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U.S. Stocks May Come Under Pressure Amid Concerns About Coronavirus Death Toll

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After coming under pressure over the course of the previous session, stocks are likely to see further downside in early trading on Wednesday. The major index futures are currently pointing to a sharply lower open for the markets, with the Dow futures down by 786 points.

Renewed coronavirus concerns may weigh on the markets after White House officials warned of nearly a quarter million deaths from the pandemic.

During a White House press conference on Tuesday, President Donald Trump warned the U.S. is facing a "very, very painful two weeks."

White House officials are now projecting between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths in the U.S. as a result of the outbreak, which Trump previously sought to downplay.

"This could be a hell of a bad two weeks. This is going to be a very bad two, and maybe three weeks. This is going to be three weeks like we've never seen before," Trump said.

The comments from the White House come as data from Johns Hopkins University shows there are nearly 190,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. and more than 4,000 deaths.

On the U.S. economic front, payroll processor ADP released a report showing a modest decrease in private sector employment in the U.S. in March, although the data does not reflect the full impact of the coronavirus-induced shutdown.

ADP said private sector employment fell by 27,000 jobs in March after jumping by a downwardly revised 179,000 jobs in February.

Economists had expected private sector employment to plunge by 150,000 jobs compared to the addition of 183,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.

The drop was much smaller than expected but still reflects the first decrease in private sector employment since September of 2017.

ADP also noted its national employment report, or NER, only utilizes data through the 12th of the month, which is the same period the Labor Department uses for its more closely watched monthly jobs report.

"As such, the March NER does not fully reflect the most recent impact of COVID-19 on the employment situation, including unemployment claims reported on March 26, 2020," said Ahu Yildirmaz, co-head of the ADP Research Institute.

Shortly after the start of trading, the Institute for Supply Management is scheduled to release its report on manufacturing activity in the month of March.

The ISM's purchasing managers index is expected to slump to 45.0 in March after edging down to 50.1 in February, with a reading below 50 indicating a contraction in manufacturing activity.

The Commerce Department is also due to release its report on construction spending in the month of February. Construction spending is expected to climb by 0.6 percent.

Stocks recovered from initial weakness but moved back to the downside over the course of the trading session on Tuesday. With the drop on the day, the Dow and the S&P 500 had their worst first quarter performances ever, plunging by 23.2 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

The major averages all finished the session firmly in negative territory. The Dow plunged 410.32 points or 1.8 percent to 21,917.16, the Nasdaq slumped 74.05 points or 1 percent to 7,700.10 and the S&P 500 tumbled 42.06 points or 1.6 percent to 2,584.59.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly lower during trading on Wednesday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index plummeted by 4.5 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index tumbled by 2.2 percent.

The major European markets have also shown significant moves to the downside on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index has plunged by 3.8 percent, the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index are down by 4.2 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively.

In commodities trading, crude oil futures are slipping $0.23 to $20.25 a barrel after rising $0.39 to $20.48 a barrel on Tuesday. Meanwhile, an ounce of gold is trading at $1,598.70, up $2.10 compared to the previous session's close of $1,596.60. On Tuesday, gold plunged $46.60.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 107.42 yen compared to the 107.54 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Tuesday. Against the euro, the dollar is trading at $1.0925 compared to yesterday's $1.1031.

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