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US: Stocks end sharply lower on virus fears, Dow -1.6%

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Wall Street stocks finished solidly in the red on Monday spooked by worries the coronavirus will weigh on global economic growth.

[NEW YORK] Wall Street stocks finished solidly in the red on Monday spooked by worries the coronavirus will weigh on global economic growth.

Major US indices suffered their worst session thus far in 2020 and followed European and Asian bourses lower, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling over 450 points or 1.6 per cent to finish at 28,535.50.

The broad-based S&P 500 also fell 1.6 per cent to end the day 3,243.63, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 1.9 per cent to 9,139.31.

The losses opened a heavy week of economic news that includes a Federal Reserve meeting and earnings reports from Apple, Amazon, Boeing and other giants.

As of Monday, more than 2,700 people have been infected across China, the bulk of them in and around Wuhan. But there also have been cases in other parts of Asia, as well as Europe and North America.

Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Holdings, said rising investor unease has reflected an increased number of cases and as the virus has spread to more regions.

"The escalation of the news causes more uncertainty," especially for travel-oriented companies, Hogan said.

"I think it's very logical, especially given that the sectors that would be affected by any slowdown are getting hit the hardest."

Even before the virus became a concern, analysts had warned US stocks could be primed for a pullback following a series of records that have increased equity valuations beyond historic levels.

Adding to that dynamic, analysts have pointed to an earnings season thus far that has seen companies largely meet expectations, but not exceeded them.

Multinationals with significant China operations were hard-hit, with Apple shedding 2.9 per cent and Starbucks 3.6 per cent.

Travel stocks also took a beating. United Airlines dropped 5.2 per cent, Marriott International shed 2.1 per cent and Wynn Resorts slumped 8.1 per cent.

Wynn operates two resorts in gambling center Macau, where there have been six confirmed coronavirus cases.

AFP