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Biden Won Super Tuesday & The Market Is Cheering

Plus, activity in the U.S. services sector accelerated in February, GE said the coronavirus will impact Q1 earnings, and Arcturus Therapeutics shares are on the rise after the company joins the quest to find a COVID-19 vaccine.

Stocks climbed higher to start Wednesday with the Dow adding 448 points, or 1.7%. The S&P 500 gained 1.4%, while the Nasdaq traded 1.3% higher.

Super Tuesday was good for Biden and the market is cheering. The former Vice President scored key primary victories in Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Texas, giving his campaign much needed momentum as he seeks the Democratic party’s presidential nomination. NBC News projects Biden’s total delegate count to be 508, beating Bernie Sanders’ total of 458. Sanders won Colorado, Utah, and Vermont, and is the projected winner of California. Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, has ended his campaign for the Democratic nomination, while Senator Elizabeth Warren is assessing her path forward in the presidential race after not winning any of the Super Tuesday contests. 

Cases of the coronavirus have surged to at least 93,400 globally, while global deaths from the virus are at least 3,190. The CDC has confirmed that there are at least 108 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., with at least 9 deaths in the country from the virus. The family of a New York man who was confirmed to have the virus yesterday have all tested positive for the virus, while an employee from one of Amazon’s Seattle offices tested positive for the coronavirus after leaving the office sick on February 25, and Los Angeles County officials have declared a local emergency after identifying six new coronavirus cases there over the last 48 hours. “We’re losing valuable time,” said former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. “It’s probably the case that we will have an epidemic here in the U.S., but we can dramatically affect the contours of that. We need to start thinking about these measures in the regions where there is spread right now.” In Europe, the U.K. Department of Health and Social Care said that the number of confirmed cases in Britain have jumped to 85, while Italy has banned all public events and has closed schools and universities nationwide for the next two weeks as cases there have risen to more than 2,500. And in more bad news, researchers in China have found two different strains of the novel coronavirus circulating in Asia, indicating that the virus has already mutated at least twice. “These findings strongly support an urgent need for further immediate, comprehensive studies that combine genomic data, epidemiological data, and chart records of the clinical symptoms of patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19),” the researchers said.

Activity in the services sector in the U.S. accelerated to a one-year high in February, indicating momentum in the biggest part of the economy just as coronavirus concerns started to become more widespread. The Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing index unexpectedly rose 1.8 points to 57.3 last month, and up form 55.5 in January. The improvement in the services sector is at odds with setbacks at factories during February. “Most respondents are concerned about the coronavirus and its supply chain impact,” said Anthony Nieves, chair of the ISM’s non-manufacturing business survey committee, in a statement. “They also continue to have difficulty with labor resources. They do remain positive about business conditions and the overall economy.” On a call with reporters, Nieves added that “Even in spite of this [coronavirus] pandemic threat, they’re still remaining optimistic about business conditions and the overall economy. The only thing that derails this growth in this sector would be something geopolitical or catastrophic. Well, we are on the fringe of something that could develop or evolve into being catastrophic if it spreads beyond what we have right now.”

General Electric announced its outlook for 2020 at an event for investors and analysts this morning where the industrial conglomerate detailed the expected effects of COVID-19 outbreak on earnings. “GE is closely monitoring the [outbreak] as an evolving variable,” the management said in a release. “For the first quarter of 2020, GE anticipates a negative impact to GE Industrial free cash flow of approximately $300 million to $500 million, as well as a negative impact to operating profit of approximately $200 million to $300 million, from COVID-19, based on information to date.” GE said that it expects to earn around $0.10 per share in the first quarter, less than the $0.13 per share expected by analysts. Overall, analysts are still expecting $0.59 in earnings per share for 2020, while the company projects earnings of roughly $0.55 per share for the full year. 

And shares of Arcturus Therapeutics are up 24% at the time of writing after the biotech announced that it is the latest drugmaker working on a vaccine for the coronavirus. In a statement this morning, Arcturus said that it has partnered with Singapore-based Duke-NUS Medical School to develop the vaccine after receiving a grant worth up to $10 million from the Singapore Economic Development Board. Arcturus CEO Joseph Payne said that a COVID-19 vaccine could be a significant commercial opportunity. “If this ends up being a seasonal vaccine like the flu,” Payne said, “that can be extremely commercially relevant, especially for a small biotech company like Arcturus.” Payne added that the company hopes to begin human trials for a vaccine as soon as possible, and once approved in Singapore, a vaccine could be manufactured there in a matter of weeks. 

Stocks We’re Watching

Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: INO): Inovio shares are up more than 11% this morning after the biotech said that it is accelerating its timeline for the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus and said that it plans to begin human trials in April. “We immediately began preclinical testing and small-scale manufacture and have already shared robust preclinical data with our public and private partners,” said Inovio CEO Dr. J. Joseph Kim at a meeting with the U.S. Coronavirus Task Force at the White House yesterday. “We plan to begin human clinical trials in the U.S. in April and soon thereafter in China and South Korea, where the outbreak is impacting the most people.”

Boingo Wireless Inc (NASDAQ: WIFI): Boingo Wireless shares jumped as much as 26% yesterday after comments from the company’s management in its fourth-quarter earnings released that said the company has received “multiple inquiries regarding a potential strategic transaction.” Boingo’s board is mulling the bits and has suspended earnings guidance in the meantime. Jefferies analyst Kyle McNealy said that Boingo Wireless has no “urgency for a sale” unless the offer comes at a “considerably higher price than the current trading range.” McNealy added that Boingo has “a valuable collection of assets that would be appealing to a variety of buyers.” 

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