referendum.

The economic calendar s light, featuring data on new home sales for January at 10 a.m. Eastern.

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