KEY POINTS

  • China said it is seeking to contain the deadly coronavirus that has killed at least 9
  • South Korea’s GDP expanded by a seasonally adjusted 1.2% in the fourth quarter of 2019
  • Existing-home sales climbed 3.6% to an adjusted annual rate of 5.54 million in December

U.S. stocks finished narrowly mixed on Wednesday, after the Chinese government sought to calm investor fears by starting a nationwide screening process to prevent the spread of a respiratory virus that has killed at least nine people so far. Cases of the virus have been reported in Hong Kong, South Korea and U.S.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 9.22 points to 29,168.82 while the S&P 500 rose 1.02 points to 3,321.81 and the Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 12.96 points to 9,383.77.

Volume on the New York Stock Exchange totaled 2.89 billion shares with 1,482 issues advancing, 308 setting new highs, and 1,444 declining, with 29 setting new lows.

Active movers were led by NIO Inc. (NIO), FuelCell Energy (FCEL) and General Electric Co. (GE)

In Davos, Switzerland, President Donald Trump said he’s confident China will be able to stop the virus from spreading further and that he trusts Chinese officials on the matter.

“We have [the virus] totally under control,” Trump said. “It’s one person [with the virus coming in from China [to U.S.]. We have it under control. It’s going to be just fine. I have a great relationship with [Chinese] President Xi. The relationship is very good.”

South Korea’s gross domestic product expanded by a seasonally adjusted 1.2% in the fourth quarter of 2019 -- the fastest growth seen since the third quarter of 2017.

"Government spending definitely was a boost as exports [were] a drag," said Park Chong-hoon, an economist at Standard Chartered Bank in Seoul. "The prospect for exports is better this year with the U.S.-China signing of the trade deal, and as China continues with its expansionary fiscal policies."

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago's National Activity Index dropped to minus-0.35 in December from 0.41 in November.

U.S. existing-home sales climbed 3.6% to an adjusted annual rate of 5.54 million in December -- their best pace since early 2018 -- said the National Association of Realtors.

Shares of Boeing (BA) fell 1.4%  following a downgrade by Vertical Research Partners.

Shares of IBM (IBM) gained 3.4% after it posted quarterly numbers that exceeded analyst expectations and issued 2020 earnings guidance that also beat estimates.

“IBM is quickly pivoting its existing businesses toward the hybrid cloud,” Nomura Instinet analyst Jeffrey Kvaal said in a note”

“Companies, for the most part, are putting up the numbers they need to for the market to keep moving higher,” said Dan Russo, chief market strategist at Chaikin Analytics. “We’re now lapping the tough earnings comparisons from last year, so investors are starting to think about earnings growth again.”

Overnight in Asia, markets finished higher. China’s Shanghai Composite advanced 0.28%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 1.27%, and Japan’s Nikkei-225 rose 0.7%.

In Europe markets finished lower, as Britain’s FTSE-100 dropped 0.51%, France’s CAC-40 tumbled 0.58% and Germany’s DAX fell 0.3%.

Crude oil futures dropped 2.95% at $56.66 per barrel and Brent crude fell 0.14% at $63.12. Gold futures edged up 0.03%.

The euro gained 0.09% at $1.1094 while the pound sterling gained 0.65% at $1.3134.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury closed flat at 1.769% while yield on the 30-year Treasury fell 0.58% to 2.218%.