Market Snapshot: Stock futures point to higher start as number of new coronavirus cases falls

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Stock-index futures signalled a higher start for U.S. equities Wednesday, with support tied to signs of a continued slowdown in the number of new cases of COVID-19 in China.

What are major indexes doing

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average YM00, +0.49% rose 144 points, or 0.5%, to 29,373, while S&P 500 futures ES00, +0.40%  gained 13.7 points, or 0.4%, to trade at 3,371. Nasdaq-100 futures NQ00, +0.51%  gained 49.25 points, or 0.5%, to 9,576.50.

Stocks finished mostly higher Tuesday, with the S&P 500 SPX, +0.17%  and Nasdaq Composite COMP, +0.11%  each logging a second consecutive record close. The Dow DJIA, +0.00%  edged down 0.48 point to end at 29,276.34. The S&P 500 rose 5.66 points, or 0.2%, to end at 3,357.75, while the Nasdaq added 10.55 points, or 0.1%, to finish at 9,638.94.

What’s driving the market?

China’s National Health Commission on Wednesday said 2,015 new cases of the disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, had been reported over the last 24 hours, declining for a second day. That brought the number of cases in mainland China to 44,653, although experts have warned that a substantial number may have gone uncounted. The commission said there were 97 additional deaths from the virus in the last 24 hours, bringing the mainland total to 1,113.

While many analysts have attributed market gains to the slowing pace of contagion, some contend the positive reaction is premature.

“The last weeks have been brutal and the number of cases and death toll have accelerated at a frightening rate,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda, in a note. “It’s far too early to declare victory, but in the era of FOMO trading, investors are doing just that.” FOMO is an acronym for “fear of missing out.”

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell will deliver a second day of semiannual congressional testimony Wednesday before the Senate Banking Committee. Powell broke little new ground in an appearance before a House panel on Tuesday, where he warned the viral outbreak could pose a threat to global growth but said the U.S. economy was performing well.

San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank President Mary Daly was scheduled to participate in a moderated discussion at a forum in Dublin. Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker is set to deliver a speech in Malvern, Pennsylvania.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont won the Democratic presidential primary in New Hampshire on Tuesday, narrowly besting Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, while Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota scored a third-place finish.

Which companies are in focus?
What are other markets doing?

The oil price moved higher Wednesday morning. The price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude for March delivery CLH20, +2.24%  rose 2.3% to $51.07 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Gold for April delivery GCJ20, -0.03%   edged down 0.2% to $1,567.60 on Comex.

The U.S. dollar DXY, +0.05%   was less than 0.1% higher relative to a basket of its peers.

U.S. government bonds sold off, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year note TMUBMUSD10Y, +0.86%   up 4 basis points to 1.62%. Bond prices move inversely to yields.

In Europe, the STOXX Europe 600 SXXP, +0.47%   was 0.5%, or about 2 points, higher, near 430.74. The FTSE 100 FTSE, +0.15%   jumped 0.7%, 53 points, to trade near 7,499.

In Asia overnight, The China CSI 300 000300, +0.81%   rose 0.8% to 3,984.43, while the Hang Seng Index HSI, +0.87%   was 0.9% higher, at 27,823.66.

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