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End of Day Brief - Thursday Mar. 25 - Stocks rebound off of technical levels

Stocks close higher as Biden ups vaccine shot goal

Market Snapshot

SP 5003909.52+20.38(0.52%)
10-yr Note -1/321.627
NYSEAdv 2081 Dec 1132 Vol 1.1 bln
NasdaqAdv 2535 Dec 1338 Vol 5.6 bln

Industry Watch

Strong: Financials, Materials, Industrials, Consumer Staples, Utilities
Weak: Information Technology, Communication Services

Moving the Market

-- Market closes higher amid cyclical leadership and technical support

-- Relative weakness in the growth stocks

-- Buyers stepped in after the S&P 500 briefly slipped below its 50-day moving average (3871)

The major averages were weaker at midday, but improved in afternoon trading to close with gains after President Joe Biden held his first formal press conference since taking office, during which he announced a new goal of 200M vaccination shots within his first 100 days in office. The Dow, which was indicated down as much as 2% overnight, closed with a gain of 0.6%, while the S&P and Nasdaq also had positive sessions.

ECONOMIC EVENTS: In the U.S., Q4 GDP growth was revised up to a 4.3% rate in the third look at the data, up from 4.1% in the prior report. Initial jobless claims fell 97,000 to 684,000 in the week ended March 20.

TOP NEWS: Shares of Nike ($NKE) were 3.4% lower after Bloomberg reported that the company and Hennes & Mauritz ($HNNMY) are facing potential boycotts in China related to accusations about forced labor in Xinjiang.

Also lower were shares of Rite Aid ($RAD), which fell 20.4% after the pharmacy operator cut its FY21 revenue and adjusted EBITDA guidance to reflect what it calls a "historically soft cough, cold and flu season" in the fourth quarter. The company also cited the "continued impacts of COVID" on the deferral of elective procedures and related acute prescription volume and selling, general and administrative expenses.

Meanwhile, shares of Darden ($DRI) rose 8.3% after the owner of the Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse brands reported better than expected sales and earnings for its fiscal third quarter.

In M&A news, II-VI ($IIVI) announced that it is entering into a definitive agreement to acquire all outstanding Coherent ($COHR) shares in a cash and stock transaction. Under the terms of the transaction, Coherent shareholders will receive $220.00 in cash and 0.91 of a share of II-VI common stock for each Coherent share. Meanwhile, Lumentum ($LITE) announced that Coherent has provided notice of termination of their previously announced amended definitive merger agreement entered into on March 9. Pursuant to the terms of the agreement, Coherent is required to pay a $217.6M termination fee to Lumentum.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported that Apollo Global ($APO) is exploring a sale of textbook publisher McGraw-Hill Education, a business which could fetch between $5B and $6B including debt. The business could attract interest from other private equity firms and McGraw-Hill could also explore a listing via a special purpose acquisition company, according to Bloomberg.

In COVID-19 news, President Joe Biden confirmed in a press conference a new goal of 200M vaccination shots within his first 100 days in office after having already topped his prior 100M shot target. In addition, AstraZeneca ($AZN) said "positive high-level results" from the primary analysis of the Phase III trial of AZD1222 in the U.S. have confirmed vaccine efficacy consistent with the pre-specified interim analysis announced on March 22. The primary analysis is pre-specified in the protocol and will be the basis for a regulatory submission for Emergency Use Authorization to the Food and Drug Administration in the coming weeks, AstraZeneca said.

In a reversal of recent trends, it was a busy day for traditional IPOs - with six new stock openings - and a slow one for SPAC debuts, with only one new blank check company seeing its first day of trading. Smart TV maker Vizio ($VZIO), crafting tools maker Cricut ($CRCT), cleaning chemicals, equipment, and services provider Diversey ($DSEY), software-as-a-service platform company Semrush ($SEMR), cancer biotech Lava Therapeutics ($LVTX) and the lone SPAC deal, MSD Acquisition($MSDA), all opened below their IPO prices, while proteomics research tool maker Olink ($OLK) was the sole IPO to open higher than where it had been priced.

MAJOR MOVERS: Among the noteworthy gainers was Certara ($CERT), which rose 11.5% after a 10M share secondary priced at $25. Also higher was Curis ($CRIS), which gained 14.7% after B. Riley analyst Justin Walsh initiated coverage of the stock with a Buy rating and $19 price target.

Among the notable losers was Evofem ($EVFM), which declined 26.6% after a 17.143M share spot secondary priced at $1.75. Also lower was Evolus ($EOLS), which fell 23.1% after reporting quarterly results.

Reviewing Thursday's economic data:

  • Initial jobless claims for the week ending March 20 declined by 97,000 to 684,000 ( consensus 710,000). Continuing claims for the week ending March 13 decreased by 264,000 to 3.870 million.
    • The key takeaway from this report is that initial claims are the lowest they have been since March 14, 2020. Granted initial claims are still high, yet the directional movement fits the bill of an improving economy that requires increased hiring activity and reduced layoff activity.
  • The third estimate for Q4 GDP was revised up to 4.3% ( consensus 4.1%) from 4.1% while the GDP Price Deflator was revised down to 2.0% ( consensus 2.1%) from 2.1%.
    • The key takeaway from this report is that it is dated (the first quarter is only days from being over) and shouldn't have any market impact.

  • Russell 2000 +10.6% YTD
  • Dow Jones Industrial Average +6.6% YTD
  • S&P 500 +4.1% YTD
  • Nasdaq Composite +0.7% YTD

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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