U.S. Stock Futures Drop as Trump Fails to Assuage Virus Concerns

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U.S. stock index futures fell as President Donald Trump’s speech failed to assuage investors’ concerns of the novel coronavirus derailing global growth.

March contracts on the S&P 500 Index were down 0.4% as of 9:19 a.m. in Tokyo, after slumping as much as 1%, as the president held a press conference to update the country on the administration’s response to the growing crisis. The underlying index is mired in a five-day losing streak that wiped out more than $2 trillion in value from American equities.

“President Trump’s press conference was certainly intended to be a confidence builder but I don’t believe it will have much impact on stocks,” said Kristina Hooper, chief global market strategist at Invesco. “The drop in futures illustrates that words from politicians are meaningless. I believe it will take assurances from the Fed to send futures in the opposite direction.”

Trump sought to calm markets after one of the worst stretches for American stocks in almost five years. The S&P 500 plunged more than 7% from records set just a week ago, as investors grew concerned the virus will derail global economic growth. The number of companies warning the virus’s spread would impact sales and earnings jumped, with the likes of Apple Inc., Mastercard Inc. and United Airlines Holdings Inc.

S&P 500 futures fluctuate after five days of losses

The S&P 500 slipped 0.4% in a turbulent session Wednesday, failing to hold a gain that at one point topped 1.7%. Fresh warnings of a pandemic from German and American officials added to the gloom, while Diageo Plc and Danone SA said that the outbreak will hit sales in China. The first cases in Greece and in South America emerged, while Spain locked down a seaside resort hotel with about 1,000 guests and workers inside.

Trump’s comments come after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Tuesday that the virus’s spread in America is inevitable and could bring significant disruption to the world’s largest economy.

The president sought to ease the market sell-off after Monday brought the worst rout in two years, tweeting, “Stock Market starting to look very good to me!” While that failed to stanch the bleeding, it echoed a prior Trump attempt to juice the market. On Christmas Day 2018, he called the bottom of a near three-month sell-off in U.S. equities.

“Donald Trump, during the campaign, will do everything possible to be re-elected. That’s very important to him,” Byron Wien, vice chairman of Blackstone’s Private Wealth Solutions group, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television with Vonnie Quinn and Guy Johnson. “If the Fed doesn’t, he will. But even if the Fed does act, you could expect some action out of him that will ensure his re-election.”

— With assistance by Sarah Ponczek, and Shoko Oda