Plus, Italy announced a nation-wide lockdown in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Saudi Arabia and Russia escalated their oil price war, and Dick’s Sporting Goods is removing guns from another 440 stores.
Stocks rallied to start Tuesday, but quickly pared back gains from the open. At the time of writing, the Dow is down 22.87 points, or 0.1%, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq are up 0.27% and 0.56%, respectively.
President Donald Trump floated the idea of “a payroll tax cut or relief” late Monday to offset the negative impact from the coronavirus and said he would announce “very dramatic” economic measures in a press conference later today. The prospect of stimulus pushed stocks higher at the open, though the rally quickly evaporated when administration officials said that the White House is not close to rolling out specific proposals to deal with a coronavirus-induced economic slowdown and lawmakers had not been briefed on any plans. The announcement of stimulus “was news to everyone on the inside,” one official said, adding that the actual details of any plan remain up in the air. “It’s not there right now,” the official said. “A lot of details need to be worked out.” “While we believe that a fiscal stimulus package will be produced, the timing and scope remain uncertain,” said Ed Mills, Washington policy analyst at Raymond James. “When asked about the potential for a fiscal package, some Republican leaders on the Hill signaled that they believe these actions to be premature and key Congressional Democrats raging that there are more immediate priorities over tax cuts and plan to introduce their own package in the coming days.”
Global cases of the coronavirus are nearly 115,000, with deaths from the virus reaching at least 4,028. Italy announced the first nation-wide lockdown Monday night in an effort to help stem the spread of the outbreak there as confirmed cases in the country surged past 9,100. In the U.S., confirmed cases surged past 755 overnight, while total deaths from the virus are at least 26. A top CDC official said that people who are over 60 or who have chronic illnesses should prepare for a lengthy stay at home. “This virus is capable of spreading easily and sustainably from person to person … and there’s essentially no immunity against this virus in the population,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “It’s fair to say that, as the trajectory of the outbreak continues, many people in the United States will at some point in time, either this year or next, be exposed to the virus and there’s a good chance many will become sick. This seems to be a disease that affects adults and most seriously older adults. Starting at age 60, there is an increasing risk of disease and the risk increases with age.” Messonnier added that those with conditions like diabetes, heart disease, lung disease and other serious underlying illnesses are more likely to develop “serious outcomes, including death.”
Saudi Arabia escalated its oil price war with Russia Tuesday, as its state-owned Saudi Aramco pledged to supply a record 12.3 million barrels a day next month, flooding the market with a 25% increase from last month’s production. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said the country has the ability to boost production by 500,000 barrels per day, pushing the Russia’s output to potentially a record of 11.8 million barrels per day. “There is a significant amount of market posturing going on between Saudi Arabia and Russia,” said Jaafar Altaie, managing director of Abu Dhabi-based consultant Manaar Group. “They’re both getting ready to fight a pretty aggressive price war.”
Delta Airlines shares opened higher this morning as the company said that it will be making deep cuts throughout its network to reduce costs as the coronavirus outbreak drives down demand for air travel. Delta said it is reducing international flights by as much as 25% and domestic capacity between 10% and 15%. The airline also suspended its financial outlook for the year and will halt its stock repurchase program, delay $500 million in capital expenditures, $500 million in voluntary pension funding, and will freeze hiring throughout the company. “As the virus has spread, we have seen a decline in demand across all entities, and we are taking decisive action to also protect Delta’s financial position,” said Delta CEO Ed Bastian in a news release. “As a result, we have made the difficult, but necessary decision to immediately reduce capacity and are implementing cost reductions and cash flow initiatives across the organization.”
And Dick’s Sporting Goods shares are up more than 1% this morning after the retailer said it would remove guns from another 440 stores this year, expanding its efforts following the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in 2018. The sporting equipment retailer also posted earnings for the holiday quarter, delivering adjusted earnings per share of $1.32 on revenue of $2.61 billion, beating analysts’ estimates for earnings per share of $1.22 on revenue of $2.57 billion. Dick’s also reported same-store sales growth of 5%, versus growth of 3% expected. CEO Ed Stack said the company saw growth in the number of transactions in stores and in shoppers’ average ticket, “despite the compressed holiday selling season and the challenging conditions we faced with unseasonably warm weather,” and looking ahead, the company will balance “enthusiasm with a degree of caution” due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Stocks We’re Watching
Compugen Ltd (NASDAQ: CGEN): Compugen shares are up 21% this morning after the clinical-stage cancer immunotherapy company reported updated data from its ongoing Phase 1 dose escalation study of COM701 in patients with advanced solid tumors. “We continue to be encouraged by the updated data which further supports our focus on the indications we previously selected for our planned expansion cohorts, based on our biomarker-informed approach and our predictive discovery capability,” said Compugen President and CEO, Anat Cohen-Dayag, Ph.D. “We look forward to presenting the full data at a future scientific conference.”
Kala Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ: KALA): Kala Pharmaceuticals shares gained as much as 40.8% yesterday after the biopharma company announced positive topline results from its STRIDE 3, a phase 3 clinical trial evaluating KPI-121 0.25%—which will be marketed under the brand name EYSUVIS 0.25%—for the treatment of dry eye disease. “We are thrilled with the results of STRIDE 3, which build on our prior clinical experience with EYSUVIS in our Phase 2, STRIDE 1 and STRIDE 2 trials,” said Mark Iwicki, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Kala Pharmaceuticals. “We would like to express our sincere appreciation to the investigators and nearly 3,000 patients who participated in the trials. We are now focusing on finalizing the NDA resubmission, which is targeted for the second quarter of 2020, and on preparing for a potential U.S. approval and launch by the end of the year. We look forward to delivering this important new medicine to patients.”
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