Stock-index futures edge higher as investors assess coronavirus fallout

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Stock-index futures pointed to a slightly higher start on Friday, though uncertainty over the spread of COVID-19 in China could limit upside.

Data on January retail sales were also on tap as corporate earnings season moved into its final stage.

What are major indexes doing?

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average YMH20, +0.08%  rose 22 points, or 0.1%, to 29,454, while S&P 500 futures ESH20, +0.17%  gained 5.60 points, or 0.2%, to trade at 3,383. Nasdaq-100 futures NQH20, +0.31%  were up 29 points, or 0.3%, at 9,642.

Stocks lost ground Thursday, pulling back from records. The Dow DJIA, -0.43%  fell 128.11 points or 0.4%, to end at 29,423.31, while the S&P 500 SPX, -0.16%  gave up 5.51 points, or 0.2%, to finish at 3,373.94. The Nasdaq Composite COMP, -0.14% closed at 9,711.97, down 13.99 points, or 0.1%.

What’s driving the market?

China on Friday said 121 more people had died from COVID-19, the disease caused by a coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan in late 2019, over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total to 1,381. The country’s National Health Commission reported 5,090 new confirmed cases in mainland China, bringing the total to 63,851. The number of new cases jumped sharply on Thursday after a change in the government’s counting method.

Analysts said the changes to the methodology were fueling doubts about the accuracy of China’s figures.

“Most traders still lack visibility on the way the virus is spreading in China, especially after a new testing method was introduced this week,” said Pierre Veyret, technical analyst at ActivTrades, in a note. “The recent data from Beijing show lower new daily cases but still more than before the new testing process was implemented, which provides investors with a blurry picture of the situation.”

The economic calendar features January retail sales figures at 8:30 a.m. Eastern, with economists surveyed by MarketWatch, on average, looking for a 0.3% rise in the overall figure and in the figure excluding autos. Separately, a January import price index is also due at 8:30 a.m., while January industrial production and capacity utilization data are set for release at 9:15 a.m. Eastern.

A February consumer-sentiment index is due at 10 a.m. Eastern, with December business inventories slated for the same time.

Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank President Loretta Mester is scheduled to speak at 11:45 a.m. Eastern.

Which companies are in focus?