Wall Street set for muted open amid coronavirus worries

(Reuters) – Wall Street’s main indexes were headed for a muted open on Friday, as concerns over the economic fallout of the coronavirus outbreak overshadowed a handful of positive earnings reports.

Stock index futures pared gains after the Commerce Department’s retail sales report showed consumer spending appeared to have slowed further in January. Investor attention now turns to industrial production data scheduled for release at 9:15 a.m ET.

Chinese health authorities reported more than 5,000 new cases, suggesting the epidemic was showing no signs of easing.

A recent Reuters poll showed the virus-hit Chinese economy will grow at its slowest pace since the financial crisis in the current quarter but the downturn will be short-lived if the outbreak is contained.

“Investors are definitely keeping an eye on how much the coronavirus is spreading and where it spreads to. It still remains the biggest risk going forward,” said Robert Pavlik, chief investment strategist and senior portfolio manager at SlateStone Wealth LLC in New York.

“Earnings from last night are definitely helping the sentiment but it’s still too early to tell how the day will go.”

Wall Street is on course for a second straight weekly rise after hitting a series of record highs, as a largely positive fourth-quarter earnings season and confidence in the U.S. economy helped investors look past conflicting headlines on the virus.

Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O) jumped 6.8% in premarket trading as it forecast first-quarter revenue that topped analysts’ estimates, reinforcing expectations of a rebound in chip demand.

Shares of rival Intel Corp (INTC.O) rose 0.4%, while Advanced Micro Devices Inc (AMD.O) gained 1.4%.

At 8:51 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis 1YMcv1 were down 18 points, or 0.06%. S&P 500 e-minis EScv1 were up 0.75 points, or 0.02%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis NQcv1 were up 9.75 points, or 0.1%.

Among other stocks, Expedia Inc (EXPE.O) jumped 12.1% after the online travel services company forecast strong quarterly core earnings amid coronavirus uncertainty.

EBay Inc (EBAY.O) advanced 1.8% as the ecommerce company added $3 billion to its 2020 share buyback plan and forecast current-quarter profit above analysts’ expectations.

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