Stocks shake off the day’s losses and end higher

New York Stock Exchange
Specialist David Haubner works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange this month.
(Richard Drew / Associated Press)

Major U.S. stock indexes finished higher Thursday after a late burst of buying led by technology and financial companies reversed an early slide.

News of a jump in the number of confirmed cases and fatalities from the coronavirus outbreak in China put investors in a selling mood for most of the day, overshadowing a batch of mostly solid company earnings reports.

Traders have been worried that the outbreak could end up dampening global economic growth. But those concerns appeared to ease after the director general of the World Health Organization said that the agency was not recommending limiting travel or trade to China.

“There is no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva after the WHO officially declared the outbreak a global emergency.


Technology and financial companies led the market’s rebound. Companies that rely on consumer spending also notched solid gains. Healthcare and communication stocks fell the most.

Amazon reported its quarterly results after the close of regular trading. The company’s earnings and revenue blew past Wall Street’s expectations, sending its shares sharply higher in extended trading.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index ended the day with a gain of 10.26 points, or 0.3%, at 3,283.66.

The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 124.99 points, or 0.4%, to 28,859.44. The Nasdaq composite rose 23.77 points, or 0.3%, to 9,298.93.

Smaller-company stocks took the brunt of the selling, then almost fully recovered by day’s end. The Russell 2000 index slipped 1 point, or 0.1%, to 1,648.22.

Stocks have given up some ground after a strong start to the year amid uncertainty over the virus outbreak. Still, the major indexes remain on track to end January with gains.

The major U.S. indexes spent much of Thursday in the red as investors assessed the latest company earnings reports and monitored developments in the coronavirus outbreak.

Companies have been issuing warnings over the outbreak’s potential effects on profits and revenue. Align Technology, which makes tooth-straightening systems, gave investors a weak profit forecast because of the virus. Starbucks has already held back on raising its forecast for the year, and airlines are starting to curtail flights to Chinese cities because of weak demand.

Jitters over the virus outbreak had many investors initially seeking less-risky assets Thursday. That drove up the prices of U.S. government bonds and gold. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.55% from 1.59%.

Gold climbed $13.10 to $1,583.50 an ounce. Gold prices are up 20% over the last year.

Microsoft rose 2.8% after the software maker reported it handily beat Wall Street’s fiscal second-quarter profit forecasts on its growing cloud computing business. The company said revenue from its Azure cloud computing business grew 62%.

Tesla surged 10.3% after the electric vehicle maker posted record sales, blew past Wall Street’s earnings forecasts and said it is ramping up production of the Model Y small sport utility vehicle.

Altria slid 4.2% after the maker of Marlboro cigarettes reported hefty costs because of its investment in e-cigarette maker Juul. Altria took a 35% stake in Juul at the end of 2018, and that company has since faced a surge in federal and state investigations into its marketing amid an explosion of underage vaping teenagers.

UPS skidded 6.7% after the package delivery company gave investors a disappointing profit forecast.

Benchmark crude oil fell $1.19 to $52.14 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, fell $1.52 to $58.29 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline fell 4 cents to $1.49 a gallon. Heating oil declined 6 cents to $1.64 a gallon. Natural gas fell 4 cents to $1.83 per 1,000 cubic feet.