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US: Dow ends choppy session lower; Nasdaq gains

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Wall Street stocks finished mostly lower on Wednesday, stabilising somewhat after a two-session rout amid growing worries over the economic impact of the coronavirus epidemic.

[NEW YORK] Wall Street stocks finished mostly lower on Wednesday, stabilising somewhat after a two-session rout amid growing worries over the economic impact of the coronavirus epidemic.

It was a choppy trading session, with some sectors such as energy and tourism under heavy selling pressure, but the broader market had support from bargain hunting that lifted many shares into positive territory.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which plunged nearly 2,000 points the last two days, ended with a relatively modest loss of 0.5 per cent to 26,957.86, a drop of about 125 points.

The broad-based S&P 500 shed 0.4 per cent to 3,116.46, but the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index edged up 0.2 per cent at 8,980.77.

Major indices had regained more than one percent during the morning hours, but the rally petered out at midday.

"There is still more concern than confidence," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Holdings.

China suffered fewer deaths in the last 24 hours than in any day in more than three weeks. But cases of the virus appeared in eight new countries, bringing the total to around 40.

"We don't know what stage of this we're in and we don't know how much economic damage will be done," Mr Hogan said.

Travel stocks had another bad session, with United Airlines losing 5.7 per cent, Expedia 7.1 per cent and Marriott International 3.0 per cent.

Oil-linked companies ConocoPhillips and Halliburton slumped 5.0 per cent and 3.3 per cent, respectively.

But some technology stocks gained, including Apple, which won 1.6 per cent and Netflix, which surged 5.3 per cent.

Disney slumped 3.8 per cent after announcing that longstanding chief executive Bob Iger was stepping down and would be replaced with Bob Chapek, a company veteran who has led the amusement park division.

Some analysts expressed surprise at the timing of the announcement, as Mr Iger's contract was supposed to continue through the end of 2021.

TJX, the parent company of off-price retailer Marshall's, soared 7.3 per cent after reporting a jump in fourth-quarter profits on a six per cent gain on comparable sales.

AFP