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Wall Street gains as strong earnings outweigh virus

Agence France-Presse



US stocks gained Wednesday and outweighed concerns about the spreading coronavirus. (Bloomberg photo)

US stocks continued to march higher at the open Wednesday, as positive news from major companies outweighed concerns about the spreading virus in China.

Even as the death toll from the coronavirus climbed to over 130 in China, investors seemed reassured by the rapid response of authorities to contain the infection, while solid Apple earnings and better-than-expected Boeing news boosted markets.

The benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.5 percent to 28,860.54 about 15 minutes into the trading day.

The broad-based S&P 500 gained 0.4 percent to 3,288.51, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.5 percent to 9,315.46.

Shares fell on Monday over concerns about the virus outbreak, but rebounded Tuesday. And though the Federal Reserve is due to announce its policy stance at 1900 GMT, no move on interest rates is expected, draining some of the drama from the outcome.

“There is a sense of deja vu in the stock market today. The number of deaths and cases pertaining to the coronavirus are up; the futures for the major indices are up,” analyst Patrick J. O’Hare said before trading began.

He noted that Boeing “will be battling with Apple throughout the session to see which stock ends the day as the highest-priced Dow component.”

Boeing reported its first annual loss in more than two decades before trading opened, saying it was $1 billion in the red in the fourth quarter due to the massive costs associated with the crisis around the top-selling 737 MAX which has been grounded worldwide in the wake of two deadly crashes.

But the costs, including reimbursing airlines for canceled flights and delayed deliveries, were not as bad as some analysts had feared.

Boeing shares gained 2.1 percent.   However, it reported its first annual loss in more than two decades as the lengthy grounding of the 737 MAX undercut the company’s revenues and exploded costs.

The aerospace giant reported a $1-billion loss in the fourth quarter and a loss of $636 million for all of 2019, the company’s first year in the red since 1997.

Apple rose about 2.0 percent as well after reporting better-than-expected earnings late Tuesday.

Dow-member General Electric surged 7.0 percent, which released positive results Wednesday, despite the hit from its business with Boeing.