US stocks edge lower in midday trading as virus cases spike

U.S. stocks edged lower in midday trading Thursday as China reported a spike in cases of the new virus that threatens to crimp economic growth and hurt businesses worldwide.

China reported the sharp rise in cases and deaths after the hardest-hit province of Hubei took a new approach to classifying and diagnosing the virus. The latest figures dashed hopes that the spread of the outbreak was peaking, which had helped lift stocks throughout the week.

Industrial and health care companies led the losses. Honeywell International fell 1.1% and drug developer Merck fell 1.7%

Travel-related businesses fell broadly. MGM Resorts shed 4.8% and cruise line operator Carnival fell 1.7%

Bond yields remained stable. The yield on the 10-year Treasury held at 1.62%.

Investors headed for safer investments. Utilities and real estate companies held up better than most of the market.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index fell 0.1% as of 11:47 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 80 points, or 0.3%, to 29,470. The Nasdaq 0.1%. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks was flat. Markets in Europe and Asia also fell.

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VIRUS UPDATE: The change in how Hubei determines and reports cases of the new virus pushed the number of cases worldwide to more than 60,000.

The outbreak is already hurting businesses and more of them are warning that the effects will linger through the year. Organizers of the world's biggest mobile technology fair canceled the event, set to take place in Spain, because of health and safety concerns over the outbreak.

MGM Resorts International, which gets about 20% of its revenue from the gambling haven of Macau, pulled its profit forecast for 2020. Fashion company Ralph Lauren warned that the viral outbreak cut into fourth-quarter sales by an estimated $55 million to $70 million.

FLYING ABOVE THE STORM: Alaska Air Group rose 1.6% after the airline said it will cooperate more closely with American Airlines on West Coast service. The airlines asked for government permission to expand revenue-sharing to cover international flights in Seattle and Los Angeles.