FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2020, file photo specialist Peter Mazza works at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The U.S. stock market opens at 9:30 a.m. EST on Thursday, Jan. 23. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

U.S. stocks indexes are mixed amid worries over virus

January 23, 2020 - 2:52 pm

Major U.S. stock indexes wavered between small gains and losses in afternoon trading Thursday as gains in technology companies offset declines elsewhere in the market.

Investors continued to monitor developments in the international effort to keep a deadly new virus outbreak in China from spreading further and potentially hurting the global economy. Markets across Asia slumped earlier.

The wobbly trading followed a sell-off in global markets as authorities worldwide take measures to monitor and contain the virus. The central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus is concentrated, closed down its train station and airport Thursday to prevent people from entering or leaving the city.

The coronavirus has been confirmed in five countries, including China, the U.S., Thailand, Japan and South Korea. More than 500 people have fallen sick and 17 have died from the illness, which can cause pneumonia and other severe respiratory symptoms. A World Health Organization committee was scheduled to meet for a second day Thursday as it decides whether to declare China's virus outbreak a global health emergency.

Traders also had their eye on the latest batch of company earnings reports.

Technology stocks notched the biggest gains. Citrix Systems led all S&P 500 stocks, vaulting 8.5%, after the software company reported fourth-quarter earnings and revenue that topped Wall Street's forecasts.

Industrial stocks also rose, with several airlines among the gainers. Real estate and utilities companies held onto modest gains as investors shifted money into the safe-play sectors.

Health care stocks were the biggest decliners. Edwards LifeSciences, which makes heart valves, dropped 5.2%

Financial stocks, including insurers, also fell. Travelers Cos. slid 5.2%.

Crude oil prices slumped and weighed on energy stocks. Pioneer Natural Resources dropped 2%.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index inched up less than 0.1% as of 2:28 p.m. Eastern time. The index had been down as much as 0.6% earlier in the day.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 40 points, or 0.1%, to 29,145. The Nasdaq gained 0.1%. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks was up less than 0.1%.

European markets fell.

VIRUS JITTERS: Concern about the coronavirus’ potential impact weighed heavily on stock indexes in China. The outbreak coincides with the annual travel of hundreds of millions of Chinese for the Lunar New Year festival, which begins Friday. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng dropped 1.5%, while the Shanghai Composite index declined 2.8%.

FRAYED LACES: V.F. Corp. slid 8.8% after the maker of Vans and Timberland shoes cut its profit forecast for the year following weak fiscal third-quarter sales. The stock was the biggest decliner in the S&P 500.

FULL FLIGHTS: American Airlines Group climbed 2.9% after the company reported solid earnings growth for the fourth quarter. Strong travel demand resulted in record occupancy levels on its planes, though the airline also said it had to cancel about 10,000 flights during the quarter because of the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max jets.

Shares in other airlines also headed higher. Southwest Airlines gained 3.3% and Alaska Air Group rose 1.8%.

EARNINGS ROUNDUP: Investors rewarded and punished several companies as earnings reports continued flowing. Financial services firm Raymond James fell 5.9% after falling short of profit forecasts.

Student loan company SLM surged 25.7% after beating earnings forecasts and saying it will sell $3 billion in assets to help fund stock buybacks.

Teradyne rose 3.9% after the semiconductor-testing equipment maker's fourth-quarter earnings and financial forecasts beat Wall Street expectations.

BOND YIELDS: The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.74% from 1.77% late Wednesday.


AP Business Writer Damian J. Troise contributed.

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