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Coronavirus, consumer sentiment: What to know in markets Friday

On Friday, investors will receive one of their first major economic data reports gauging the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on consumer sentiment.

The University of Michigan will release its preliminary March consumer sentiment survey Friday at 10 a.m. ET. Consensus economists polled by Bloomberg expect the headline print will fall to a reading of 95.0, or six points below February’s reading of 101.0.

Such a decline would mark the first drop in seven months and send consumer sentiment below the 2019 average of 96.0.

Beneath the headline print, the current conditions subindex is expected to drop two points to 112.8 in March, and the expectations index is expected to drop to 88.1, from 92.1.

The preliminary March survey was conducted February 26 through March 11, making it one of the first major economic data reports to include the period when concerns over the coronavirus materially escalated worldwide. The survey dates capture much of the recent market sell-off, emergency Federal Reserve rate cut, widening travel bans and widespread global event cancelations.

In the last two days of the February consumer sentiment report, 20% of those surveyed mentioned the coronavirus due to the plunge in equity prices, Richard Curtin, University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers chief economist, said at the time.

“While too few cases were conducted to attach any statistical significance to the findings, it is nonetheless true that the domestic spread of the virus could have a significant impact on consumer spending,” Curtin said in the report released February 28.

NEW YORK, USA - MARCH 11: A woman wears a face mask, surgical gloves and a hand sanitizer attached herself to prevent Covid-19 spread, at the New York City subway train in New York, United States on March 11, 2020. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“If the virus spreads into U.S. communities, consumers are likely to limit their exposure to stores, theaters, restaurants, sporting events, air travel, and the like,” he added. “There is likely to be some advance buying and increased online shopping, but much of the discretionary spending may not occur.”

With the most recent coronavirus developments in mind, some analysts predicted a deeper hit to consumer sentiment for early March.

“Factoring in the full extent of the financial market disruption over the past ten days and the surge in domestic COVID-19 cases, we are pencilling in a decline in the consumer sentiment index to 92.0, from 101.0,” Andrew Hunter, senior U.S. economist said in a recent note. “That would roughly match the magnitude of the dips following the December 2018 market rout and in September last year.”

Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck

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