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End of Day Briefing - Recap of Monday Nov. 23, 2020

Stocks close higher to start off the holiday shortened week

The major averages began the holiday shortened week on an up note following the announcement from AstraZeneca that its COVID-19 vaccine was effective in trials, giving the world a third hope so far in terms of a vaccine to end the pandemic. Against that hope is balanced the fact that the global case tally of the coronavirus illness has risen to nearly 59 million, and the U.S. count has grown to above 12 million cases amid growing fears that Thanksgiving travel will spark a further domestic surge. The market appeared to get a boost late in the day following the report that former Fed chief Janet Yellen will be Joe Biden's pick to become the next Treasury secretary.

ECONOMIC EVENTS: In the U.S., the Chicago Fed national activity index rose 0.51 points to 0.83 in October. Markit's manufacturing PMI climbed 3.3 points to 56.7 in the flash reading for November.

Data from the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering shows there are now 58.8M confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, including 12.26M in the U.S., and 1.39M deaths due to the disease, including about 257,000 in the U.S.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported that President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate former Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen to become the next Treasury secretary. If confirmed by the Senate, Yellen would become the first woman to hold the job after being the first woman to lead the Fed.

TOP NEWS: AstraZeneca ($AZN) slid 1.1% in New York trading after the company announced that results from an interim analysis of clinical trials of AZD1222 in the U.K. and Brazil showed its vaccine with Oxford was "highly effective" in preventing COVID-19, the primary endpoint, and that no hospitalizations or severe cases of the disease were reported in participants receiving the vaccine. One dosing regimen of 2,741 participants showed vaccine efficacy of 90% when AZD1222 was given as a half dose, followed by a full dose at least one month apart, and another dosing regimen of 8,895 participants showed 62% efficacy when given as two full doses at least one month apart. The combined analysis from both dosing regimens resulted in an average efficacy of 70%, the company reported. Following the announcement, SVB Leerink analyst George Porges said he believes that this product will never be licensed in the U.S., given the design of the company's pivotal trials and the occurrence of severe safety events that resulted in the extended clinical hold on enrollment into the trials in the U.S., he added in his note to investors following the company's press release.

In other COVID-19 news, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals ($REGN) announced that the antibody cocktail casirivimab and imdevimab administered together, a therapy currently being investigated for use in COVID-19, has received Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults, as well as in pediatric patients at least 12 years of age and weighing at least 40 kg, who have received positive results of direct SARS-CoV-2 viral testing and are at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 and/or hospitalization. Regeneron expects to have REGEN-COV2 treatment doses ready for approximately 80,000 patients by the end of November, approximately 200,000 patients by the first week of January, and approximately 300,000 patients in total by the end of January 2021.

In additional news on the search for pharmaceutical answers to COVID-19, Merck ($MRK) announced a deal to acquire OncoImmune, a privately-held, clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, for an upfront payment of $425M in cash as well as sales-based payments and payments contingent on the successful achievement of certain milestones. OncoImmune recently announced positive top-line findings from an interim efficacy analysis of a Phase 3 study evaluating its lead therapeutic candidate CD24Fc for the treatment of patients with severe and critical COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the European Commission is seeking to make it easier for patients to gain access to cheaper, generic medicines, in a move that could affect the revenues of large pharmaceutical companies. A draft EU document explains the EU executive's strategy for the sector in a document due to be published later this week, with the goal of making drugs more affordable and preventing the serious shortages seen in the first phase of the coronavirus crisis earlier this year, according to Reuters.

MAJOR MOVERS: Among the noteworthy gainers was Blink Charging ($BLNK), which surged 48.3% despite Andrew Left's Citron Research attacking the company, saying the stock should trade back to $10. Also higher was Front Yard Residential ($RESI), which gained 21.9% after it signed an amended merger agreement with Pretium and Ares ($ARES).

Among the notable losers was Kellogg ($K), which slid 2.1% Credit Suisse analyst Robert Moskow downgraded shares to Neutral from Outperform. Also lower was Huami ($HMI), which declined 7.6% after reporting quarterly results.

  • Nasdaq Composite +32.4% YTD
  • S&P 500 +10.7% YTD
  • Russell 2000 +9.0% YTD
  • Dow Jones Industrial Average +3.7% YTD

Market Snapshot
SP 5003577.59+20.05(0.56%)
10-yr Note -2/320.850
NYSEAdv 2363 Dec 723 Vol 986.8 mln
NasdaqAdv 2346 Dec 1210 Vol 5.2 bln

Industry Watch
Strong: Energy, Industrials, Financials, Materials
Weak: Health Care, Real Estate, Information Technology, Communication Services

Moving the Market

-- Another round of positive news on the COVID-19 vaccine/treatment front; momentum trading

-- Small-cap, value, and cyclical stocks outperformed, while mega-caps and stay-at-home stocks underperformed

-- Joe Biden will reportedly nominate former Fed Chair Janet Yellen as Treasury Secretary

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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