U.S. stock index futures indicated a negative start after the long weekend, mirroring a sell-off in global equity markets as concerns over the spread of a SARS-like virus from central China prompted investors to book recent gains.
S&P 500 Index futures contracts expiring in March fell as much as 0.5% after multiple medical workers were reported to have been infected. Dow Jones Industrial Average contracts were down 0.3% while those on the Nasdaq 100 retreated 0.6%. U.S. markets were closed Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Asian stocks sank as risk-off sentiment roiled markets and spurred a flight to quality across assets. Gold and the yen climbed and China’s yuan weakened by the most in three months. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 fell 1%, with miners, banks and consumer-related stocks leading losses.
Worries over the virus come ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, a busy Chinese traveling period, said Laura Fitzsimmons, executive director at JPMorgan Chase & Co.
“When we compare this situation with previous virus outbreaks, the level of Chinese travel now is way, way bigger than what we had before,” she told Bloomberg TV in Sydney. “How much that industry has grown, how many more are traveling now — it really does make things on a much larger scale.”
Hong Kong’s equity index market fell the most in Asia as concerns linked to the virus in China added to a downgrade by Moody’s Investors Service and violent clashes over the weekend.
“Asian equities sold off heavily in the overnight trading session. With no bad news on the economic wire, the sudden reversal in Asian risk appetite may have been triggered by a fourth death in China,” said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, a senior market analyst at Swissquote Bank.
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