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Coronavirus may trigger a major stock market selloff: analyst

Brian Sozzi
Editor-at-Large

Thus far, the U.S. stock market has completely shrugged off the financially damaging coronavirus. Many on the Street though are starting to wonder just how long the nonchalance among investors will last as the coronavirus death tolls rise globally and major companies see their profits shredded.

“We are at a point in the market where everyone is having a great time. At some point, when you realize this isn’t just a one-time issue on earnings and could have a longer term impact you can see an adjustment,” cautioned Raymond James health care policy analyst Chris Meekings on Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade.

“If you see companies come out later in March and say this will impact second quarter too or if you see a big outbreak in the U.S. at some point, I think those could be the triggers that would result in the market really having an adjustment,” said Meekings, who recently raised his odds for a U.S. outbreak to 20% from 15%. “We are not completely out of the woods in the U.S.”

The market is sure acting as if the U.S. has de-coupled from coronavirus ridden China, an emerging market that major companies rely heavily on for manufacturing and sales generation. On Wednesday, the Nasdaq Composite hit another record high powered by the likes of Apple and Microsoft. To see the latest push higher in the Nasdaq is bizarre to say the very least.

coronavirus

Tech giant Apple warned earlier in the week it will fall short on its quarterly revenue guidance as its Chinese stores see sparse traffic and manufacturing plants remain at less than full speed. Theoretically, a warning from Apple of this magnitude should pressure not only the chip suppliers in its ecosystem but a good portion of tech that is overly dependent on China.

That’s like every tech company not named Facebook, Google and Netflix.

Meanwhile, companies warning about financial hits related to coronavirus are beginning to pile up. Apparel maker Adidas said Wednesday its sales in China have plunged 85% as the economy has come to a standstill.

Restaurant Brands CEO Jose Cil told me last week closed Burger Kings in China are weighing on the overall performance of the company. And Walmart CFO Brett Biggs struck a cautious tone in a phone interview on Tuesday about the near-term outlook on China due to the coronavirus.

The only encouraging China aspect on that call: Walmart’s more than 400 locations in China are open and it hasn’t seen any impact in the U.S. due to constrained supply chains.

But to Meekings’ point, a day of reckoning for the market at least as it relates to coronavirus is possible... and perhaps soon. The financial impacts are real, and they are likely to extend through the second quarter.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Watch The First Trade each day here at 9:00 a.m. ET or on Verizon FIOS channel 604. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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