U.S. stock market sell-off looks set to continue as coronavirus fears linger

stock futures

Futures point to a lower open

U.S. stock futures were lower on Wednesday, as the sharp sell-off that has rocked global markets deepened with little signs that the coronavirus outbreak is coming under control.

The blue-chip Dow futures were down 139 points, or about 0.51% to 26,978. The S&P 500 futures dropped 9.62 points, or around 0.31% to 3,122.88 while the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 futures declined 41.37 points, or roughly 0.47% to 8,812.88.

In commodities, U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were down 70 cents, or about 1.40%, at $49.20 per barrel. International Brent crude oil futures were at $53.54 a barrel, down 92 cents, or about 1.70%.

CDC urges Americans to prepare for coronavirus pandemic

Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned Americans to plan ahead for a possible coronavirus pandemic, as the deadly illness continues to spread rapidly around the world.

“Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in this country. It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen, and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” Nancy Messonnier, a senior official with the CDC said during a briefing on Tuesday.

CDC officials asked local governments, schools, and businesses to develop plans such as switching to teleworking or canceling mass gatherings.

Covid-19 has spread outside China and taken root in several countries including South Korea, Iran, Italy, France, Austria, Spain, Singapore, Japan, Thailand, Kuwait, and Taiwan. There are so far 57 reported cases of the disease in the United States.

Bob Iger abruptly steps down as Disney CEO

In other news, Bob Iger stepped down as Disney (NYSE: DIS) CEO on Tuesday, and was succeeded by Bob Chapek, who has been in charge of the company’s Disney Parks, Experiences and Products unit since was created in 2018.

Iger has served as Disney CEO for 15 years and oversaw its acquisitions of 21st Century Fox, Star Wars, and Marvel, as well as the launch of the Disney Plus streaming service.

He will lead the board of directors until his contract expires in December 2021 and handle the company’s creative endeavors. At the time of writing, Disney was down $7.18, or 5.6% to $121.01 a share in premarket trade.

Salesforce co-CEO Keith Block steps down after just 18 months

Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM) also announced the departure of co-CEO Keith Block on Tuesday, a move that leaves founder Marc Benioff solely in control of the cloud-based enterprise software firm.

The San Francisco-based company said Block will remain an adviser to Benioff for the next year. Salesforce did not give an official reason for Block’s unexpected exit. He has held the co-CEO title since August 2018, but has been with the company since 2013.

The company also announced fiscal fourth-quarter results that topped Wall Street’s forecasts. Adjusted earnings came in at $0.66 per share versus the $0.56 per share that analysts expected. Revenue was $4.85 billion in the quarter, compared with analyst’s forecasts of $4.75 billion.

The stock was trading $4.02, or 2.22% lower to $177.25 a share in premarket hours Wednesday.