Trading Nation

Coronavirus fears send stocks lower—what Cramer and other Wall Street pros are watching

Stocks tumble on coronavirus fears—Here's what five experts say investors should watch now

Fears around China's coronavirus outbreak are in full force.

The concern put meaningful pressure on the major averages Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average seeing its worst one-day performance since October and turning negative for the year in the trading session. The declines followed confirmations of more cases of the virus and several large U.S. companies' suspension of their business in China.

Professional market watchers and commentators, including CNBC's Jim Cramer, were largely in agreement that the stock market's pain wouldn't last long.

Here's how they're interpreting the latest pullback:

Peter Boockvar, Bleakley Advisory's chief investment officer, called on investors to put the outbreak in perspective:

"I'm of the opinion that, come springtime, this sort of dies out. So, the economic impact is obviously immediate rather than anything long-lasting. And I think, for perspective, the World Health Organization said that 3 [million] to 5 million people a year get severe flu and about 250[,000] to 500,000 die from it. So, I think we need to put this in perspective before we all freak out. Again, I don't want to downplay the economic impact, but I think we only have a few months of it before it actually just goes away. ... Sentiment got extremely bulled up, so, that's the backdrop for this. I mean, you look at [the weekly] Investor's Intelligence [Bull/Bear poll] last week, bulls were just shy of 60. Citi's Panic-Euphoria weekly index is fully in euphoria state, and according to their numbers, there's an 80% chance that, a year from now, stocks are down, again, just based on their statistic. So, the sentiment was just all one-sided. So, that's the backdrop for what was probably a needed rest in the market, and this just so happens to be the catalyst for it."

Derek Scissors, an American Enterprise Institute economist specializing in Asia, also didn't expect a sustained downdraft:

"I think the short-term economic impact is going to be very stark because of the nature of Chinese decision-making. Information moves slowly in their system. They tend to intentionally overreact because they know they don't have good information. So, you see these shutdowns. You're going to see a very big blow to economic activity in China in the first quarter, but activity is not productivity. ... In this case, we don't see a blow to the labor force. We don't see a blow to the capital stock yet, and we all hope we're not going to see it. So, I think the first quarter's going to have some terrible numbers, but I think a year from now, we're not going to economically ... notice this any longer."

David Lebovitz, global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management, said the reaction shouldn't weigh too heavily on earnings estimates, either:

"I think, for now, it's going to be contained in multiples. If we think about the run that we had in markets, really, over the past couple of months, it's been fueled by a lot of optimism around U.S.-China trade and the Fed and a rebound in global growth, and so I think it's reasonable to expect things to come out of the multiple first. If we look back to '03 with SARS, multiples dipped by about 7.5% from peak to trough and then resumed their upward trend as everything got under control. So, I think that there was room for markets to pull back before. I think, now, there's even more room for markets to pull back. But I don't think the initial reaction is necessarily to cut earnings. I think the Street is still too optimistic for 2020 as a whole, but I'm not sure that it's going to trickle down all the way quite yet."

Jim Cramer, host of "Mad Money," even suggested doing some buying:

"Is this the panic that people have been waiting for? I'll tell you what's really interesting. We've been saying over and over again, 'If we get an exogenous event, that's when you get the sell-off. That's when you have to buy.' I think it's only timing of when you have to buy, and I just don't think today, other than to buy Clorox, other than to buy AbbVie, other than to buy, for speculation, Owens and Minor, which bought Halyard for [$]700 million – Halyard is the company that has the best hospital gowns, the best, actually, apparel for when you think that there is going to be an infectious disease — so, you can buy that. I want to emphasize Clorox if only just because this has been always the time to buy it, whether it was H1N1 — you can see it had a nice 7% rally into the H1N1 [crisis]."

Tom White, senior analyst at D. A. Davidson, said investors should be wary of some names feeling the virus' impact:

"When it comes to China specifically, for the online travel names like Booking and Expedia, ... they don't really have much direct exposure there. They haven't really been able to crack into that market. It's really been Group, formerly Ctrip, that really has kind of the point-of-sale business in China. If we see that coronavirus expands more broadly throughout Asia-[Pacific], then I think you have to worry a bit more for these companies, particularly They've invested a lot of money not only in their brand, but they also have an asset there called Agoda. But even then, you've got to sort of look at it between destination travel and point of sale. When it comes to destination travel, which we think maybe is 20% of, say,'s business, Asia[-Pacific] destination travel, those people will decide to go somewhere else. ... I think it's down 8% since the close on Friday before the long weekend, and I wouldn't be surprised to maybe see it down a couple more percent here as long as this looks like it's going to be a Zika type of time frame. If this looks like it's going to drag on for several ... months, more than a month and a half, two months, then I can see the stock sliding more."