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Chevron Shares Rocket Higher After The Company Said It Will Maintain Its Dividend

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Plus, the market is higher on optimism that a third stimulus bill will be finalized today, Gilead Sciences’ experimental COVID-19 treatment, remdesivir, received Orphan Drug Designation from the FDA, and General Motors said it is conserving cash and drawing down $16 billion from credit lines.

Stocks rebounded to start Tuesday with the Dow gaining more than 1,400 points, or 7.7%. The S&P 500 gained 6.7%, while the Nasdaq traded 6.1% higher. 

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Stocks surged higher on hopes of a stimulus bill being delivered today. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled a $2.5 trillion economic stimulus plan in a bid to shape negotiations on the Senate bill that stalled on Monday. Under the House bill, all individuals with a Social Security number would receive $1,500, compared with $1,200 for all taxpayers in the Senate bill, and would ban corporations receiving government assistance from using the funds for buybacks, and “golden parachutes” for departing executives, among other requirements. The bill also provides for no cost-sharing for coronavirus vaccines and treatments, expanded access to paid family and medical leave, $500 billion in grants and interest-free loans to small businesses, expanded unemployment benefits, $150 billion in funding for hospitals and other medical providers, $60 billion in funding for schools and universities, and $4 billion in state election grants and a national requirement for 15 days of early voting and no-excuse absentee voting amid the crisis. “I think there is real optimism that we could get something done in the next few hours,” Pelosi told CNBC’s Jim Cramer this morning. “Overarchingly, I think we are getting to a good place, if they stay there.”

The IHS Markit purchasing managers index illustrated how cracks are beginning to show in the U.S. economy amid the coronavirus crisis. The PMI tumbled 9.1 points to 40.5 in March, marking the steepest drop in data since October 2009, and mirrors the deceleration in other nations as the pandemic tightens its grip on the global economy. “The survey underscores how the U.S. is likely already in a recession that will inevitably deepen further,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, in a statement. “The March PMI is roughly indicative of GDP falling at an annualized rate approaching 5%, but the increasing number of virus-fighting lockdowns and closures mean the second quarter will likely see a far steeper rate of decline.” More troubling still, the IHS Markit gauge of services slid 10.3 points to 39.1 this month. With services comprising nearly 90% of the U.S. economy, the slump in the index spells out the extent of the hit to the nation’s output as retailers, restaurants, and other service providers are shut down in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.

Cases of the coronavirus climbed to at least 46,450 in the U.S. overnight, as deaths from the virus neared 600. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said a “troubling and astronomical” number of coronavirus cases have increased the urgency across the state for more hospital beds. “We’re not slowing it and it is accelerating on its own,” Cuomo said at a press conference this morning, adding that cases across the state are doubling every three days and now stand at at least 25,665. The state now projects it will need 140,000 hospital beds. “New York is the canary in the coal mine. New York is going first. We have the highest and fastest rate of infection,” Cuomo said, adding that what’s happening there will happen in California, Washington, and other states. Globally, cases have risen to more than 392,000, with deaths rising to at least 17,241. The International Olympic Committee postponed the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games until July 2021. While Italy’s death toll saw the smallest increase in four days and the number of new confirmed cases had slowed, the head of the Civil Protection Agency, Angelo Borrelli, said that the number of actual cases of the coronavirus in the country is probably 10 times higher than the official tally. “A ratio of one certified case out of every 10 is credible,” Borelli told La Repubblica newspaper, indicating he believed as many as 640,000 people may have been infected with the virus. And in China, Hubei province announced that travel restrictions on the city of Wuhan will be lifted beginning on April 8, two months after the city at the center of the coronavirus outbreak in China was locked down. “The risks for sporadic infections and localized outbreaks have not gone away,” the Chinese authorities managing the outbreak there said in a press release. “With the pandemic rampaging across the world, the situation remains complex and challenging. There is every need to maintain cool-headedness and not (be caught) off guard.”

Gilead Sciences’ experimental drug remdesivir received orphan drug designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The orphan drug status provides a seven-year market exclusivity period as well as tax and other incentives for companies developing treatments for rare diseases. Remdesivir is currently in clinical trials with results expected as early as next month, and has been considered one of the most promising treatments for COVID-19 under investigation. There are no approved treatments for COVID-19 currently, with most patients receiving supportive care like breathing assistance. Gilead said this weekend that it was temporarily putting new emergency access to remdesivir on hold due to an exponential increase in compassionate-use requests for the drug.

General Motors shares are up more than 15% today after the automaker said it was pushing to conserve cash and is drawing down $16 billion from previously existing credit lines as it confronts the financial toll of the coronavirus outbreak. CEO Mary Barra said GM is “aggressively pursing austerity measures,” adding that the company will also suspend its 2020 guidance. Between cash on hand and tapping its credit lines, GM said it will have between $31 and $32 billion in cash at the end of the month. And Chevron shares are up 17% this morning after it said it would suspend buybacks, and reduce capital spending by $4 billion this year to account for the recent plunge in oil prices. However, Chevron also said that it will maintain its dividend. “Our focus is on protecting the dividend, prioritizing capital that drives long-term value, and supporting the balance sheet,” Chevron CFO Pierre Breber said.

Stocks We’re Watching

Aytu Bioscience Inc (NASDAQ: AYTU): Aytu shares surged as much as 18.7% higher yesterday after the company said that it had received confirmation from the FDA that it can begin distribution of its COVID-19 IgG/IgM Rapid Test throughout the U.S. The IgG/IgM Rapid Test delivers results between 2 and 10 minutes at the point-of-care, and the company said it expects delivery of its first shipment of 100,000 tests this week. “We are moving as quickly as we can to bring the COVID-19 IgG/IgM Rapid Test to the U.S. professional medical community,” said Josh Disbrow, CEO of Aytu BioScience. “With product now in transit to our warehouse in Colorado we’re optimistic that we can have test kits ready for sale in the very near term. In the two short weeks since signing our distribution agreement, we have ordered our first 100,000 tests and have received confirmation from FDA that we may begin distribution. We are optimistic that we’re now just days away from placing these COVID-19 test kits into the hands of healthcare professionals.”

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