Stock futures plunge as U.S. coronavirus cases spike

Wall Street

Stocks set to open sharply lower

Wall Street futures fell sharply on Friday, as cases of the novel coronavirus surged in the United States. The U.S. now has more than 200 cases and 14 deaths after Maryland health officials confirmed the state’s first three cases of the respiratory illness.

Maryland Governor Larry said all three patients contracted the coronavirus while traveling abroad and are in good condition. He also declared a state of emergency shortly after announcing the cases.

According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the virus has killed more than 3,000 worldwide and infected over 98,000. The vast majority of those cases have been reported in China.

As of 4:20 a.m. ET, the blue-chip Dow futures were down 274.5 points, or 1.05% to 25,785.5. The S&P 500 futures declined 35.88 points, or 1.19% to 2,979.62 while the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 futures lost 111.5 points, or 1.29% to 8,537.25.

February jobs report in focus

In economic news, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the all-important U.S. jobs report for February at 8:30 a.m. ET. Employment is forecast to increase by 175,000 jobs in February after an increase of 225,000 jobs in January, according to financial markets data firm FactSet.

The jobless rate is expected to hold at 3.6%. Average hourly earnings are expected to increase 0.3% in February compared with 0.2% in January.

According to JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade, the report is not likely to capture any material impact from the novel coronavirus outbreak. “Coronavirus didn’t really become a major scare until the last week of the month, so we may not see this weigh heavy on the February report,” Kinahan was quoted as saying by CNN Business.

Crude futures slump as traders await OPEC output decision

Meanwhile, crude futures plunged early Friday amid doubts that OPEC members will succeed in convincing Russia and other non-member producers to support the market with deeper output cuts in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.

As of 6:25 a.m. ET, U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were at $43.72 a barrel, down $2.18, or 4.75%. Global Brent crude oil futures were down $2.41, or 4.82% to $47.58 per barrel.

The cartel on Thursday agreed to cut oil production by an extra 1.5 million barrels per day in the second quarter of 2020 to support prices — but only if Russia goes along. This would be the biggest reduction since the global financial crisis in 2008.

According to media reports, Russian energy minister Alexander Novak, walked out of the preliminary OPEC meeting in Vienna yesterday, when the cuts were being discussed.