U.S. Economy Wanes on Coronavirus, Election Worries

A survey released Friday revealed that firms in the U.S. contracted in February for the first time in four years owing to disruptions caused by the coronavirus and growing angst over the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

The forecasting firm IHS Markit said its indexes for manufacturers and service-oriented firms both declined this month, according to a "flash" or preliminary reading. And the services index turned negative for the first time since 2015.

Most executives queried, however, said they think the current weakness is temporary and that business will bounce back later in the year.

In a big surprise, the index covering the large service side of the economy sank 4 points to 49.4. The coronavirus scare is already hurting companies in the tourism and travel industries that generate lots of business from Chinese customers.

The flash manufacturing gauge, meanwhile, slipped to 50.8 points from 51.9 in January.

Any number over 50 signifies expansion; below 50 points to contraction.