Market Snapshot: Stock futures point to higher start as number of new coronavirus cases falls

U.S. stocks punched solidly higher Wednesday morning, with the S&P 500 and Dow hitting all-time highs, buoyed by signs of a slowdown in the number of new cases of COVID-19 — a novel strain of coronavirus that reportedly originated in Wuhan, China late last year.

What are major indexes doing?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.75% was up 195 points, or 0.7%, at 29,472, while the S&P 500 SPX, +0.58% added about 16 points or 0.5%, to trade near 3,374. Both gauges logged intraday records. The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, +0.82% climbed 57 points to 9,695, a gain of 0.6%. All three benchmarks are trading in record-close territory.

What’s driving the market?

China’s National Health Commission on Wednesday said 2,015 new cases of the disease caused by the new viral infection had been reported over the last 24 hours, declining for a second day. That brought the number of cases in mainland China to 44,653, although experts have warned that a substantial number may have gone uncounted. The commission said there were 97 additional deaths from the virus in the last 24 hours, bringing the mainland total to 1,113.

While many analysts have attributed market gains to the slowing pace of contagion, some contend the positive reaction may be premature.

“The last weeks have been brutal and the number of cases and death toll have accelerated at a frightening rate,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda, in a note. “It’s far too early to declare victory, but in the era of FOMO trading, investors are doing just that.” FOMO is an acronym for “fear of missing out.”

Meanwhile, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell was delivering a second day of semiannual congressional testimony Wednesday, this time before the Senate Banking Committee. Powell broke little new ground in an appearance before a House panel on Tuesday, where he warned the viral outbreak could pose a threat to global growth but said the U.S. economy was performing well.

On the political front, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont won the Democratic presidential primary in New Hampshire on Tuesday, narrowly besting Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, while Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota scored a third-place finish.

Which companies are in focus?
What are other markets doing?

Oil prices moved higher Wednesday morning. The price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude for March delivery CLH20, +2.70% rose 2.6% to $51.27 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Gold for April delivery GCJ20, +0.09%was barely changed at $1,570.10 on Comex.

The U.S. dollar DXY, +0.23% was 0.1% higher relative to a basket of its peers.

U.S. government bonds sold off, and yields climbed, with the benchmark 10-year note rate TMUBMUSD10Y, +1.18% up 5 basis points to 1.63%. Bond prices move inversely to yields.

In Europe, the Stoxx Europe 600 SXXP, +0.63% was 0.5%, or about 2.3 points, higher, near 430.83. The FTSE 100 FTSE, +0.52% jumped 0.7%, 53 points, to trade near 7,499.

In Asia overnight, the China CSI 300 000300, +0.81% rose 0.8% to 3,984.43, while the Hang Seng Index HSI, +0.87% was 0.9% higher, at 27,823.66.