Expect the NASDAQ to lead the market lower and Amazon, Starbucks, and Microsoft reel from the coronavirus outbreak in Seattle, Washington.
The NASDAQ index dipped 279 points on Thursday to close at 8,739. This is the latest move in a week of highly-volatile trading as the market comes to terms with the expanding coronavirus crisis. Nasdaq futures point to a weaker open on Friday with prices down around 0.90% in early morning trading.
The coronavirus is spreading rapidly on America’s west coast where many of tech’s biggest names are located. Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), and Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) are all headquartered in Washington state. These companies helped lead the NASDAQ down with declines of 2.62%, 2.51%, and 4.37% respectively.
This comes as several workers at Amazon and Microsoft have recently been confirmed to have the deadly infection.
The NASDAQ index is especially vulnerable to the coronavirus crisis. Many of its biggest components have extensive supply chains and operations in China — the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. As if that isn’t bad enough, the coronavirus has followed these companies to their home turf with a major disease outbreak cropping up in Washington State where many of them are headquartered.
So far the outbreak in Washington state is the most fatal in the country with 70 confirmed cases and 10 deaths according to data from the Department of Health. The United States now reports a total of 233 coronavirus cases, and almost every single fatality has occurred in Washington state.
Amazon, in particular, will face massive operational disruption if the coronavirus outbreak expands into a wider epidemic. Several of its workers have already fallen ill in Italy and Seattle, and the company is recommending that employees in King County work from home if possible.
The problem is that most of them can’t.
Much of Amazon’s workforce works in large, tightly-packed warehouses that could become massive breeding grounds for Covid-19 in the future. Amazon will have a hard time dealing with the disruption in its supply chain if significant numbers of workers fall sick or refuse to work under presumably unsafe conditions.
There also seems to be unsubstantiated speculation among consumers that Covid-19 could spread through packaged mail. But Surgeon General Jerome Adams, stated:
There is no evidence right now that the coronavirus can be spread through mail.
Amazon stock closed down 2.62% on Thursday to 1,924, but the pain could be just beginning as America’s Covid-19 caseload continues to increase.
Seattle-based Starbucks was one of the hardest-hit American companies when Covid-19 broke out in China. The coffee chain had to shutter most of its restaurants in China and is projecting a 50% decline in Chinese comp sales in the second quarter. Now, the coronavirus is following Starbucks to its home market in the U.S. And the company is using desperate strategies to keep its customers safe.
Starbucks has temporarily banned personal cups over coronavirus fears, but management hasn’t seen any coronavirus impact on U.S sales yet. This could soon change as the virus outbreak grows in size and severity.
Starbucks shares closed down by 4.37% on Thursday as part of a year-to-date decline of around 13%. Unfortunately for investors, the stock has room to fall even further as the coronavirus outbreak may dampen demand in the United States.
Two of Microsoft’s workers in the Washington state have fallen ill with the coronavirus. Both worked at the company’s Redmond headquarters in Puget Sound, Washington. This week, the software giant restricted travel and encouraged employees in Puget Sound and the Bay Area to work from home for the next several weeks.
Despite being headquartered in the epicenter of America’s Covid-19 outbreak, Microsoft shares only closed down 2.51% on Thursday. The share price could slide further as the outbreak grows into a wider epidemic.
Out of all the major indices, the NASDAQ has, perhaps, the most to lose in a massive coronavirus epidemic. American tech companies have extensive supply chains in East Asia. These operations have been disrupted from the outbreak. And they also face disruption in their home markets as the virus spreads across the West coast.
So far, Washington state is ground zero of the deadliest coronavirus outbreak on U.S soil. The city is also the headquarters of several of the NASDAQ’s biggest components. Expect these stocks to decline as they are forced to scale back operations amid the growing crisis.