Dow Futures Fight Back But Two Trigger Words Threaten a Stock Market Crash

If the World Health Organization declares the coronavirus a "global emergency," it will hit the economy hard, triggering a potential stock market sell-off.
Posted in: Markets
January 29, 2020 12:30 PM UTC
  • Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) futures battled 45 points higher in early trading Wednesday.
  • U.S. traders appear to be shrugging off coronavirus fears even as the outbreak spreads.
  • But the stock market may quickly reverse if the World Health Organization declares a “global emergency.”

The US stock market has held up well after Monday’s brutal coronavirus-triggered selloff. And Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) futures point to another steady open on Wednesday.

But that could all change in an instant. So far the World Health Organization (WHO) has refrained from using two key trigger words: “global emergency.”

Some experts say the declaration is inevitable as the virus spreads outside China. And that could trigger a fresh wave of selling.

“I don’t think the market’s ready for a death in this country, which could happen. I don’t think the market’s ready yet for the WHO to declare the coronavirus a pandemic” – Jim Cramer, CNBC.

Dow futures stable on Wednesday

Dow futures contracts clawed 45 points higher on Wednesday on the back of a storming session yesterday.

Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) futures hold strong despite growing coronavirus concerns. Source: Yahoo Finance

S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq Composite futures were up 0.18% and 0.3% respectively.

Coronavirus “global emergency” on the horizon?

The virus has now claimed 132 lives and infected more than 6,000 worldwide. The WHO has twice refused to declare the coronavirus outbreak a global emergency, a move that would trigger flight disruption and trade restrictions.

But it may only be a matter of time before the WHO is forced to issue the declaration.

“As information is coming in, it seems to be confirming our worst fears … So I do believe that the WHO is going to have to declare an emergency and is going to have to take the lead … You can’t leave this to China” – Lawrence Gostin, Georgetown Law.

Even if the WHO doesn’t act, some airlines are taking matters into their own hands. This morning, British Airways suspended all flights in and out of China.

What is the World Health Organization waiting for?

The WHO was criticised in the past for declaring the 2009 Swine Flu pandemic a “global emergency” too soon. The move disrupted the economy unnecessarily and the declaration may hit the Dow Jones and global markets. This time, the coronavirus have accelerated faster.

“Most of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) criteria for declaring a global emergency have been met, but it is awaiting clear evidence of a sustained spread of the new coronavirus outside China before doing so” – Reuters.

One criterion is human-to-human transmission outside China. That has now been confirmed in Germany, Japan, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

The WHO panel was reportedly split 50-50 on whether to declare a global emergency at the previous meeting. In light of this new information, they may be moved to act.

Dow Jones prepares for Federal Reserve interest rate decision

Elsewhere on today’s agenda is the Federal Reserve interest rate decision. Chairman Powell is almost certain to stand pat on interest rates.

Turning to corporate earnings, we’ll hear from McDonald’s, Boeing, Facebook, Tesla, Microsoft, and PayPal later today. It comes off the back of strong numbers at Apple last night.

Samburaj Das edited this article for If you see a breach of our Code of Ethics or Rights and Duties of the Editor or find a factual, spelling, or grammar error, please contact us.

Last modified: January 29, 2020 12:37 PM UTC

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Ben Brown @_ben_brown

Ben is a journalist with a decade of experience covering financial markets. Based in London, UK, his writing has appeared in The Huffington Post and he was Chief Editor at Block Explorer, the world's longest-running source of Blockchain data. Reach him at or on Twitter at _Ben_Brown. Email ben @