KEY POINTS

  • The coronavirus has killed at least nine people and spread to South Korea, Hong Kong and U.S.
  • South Korea GDP expanded by 1.2% in 4Q
  • Asian markets finished higher overnight

U.S. stocks traded higher on Wednesday, as the Chinese government said it will begin a nationwide screening test to prevent the spread of a respiratory virus rose that has killed at least nine people. Cases of the virus have been reported in Hong Kong, South Korea and U.S.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 22.07 points to 29,218.11 while the S&P 500 rose 8.35 points to 3,329.14 and the Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 45.45 points to 9,416.25.

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,” he said. “I have a great relationship with [Chinese] President Xi. The relationship is very good.”

Lamar Villere, partner and portfolio manager at Villere & Co. said any market dips caused by fear of the virus would create buying opportunities.

“I don’t think this is going to be the beginning of the end,” he said.

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 -- compared with the third quarter the Bank of Korea said on Wednesday.

"Government spending definitely was a boost as exports was 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.

Shares of Boeing (BA) were down 2.6% following a downgrade by Vertical Research Partners.

Shares of IBM (IBM) gained 2.9% after it posted quarterly numbers that exceeded analyst expectations and issued 2020 earnings guidance that also beat estimates.

Paul Schatz, president at Heritage Capital, said the market’s foundation is “rock solid,” but added that: “my issue is not how much we’ve gone up, because there is plenty of precedent for a market that grinds and creeps higher every day. The issue today is you have a historic level of bullishness and outright greed. That’s my concern.”

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 2.47% at $56.94 per barrel and Brent crude fell 2.15% at $63.20. Gold futures edged down 0.15%.

The euro gained 0.03% at $1.1086 while the pound sterling gained 0.65% at $1.3134.