US stocks trade cautiously on deadly virus concerns

Stocks finished mixed in the last session

U.S. equity futures are searching for direction as the coronavirus has been confirmed in five countries, including the U.S.

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The major futures indexes are trading mixed with the Dow indicating a slight loss when Wall Street opens for business on Thursday.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei skidded 1 percent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 1.5 percent and China's Shanghai Composite declined 2.8 percent.

China and other nations have ramped up screenings for fever on aircraft and at airports. 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.

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Adding to concerns, the outbreak coincides with the annual travel of hundreds of millions of Chinese for the Lunar New Year festival, which begins Friday.

So far, China has confirmed 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.

In European trading, London's FTSE slipped 0.2 percent, Germany's DAX was down 0.3 percent and France's CAC was up 0.2 percent.

The European Central Bank will meet Thursday and, with monetary policy on hold for the moment, investors are waiting to hear more about President Christine Lagarde's plans for a full review that could include tweaking the target for inflation and supporting projects to limit global warming.

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
I:DJIDOW JONES AVERAGES24936.42-830.22-3.22%
SP500S&P 5002886.86-91.90-3.09%
I:COMPNASDAQ COMPOSITE INDEX8358.954997-207.52-2.42%

On Wall Street on Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was  down less than 0.1 percent, the S&P 500 advanced less than 0.1 percent and the Nasdaq Composite inched up 0.1 percent to 9383.77--ending just shy of a record set Friday.

While only about 10 percent of S&P 500 companies have reported their results for the last three months of 2019, early indications are encouraging.

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Of those companies that have reported results, 78.4 percent topped analysts’ forecasts for profits, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.