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U.S. Stocks May Extend Sell-Off Amid Coronavirus Fears

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After turning lower over the course of the previous session, stocks may see some further downside in early trading on Thursday. The major index futures are currently pointing to a lower open for the markets, with the Dow futures down by 332 points.

Ongoing worries about the rapid spread of the coronavirus outbreak are likely to continue to weigh on the markets after driving the sell-off seen over the past few days.

Adding to the concerns, the CDC has confirmed a coronavirus infection in an American who reportedly did not have relevant travel history or exposure to another known patient with the disease.

The CDC said the patient's exposure is currently unknown and could be the first instance of community spread of the virus in the U.S.

Microsoft (MSFT) also warned that it does not expect to meet its revenue guidance for a key segment that includes Windows due to the outbreak.

The software giant joins a growing list of big-name companies that have warned about the potential impact of the coronavirus.

In a note to clients, Goldman Sachs predicted U.S. companies will generate zero earnings growth in 2020 as a result of the outbreak.

President Donald Trump sought to downplay concerns about the coronavirus in a press conference on Wednesday, although critics have accused the president of failing to grasp the severity of the outbreak.

Meanwhile, in a batch of U.S. economic data likely to be ignored by traders, the Commerce Department revealed that durable goods orders pulled back by much less than expected in January.

The Commerce Department said durable goods orders edged down by 0.2 percent in January after spiking by an upwardly revised 2.9 percent in December.

Economists had expected durable goods orders to slump by 1.5 percent compared to the 2.4 percent jump that had been reported for the previous month.

Excluding a steep drop in orders for transportation equipment, durable goods orders climbed by 0.9 percent in January after a revised 0.1 percent uptick in December.

Ex-transportation orders had been expected to edge up by 0.2 percent compared to the 0.1 percent drop originally reported for the previous month.

A separate report released by the Labor Department showed first-time claims for unemployment benefits rose by more than expected in the week ended February 22nd.

The report said initial jobless claims rose to 219,000, an increase of 8,000 from the previous week's revised level of 211,000.

Economists had expected jobless claims to inch up to 212,000 from the 210,000 originally reported for the previous week.

The Commerce Department also released a report showing GDP growth in the fourth quarter was unrevised from the initial estimate of 2.1 percent.

Shortly after the start of trading, the National Association of Realtors is scheduled to release its report on pending home sales in the month of January. Pending home sales are expected to jump by 2.2 percent in January after plunging by 4.9 percent in December.

A pending home sale is one in which a contract was signed but not yet closed. Normally, it takes four to six weeks to close a contracted sale.

Stocks once again failed to sustain an early move to the upside and succumbed to selling pressure over the course of the trading session on Wednesday. The major averages pulled back well off their early highs and into negative territory.

While the Nasdaq managed to climbed back above the unchanged line, closing up 15.16 points or 0.2 percent at 8,980.77, the Dow slid 123.77 points or 0.5 percent to a four-month closing low of 26,957.59 and the S&P 500 fell 11.82 points or 0.4 percent to a nearly three-month closing low of 3,116.39.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index plunged by 2.1 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose by 0.3 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets have all moved sharply lower on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index has plummeted by 3.1 percent, the German DAX Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index are both down by 2.9 percent.

In commodities trading, crude oil futures are slumping $1.80 to $46.93 a barrel after tumbling $1.17 to $48.73 a barrel on Wednesday. Meanwhile, after falling $6.90 to $1,643.10 an ounce in the previous session, gold futures are climbing $9.10 to $1,652.20 an ounce.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 109.89 yen compared to the 110.43 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.0977 compared to yesterday's $1.0881.

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