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End of Day Briefing - Wednesday July 8, 2020

Big tech leads market higher

Dow +177.10 at 26067.30, Nasdaq +148.61 at 10492.50, S&P +24.62 at 3169.81

[BRIEFING.COM] The S&P 500 advanced 0.8% on Wednesday, recovering some of yesterday's decline, while the Nasdaq Composite advanced 1.4% to close at another record high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (+0.7%) and Russell 2000 (+0.8%) performed more in-line with the benchmark index.

The market appeared to receive a late-day boost after St. Louis Fed President Bullard (non-FOMC voter) told CNBC that he is optimistic on a recovery, as the economy appears to be tracking very well right now. Prior to Mr. Bullard's comments, the S&P 500 was trading near its flat line in a lackluster session.

Apple ($AAPL 381.37, +8.68, +2.3%), Microsoft ($MSFT 212.83, +4.58, +2.2%), and Amazon ($AMZN 3081.11, +80.99, +2.7%), which were strong all session, each rose more than 2.0% to provide the boost in the information technology (+1.6%) and consumer discretionary (+1.5%) sectors. The materials sector fell 1.5%, but no other sector declined more than 0.3%.

Advancing issues had a modest advantage over declining issues at the NYSE and Nasdaq, reflecting a mixed market, but the continued outperformance of the market's largest technology stocks made a big difference at the index level. New macro developments were lacking today, but there was some notable corporate news.

Biogen ($BIIB 280.19, +11.84, +4.4%) submitted its application to the FDA for its Alzheimer's drug, Twitter ($TWTR 35.41, +2.42, +7.3%) may reportedly be working on a subscription service, and National General ($NGHC 33.84, +13.43, +65.8%) agreed to be acquired by Allstate ($ALL 88.22, -4.43, -4.8%) for $4 billion in cash.

U.S. Treasuries finished near their flat lines in a tight-ranged session. The 2-yr yield was unchanged at 0.16%, and the 10-yr yield was unchanged at 0.65%. The U.S. Dollar Index declined 0.4% to 96.47. WTI crude increased 0.8%, or $0.31, to $40.91/BBL, even as the EIA reported an unexpected build in weekly crude inventories.

Reviewing Wednesday's economic data:

  • Consumer credit contracted by $18.2 billion in May ( consensus -$22.0 billion) after declining an downwardly revised $70.2 bln (from -$68.7 billion) in April.
    • The key takeaway from the report is that May marked the third straight contraction in consumer credit that was led by a decline in revolving credit, which underscores the more restrictive credit stance adopted by lenders in the wake of the COVID shutdown and massive spike in unemployment.
  • The weekly MBA Mortgage Applications Index increased 2.2% following a 1.8% decline in the prior week.

Looking ahead, investors will receive the weekly Initial and Continuing Claims report and Wholesale Inventories for May on Thursday.

  • Nasdaq Composite +16.9% YTD
  • S&P 500 -1.9% YTD
  • Dow Jones Industrial Average -8.7% YTD
  • Russell 2000 -14.5% YTD

Market Snapshot

SP 5003169.81+24.62(0.78%)
10-yr Note -1/320.663
NYSEAdv 1727 Dec 1208 Vol 1.0 bln
NasdaqAdv 1858 Dec 1353 Vol 4.0 bln

Industry Watch

Strong: Information Technology, Consumer Discretionary, Financials, Utilities
Weak: Materials, Consumer Staples, Real Estate

Moving the Market

-- Stock market closes near session highs following positive commentary from St. Louis Fed President Bullard

-- Continued strength in the mega-cap technology stocks, which lifted the Nasdaq to a new record close

-- Choppy price action, reflective of consolidation action

Stocks end higher as tech stocks extend gains

Stocks continue to rise despite the fact that new COVID-19 case confirmations in the U.S. saw a record 60,000 additions yesterday. President Trump is also increasing his rhetoric regarding school re-openings, but uncertainty about what the fall will bring for school aged children and their parents didn't dent the major averages, which continue to be led higher by the tech-heavy Nasdaq and some of its high-profile, mega-cap constituents.

ECONOMIC EVENTS: In U.S. data, MBA reported mortgage applications rebounded 2.2% in the week of July 3.

The latest data from the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering shows there are now 11.87M confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, including about 3M in the U.S., and 544,996 deaths due to the disease. At the state level in terms of current hot spots, Arizona now reports 108,614 COVID-19 cases while Florida reports 223,783 cases.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump said via Twitter that he disagrees with the CDC on their "very tough & expensive" guidelines for reopening schools in the fall, adding that he will be "meeting with them" on the matter. Later, Vice President Mike Pence said that the CDC will be issuing five new documents next week that contain guidelines for schools and parents that are not as "tough" as the current guidelines.

TOP NEWS: Facebook's ($FB) meeting with civil-rights advocates on Tuesday preceded the anticipated release of a civil-rights audit commissioned by Facebook from outside attorneys on Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal's Jeff Horwitz and Deepa Seetharaman reported. Meanwhile, the Facebook Oversight Board has announced that it won't officially launch until later this year. The company later released the civil rights audit, saying the report finds that the company needs to enhance the team and processes put in place to oversee civil rights issues, must go further on voter suppression and hate, and must do more to create a "diverse and more inclusive" culture.

Shares of Biogen ($BIIB) rose 4.4% after the company announced it has completed the Biologics License Application submission to the FDA for aducanumab, its potential Alzheimer's drug. Stifel analyst Paul Matteis said that submitting a BLA is "obviously just step one" and the next event that will be telling will be FDA acceptance, and whether or not the agency awards the aducanumab submission priority review, which Biogen has requested.

In M&A news, Allstate ($ALL) announced an agreement to acquire National General ($NGHC) for approximately $4B in cash, or $34.50 per share. "National General provides a wide range of property-liability products through independent agents with a significant presence in non-standard auto insurance. The company also has attractive Accident and Health and Lender-Placed Insurance businesses," said Allstate, whose shares closed 4.8% lower following the deal announcement. Shares of National General surged 65.8% higher on the news.

Twitter ($TWTR) shares rose 7.4% after a couple of online job postings were taken as an indication that the company is developing a new subscription platform. Bloomberg reported that the social media company is considering a subscription offering, quoting a source as having said that a new group called "Gryphon" is still being assembled at Twitter, and it's possible that a subscription product never launches

Meanwhile, Moderna ($MRNA) was in focus after it completed enrollment of its Phase 2 study of its mRNA-1273 vaccine candidate against COVID-19. The company added that a Phase 3 study protocol for the candidate has been finalized with the FDA.

The Detroit News and other media sources reported that General Motors' ($GM) racketeering lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler ($FCAU) has been dismissed by a federal judge.

MAJOR MOVERS: Among the noteworthy gainers was Intersect ENT ($XENT), which rose 29.4% after Bloomberg reported that Medtronic ($MDT) has made an offer for the company, and it is reviewing the offer. Also higher was Nikola ($NKLA), which gained 34.3% after JPMorgan analyst Paul Coster upgraded shares to Overweight from Neutral with an unchanged price target of $45.

Among the notable losers was Gilat Satellite ($GILT), which slid 14.4% after Comtech ($CMTL) filed a complaint against the company relating to the agreement and plan of merger dated January 29, 2020 providing for the acquisition of Gilat by Comtech. Also lower following its quarterly earnings report was Levi Strauss ($LEVI), which fell 8.4%.

Disclosure: I may trade in the ticker symbols mentioned, both long or short. My articles represent my personal opinion and analysis and should not be taken as investment advice. Readers should do their own research before making decisions to buy or sell securities. Trading and investing include risks, including loss of principal.

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