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S&P 500, Dow little changed amid coronavirus worries; Nvidia forecast buoys Nasdaq

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The S&P 500 and the Dow barely moved on Friday, as worries over an economic hit from the coronavirus outbreak refrained investors from making big bets ahead of a long weekend, while gains in Nvidia shares kept the Nasdaq in positive territory.

Adding to the downbeat sentiment were a Commerce Department retail sales report showing consumer spending likely slowed further in January and data indicating industrial production fell more than expected last month.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus epidemic in China showed no signs of easing, with health authorities reporting more than 5,000 new cases on Friday.

A recent Reuters poll showed the world’s second-biggest economy will grow at its slowest pace since the financial crisis in the current quarter but the downturn will be short-lived if the outbreak is contained.

“Investors are definitely keeping an eye on how much the coronavirus is spreading and where it spreads to. It still remains the biggest risk going forward,” said Robert Pavlik, chief investment strategist and senior portfolio manager at SlateStone Wealth LLC in New York.

“Earnings from last night are definitely helping the sentiment but it’s still too early to tell how the day will go.”

Wall Street is on course for a second straight weekly gain after hitting a series of record highs, as a largely positive fourth-quarter earnings season and confidence in the U.S. economy helped investors look past conflicting headlines on the virus outbreak.

Nvidia Corp jumped 6.5% as it forecast first-quarter revenue that topped analysts’ estimates, reinforcing expectations of a rebound in chip demand.

Its shares lifted the Philadelphia SE Semiconductor index by 0.6%, while the broader technology rose 0.1%.

At 9:59 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.08% to 29,398.59.

The S&P 500 was down 0.01% to 3,373.74, while the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.04% to 9,715.67.

Among other stocks, Expedia Inc jumped 10.3% after the online travel services company forecast strong quarterly core earnings amid coronavirus uncertainties.

EBay Inc advanced 1.5% as the ecommerce company added $3 billion to its 2020 share buyback plan and forecast profit above analysts’ expectations for the current quarter.

U.S. financial markets are closed on Monday for President’s Day.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.32-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.09-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 45 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 85 new highs and 24 new lows. (Reporting by Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Subhranshu Sahu)

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