Stocks were sliding on Thursday morning amid media reports that Chinese authorities were expanding their strict travel bans to include at least five cities, after first imposing the travel ban on Wuhan, where the virus appears to have originated. The major averages were coming off their lows when the World Health Organization announced that the Wuhan coronavirus does not yet constitute a public health emergency of international concern, helping to further fuel a turnaround. "Make no mistake. This is an emergency in China, but it has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one," the WHO added.
ECONOMIC EVENTS: In the U.S., initial jobless claims rose 6,000 to 211,000 in the week ended January 18, which was a little less than expected. The leading economic indicator index declined 0.3% to 111.2 in December.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization held a press conference in which they said it was still too early to declare a public health emergency of international concern for coronavirus, given the virus's restrictive and binary nature. Following this announcement, the Brazos County Health District in Texas announced in a Facebook post that it is investigating a suspected case of the virus.
TOP NEWS: Shares of Comcast (CMCSA) slid 3.8% despite the fact that the cable, broadband and broadcasting giant reported higher than expected quarterly earnings and increased its dividend 10%. The stock was initially reacting positively to the report but appeared to reverse as Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said during the associated call that Comcast expects higher video subscriber losses in 2020.
Shares of Procter & Gamble (PG) declined fractionally after the packaged goods company reported better than expected quarterly earnings but lower than expected sales.
Dow member Travelers (TRV) was a drag on the blue chip index as the insurers' stock fell over 5% after the company reported on its results in the fourth quarter.
Shares of Micron (MU) and Western Digital (WDC) were higher after Morgan Stanley analyst Joseph Moore upgraded both stocks to Overweight, a Buy-equivalent rating.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency issued a notice of charges against five former senior executives of Wells Fargo (WFC). The charges stem form the executives' role in the bank's systemic sales practices misconduct. The OCC also announced the issuance by consent of a prohibition order and a $17.5M penalty against former bank Chairman and CEO John Stumpf; a personal cease and desist order and a $2.25M penalty against the bank's former Chief Administrative Officer and Director of Corporate Human Resources Hope Hardison; and a personal cease and desist order and assessment of a $1.25M penalty against its former Chief Risk Officer Michael Loughlin for their roles in the bank's sales practices misconduct. In response, Wells Fargo's current CEO and president Charlie Scharf said that the company is reviewing the filings and will determine if any further action by the bank is appropriate with respect to "any of the named individuals."
MAJOR MOVERS: Among the noteworthy gainers was Netflix (NFLX), which rose 7.2% as Stifel analyst Scott Devitt pointed to Comcast's report of further declines in its residential video subscribers as a sign that the cable, telecom, and satellite video industry is shrinking "with no end in sight." Also higher were Citrix (CTXS) and JetBlue (JBLU), which gained a respective 7.8% and 6.4% after reporting quarterly results.
Among the notable losers was Imax (IMAX), which slid 3.8% after it postponed its Chinese New Year film slate. Also lower were Freeport-McMoRan (FCX) and VF Corp. (VFC), which fell 2.8% and 9.7%, respectively, after reporting quarterly results.
INDEXES: The Dow fell 26.18, or 0.09%, to 29,160.09, the Nasdaq gained 18.71, or 0.2%, to 9,402.48, and the S&P 500 advanced 3.79, or 0.11%, to 3,325.54.