Plus, another 2.4 million Americans filed for unemployment bringing the pandemic total to more than 38 million, AstraZeneca was awarded $1.2 billion from the U.S. government for the development of its COVID-19 vaccine, and Best Buy shares are down after earnings.
Stocks were lower to start Thursday with the Dow dropping 62 points, or 0.25%. The S&P 500 fell 0.7%, while the Nasdaq traded down 0.8%.
Millions more Americans filed for unemployment benefits. First-time filings totaled 2.44 million last week, bringing the tally of jobs taken by the coronavirus pandemic to more than 38 million. “States may be opening back up, but the labor market is still closed for millions across America and the loss of the income and spending of those without jobs will be a considerable headwind for this economic recovery,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank. “The economy is going to recover for sure,” though the question now is whether growth will be fast enough to put the millions of unemployed back to work.
AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine was just awarded $1.2 billion from the U.S. Health Department’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. The drugmaker said it will initially supply 400 million doses of the vaccine developed with Oxford University, and has secured the capacity to produce 1 billion doses, with the first deliveries in September following a phase three clinical trial with 30,000 participants and a pediatric trial. AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said the drugmaker will do everything in its power to make the vaccine “quickly and widely available,” with the company’s statement adding, “AstraZeneca recognizes that the vaccine may not work but is committed to progressing the clinical program with speed and scaling up manufacturing at risk.” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement that the U.S. “is making multiple major investments in developing and manufacturing promising vaccines long before they’re approved so that a successful vaccine will reach the American people without a day wasted.”
President Donald Trump stepped up his attacks on China as cases of the coronavirus rise to more than 1.55 million in the U.S., suggesting that President Xi Jinping is behind a “disinformation and propaganda attack on the United States and Europe.” Trump said in a series of tweets Wednesday night that “it all comes from the top,” adding that China is “trying desperately to deflect the pain and carnage that their country spread throughout the world.” Additionally, the White House released a broad critique of Beijing’s economic and military policies, disinformation campaigns, and human rights violations. The 20-page report to Congress, according to a senior administration official, does not signal a shift in U.S. policy, but rather expands on Trump’s get-tough rhetoric on China ahead of the U.S. election in November. “It’s very clear the Trump administration means business and the hardliners seem to be viewing the pandemic as an opportunity to get even tougher on China than was the case before,” said Eswar Prasad, a professor at Cornell University and former head at the International Monetary Fund’s China division. “China has been trying very hard to corral the discussion in international policy circles around to the view that it has been the adult in the room trying to make sure that the pandemic’s effects can be contained, and that the right sort of approach can be taken towards addressing the pandemic.”
Aurora Cannabis shares are up 25% this morning following yesterday’s announcement that the Canadian marijuana company had agreed to buy U.S.-based CBD company Reliva, giving it a foothold in the lucrative American market. “It’s immediate access into the world’s cannabinoid market,” said Aurora Executive Chairman and interim CEO Michael Singer said. “I think the Reliva acquisition is a responsible strategic entry into the U.S. market; and for Aurora, delivers a key aspect of our reset plan.” Reliva stakeholders will receive $40 million in Aurora shares as part of the deal, which is expected to close next month. Singer added that Reliva is “creative and profitable,” and has no debt. “Reliva [also] has access to 20,000 retail locations and even more important strong relationships with the leading wholesalers and distributors in the U.S.”
And in earnings news, Best Buy shares are down nearly -5% after it reported that its revenue and earnings fell in the first quarter, despite an initial influx of shoppers at the beginning of the pandemic as customers set up home offices and prepared for kids to attend school at home. While online sales shot up 154% year-over-year in the quarter, Best Buy said Q1 income fell to $159 million, or $0.61 per share, from $265 million in the same quarter last year. TJX Companies shares, meanwhile, are up more than 6% this morning after the owner of T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods reported that early sales are up at its 1,100 stores that have been reopened for at least a week even as the discount retailer reported a fiscal first quarter net loss of $0.74 per share on revenue of $4.4 billion, which was below consensus estimates for a loss of $0.07 on revenue of $5.46 billion.
Stocks We’re Watching
Phunware Inc (NASDAQ: PHUN): Phunware shares jumped as much as 348% yesterday after the penny stock announced that it has partnered with Hewlett Packard Enterprise to offer HPE’s healthcare customers a digital front door on mobile by integrating Aruba Networks’ mobility solutions with Phunware’s Multiscreen-as-a-Service (MaaS) healthcare products and solutions. “We are thrilled to partner with a worldwide leader in enterprise mobility, all while expanding the reach and distribution of our digital front door solution with HPE’s global customer base,” said Alan S. Knitowski, President, CEO and Co-Founder of Phunware. “By integrating Meridian location technology into our digital front door solution for healthcare, we expect to showcase the extensibility of our MaaS platform for Apple iOS and Google Android patient environments on mobile with real-time, one-to-one engagements, interactions and traceability, both indoors and outdoors.”