By Peter Nurse
Investing.com – U.S. stocks are set to open sharply lower Wednesday, after a grim warning about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and as the global economic damage caused by the associated shutdown ramped up.
At 6:00 AM ET (1000 GMT), futures for the S&P 500 traded 80 points, or 3.1%, lower, and futures for the Nasdaq down 219 points, or 2.8%. The Dow futures contract fell 664 points, or 3.1%, continuing the tone seen in the last quarter, the weakest three-month period in over a decade.
President Donald Trump warned Americans late Tuesday to brace for a “rough two-week period” ahead as the White House released new projections that there could be 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the U.S. from Covid-19.
Data from Johns Hopkins University showed that the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. now totals over 189,000, a rise of 15% on the day, while New York state’s infections surged past those reported in China’s Hubei province, where the virus first emerged late last year. Fatalities in New York City, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, have topped 1,000, around a quarter of the overall U.S. deaths.
Earlier Wednesday, Markit’s PMI data showed factory activity dropped sharply across most of Asia in March, with regional economic powerhouses Japan and South Korea posting their biggest contractions in about a decade.
In Europe, Italian manufacturing suffered a record drop in output in March, while the eurozone manufacturing PMI hit a seven-year low.
Attention will turn to the equivalent data in the U.S., with the March manufacturing PMI release, at 10 AM ET (1400 GMT), and ADP’s private payrolls release at 8:15 AM ET. These are unlikely to offer up any positive news.
Turning to corporate news, Xerox (NYSE:XRX) will be in the spotlight after it dropped its five-month hostile bid to acquire larger rival HP (NYSE:HPQ). The copier maker cited the coronavirus crisis as undermining its ability to pull off the debt-financed merger. Cruise line operator Carnival (NYSE:CCL), meanwhile, is looking to pull off a $6 billion capital raising. Carnival stock was down 6.2% in premarket.
Oil traded mixed Wednesday, with Brent hard hit as Saudi Arabia showed no sign of bowing to pressure from President Donald Trump to dial back the oil-price war with Russia, pushing crude supply to record levels.
Stocks – U.S. Futures Lower as Virus Victims Mount
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