Dow ends 2.1% lower as US stocks tumble on virus fears

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Jan 29, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks tumbled with other leading equity markets on Friday (Jan 31) on mounting fears that the coronavirus will significantly dent global growth.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average skidded 2.1 per cent, losing more than 600 points to finish the session at 28,256.03, the biggest decline since August.

The broad-based S&P 500 fell 1.8 per cent to 3,225.52, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 1.6 per cent to 9,150.94.

At least 213 people have died and nearly 10,000 people have been infected in China by the new coronavirus, while fresh cases were found abroad with more than 20 countries now affected.

Just after markets closed, US authorities declared a public health emergency, and starting Sunday will ban entry into the country of any foreign national who has travelled to China in the past two weeks, while quarantining Americans who have made the trip.

The three largest US airlines had already announced they were suspending service to China after the US State Department urged no travel to the country, ratcheting up their restrictions after earlier cancelling only some flights.

"Based on the continuing rise in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths, it's increasingly apparent the disease is becoming an economic as well as a public health concern," said a note from Oxford Economics.

Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial, said the outbreak has raised doubts about whether growth would accelerate in the aftermath of the US-China trade detente.

"We expected to see global growth," she said. "What this does is perhaps slows that down and adds more uncertainties."

Krosby said the outbreak also could pose problems for companies with supply chain dependent on China.

Losses on Wall Street were broad-based, with oil giants Exxon Mobil and Chevron both losing around 4 per cent, Apple down 4.4 per cent and JPMorgan Chase 2.6 per cent. United Airlines and American Airlines both lost more than three percent.

An exception was Amazon, which surged 7.4 per cent after releasing quarterly earnings results for the holiday period that trounced market expectations.

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