Plus, the U.S. is stepping up pressure on China, the EU unveiled an unprecedented stimulus plan, and Boeing plans to lay off more than 6,000 workers this week.
Stocks were mixed to start Wednesday with the Dow gaining 250 points, or 1%. The S&P 500 added 0.2%, while the Nasdaq traded 0.9% lower.
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The U.S. stepped up its pressure on China. The Trump administration is considering a range of sanctions to punish China for its crackdown on Hong Kong, including freezing assets and controlling transactions of Chinese officials and businesses for implementing a new national security that would curtail the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong citizens. The House of Representatives is also poised to pass today legislation that would sanction Chinese officials for human rights abuses against Muslim minorities. The measure has already been approved by the Senate, and has broad support in the House. While President Donald Trump wouldn’t say if he would sign the bill if it passed the House, he told reporters that the White House is “taking a look at it very strongly.” The EU, meanwhile, said that China’s efforts to tighten its grip on Hong Kong threatens international order. “Beijing’s rise to be an assertive, capable and self-confident global actor will be a test to the EU’s geopolitical ambitions,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in a letter to the bloc’s 27 foreign ministers, adding that the bloc must decide “how to ensure unity among member states and coherence between EU policies, in the face of China’s increasing assertiveness and attempts to influence and shape global public opinion and perceptions as part of its wider geopolitical strategy.”
Speaking of the EU, the European Commission unveiled an unprecedented stimulus plan as the region faces the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. “This is Europe’s moment,” said Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “Our willingness to act must live up to the challenges we are facing.” As part of the plan, the European Commission will borrow 750 billion euro ($826.5 billion) from the EU’s common basket of cash and disburse them via the European budget, and will include 500 billion euros in grants and 250 billion euros in loans to member states. Struggling southern members Italy and Spain stand to receive 82 billion and 77 billion euros, respectively. Still, the Economist Intelligence Unit cautioned that the funds may not be enough and warned of a possible European debt crisis. “South European states are still recovering from years of austerity, combined with high levels of public debt, aging populations (which are more vulnerable to severe forms of the coronavirus) and persistent fiscal deficits,” the EIU report said. “The European Central Bank would act swiftly to contain the fallout, but a debt crisis in any of these countries would create massive turbulence on financial markets. In turn, the crisis would quickly spread across the globe.”
In coronavirus news, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said there is a “good chance” a vaccine for COVID-19 could be deployable by November or December of this year. That sentiment was echoed by Novavax CEO Stanley Erck, who said that front-line workers could be the first to receive a vaccine that could come as soon as later this year. “I think everybody agrees that the first broad distribution will be to the front-line workers, the health-care workers,” Erck said. “If our phase two data support the safety and immunogenicity that we hope it will and we’re able to see a signal for efficacy, it’s possible that the first line would be vaccinated some time in the fourth quarter of this year.” However, Merck CEO Ken Frazier suggested in an interview with the Financial Times that a COVID-19 vaccine may not be feasible within the tight time frames set out by other vaccine developers and a more realistic timeline would be within 12 to 18 months. And former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said that it’s unlikely we’ll see a vaccine before 2021. “I think we’ll have to have one more cycle of this virus in the fall, heading into the winter, before we get to a vaccine,” Gottlieb said. “I really think a vaccine is probably a 2021 event, in terms of having wide availability of a vaccine for the general population.”
Papa John’s shares are up nearly 2% this morning after the pizza chain said same-store sales jumped 33.5% in North America and 7% globally amid the coronavirus crisis. “In May, for the second straight month, Papa John’s team members and franchisees delivered the best sales period in the company’s history,” said CEO Rob Lynch in a press release. “As states and communities slowly reopen, we continue to show strong performance. The success of ‘No Contact Delivery’ and new products like Papadias—both examples of a new culture of innovation at Papa John’s—continue to drive results. We wish for a speedy recovery and return to normal, and are optimistic about Papa John’s long-term future given the strong foundation that we have continued to build during these challenging times.”
And Boeing is planning to lay off more than 6,000 employees this week in a cost cutting effort as the coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate air travel. “Following the reduction-in-force announcement we made last month, we have concluded our voluntary layoff (VLO) program,” said CEO Dave Calhoun in a note to employees. “And now we have come to the unfortunate moment of having to start involuntary layoffs (ILO). We’re notifying the first 6,770 of our U.S. team members this week that they will be affected.”
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Principia Biopharma Inc (NASDAQ: PRNB): Principia Biopharma shares jumped as much as 14.8% yesterday after the late-stage biopharmaceutical company announced that it will present at the upcoming European Hematology Association (EHA) and the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis (ISTH) congresses on its clinical program evaluating rilzabrutinib in patients with immune thrombocytopenia (ITP), a rare autoimmune disease that causes high risk for bleeding, excessive bruising, fatigue, and potential for life threatening intracranial bleeding due to the destruction of platelets. Principia said that David Kuter, M.D., Director of Clinical Hematoloty at Massachusetts General Hospital and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, will “present updates on efficacy and safety, including durability of effect, from the ongoing open-label Phase 1/2 clinical trial in patients with ITP.”
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