Philip Finale, left, whispers in the ear of fellow Specialist Gennaro Saporito as they work with traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Image Credit: AP

New York: US equities drifted after steady but uninspiring figures on retail sales and as investors assessed contrasting data from China on how the coronavirus is spreading. Treasuries advanced.

The S&P 500 Index rose at Friday’s open, with chipmaker Nvidia Corp and travel giant Expedia Group Inc jumping after making strong forecasts. Consumer stocks gained on reports that US retail sales rose in January for a fourth straight month, though the prior month’s gain was revised lower. US consumer sentiment hit its highest since 2018. The health-care and financial sectors slipped

“As virus concerns continue to linger, and presumably will be a focal point in the near future, US retail health is largely immune from the virus, so we likely won’t see any impact on this data, especially this early,” said Mike Loewengart, vice president of investment strategy at E-Trade Financial. “What’s really important for investors to remember is that fundamentals are strong and our economy still continues to grow — debunking expectations of 2020 stagnation, at least for now.”

Oil continued its rebound, pushing above $52 a barrel in New York. The dollar held its level versus a basket of peers after the retail sales data.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index erased an earlier gain. The euro steadied near a 2017 low after data showed the region’s economy grew a scant 0.1% in the fourth quarter, matching forecasts. Major Asian equity markets climbed except for those in Tokyo and Mumbai.

While Beijing reported a smaller increase in virus cases in the epicentre of Hubei versus the previous day, they were still more than before the counting methodology was changed. That’s clouded the picture of how the outbreak is being curbed, in a week that’s been marred by Chinese airlines putting workers on leave and firms such as drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc warning of a tougher outlook because of the disease.

Nonetheless, stocks globally are headed for a second successive week of gains as investors anticipate a possible V-shaped economic recovery from the virus, even as the effects continue to be felt. E-commerce giant Alibaba Group warned that the disease is having a fundamental impact on China’s economy, and nearly 86,000 domestic and international flights in and out of the country were cancelled Jan. 23-Feb. 11, or 34% of scheduled services.

Hubei reported almost 5,000 new cases, a day after confirming nearly 15,000. The death toll in China was at 1,380, lowered by more than 100 to account for some double-counting. Earlier, the World Health Organisation said the surge in diagnoses didn’t necessarily indicate a spike in infections, which had helped to lift risk appetite.

Elsewhere, havens including gold and the yen were steady.