Stock market retreats as investors keep one eye on coronavirus

Stocks were retreating in Friday afternoon trade after bouncing between small gains and losses earlier, as investors dealt with uncertainty over the spread of COVID-19 in China.

Investors were also digesting a mixed bag of economic data as corporate earnings season moves into the home stretch.

What are major indexes doing?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.38% was down 75 points, or 0.3%, at about 29,348, while the S&P 500 SPX, -0.11%  edged 0.1%, about 3 points, lower at 3,371. The Nasdaq Composite COMP, -0.09% slipped 6 points to trade near 9,706, about a 0.1% decline.

All three benchmark indexes touched all-time highs earlier in the week. As of Friday morning, the Dow looked set to end the week with a 1.1% gain, the S&P 500 was on pace to advance about 1.5% higher for the week, and the Nasdaq was set to gain 2.3% for the period.

What’s driving the market?

China on Friday said 121 more people had died from COVID-19, the disease caused by a coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan in late 2019, over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total to 1,383. The country’s National Health Commission reported 5,090 new confirmed cases in mainland China, bringing the total to 63,851. The number of new cases jumped sharply on Thursday after a change in the government’s counting method.

Analysts said the changes to the methodology were fueling doubts about the accuracy of China’s figures.

“Most traders still lack visibility on the way the virus is spreading in China, especially after a new testing method was introduced this week,” said Pierre Veyret, technical analyst at ActivTrades, in a note. “The recent data from Beijing show lower new daily cases but still more than before the new testing process was implemented, which provides investors with a blurry picture

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