Plus, retail sales jumped a record 17.7% in May, a sturdy from the University of Oxford showed a common anti-inflammatory drug proves to save lives among those sickest with COVID-19, and McDonald’s shares are slightly higher on improved sales in May.
Stocks were higher to start Tuesday, with the Dow gaining 748 points, or 2.9%. The S&P 500 added 2.8%, while the Nasdaq rose 2.36%.
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Stocks surged as a record jump in retail sales and news of a $1 trillion infrastructure plan to reignite the economy sent sentiment soaring. According to the Commerce Department, U.S. retail sales jumped 17.7% in May, the biggest jump on record and double forecasts. “As states began to reopen their economies, households reopened their wallets,”said Andrew Grantham, economist at CIBC. “However, this is probably the easier part of the recovery in consumer spending, with pent-up demand as consumers sat at home supported by stimulus checks many households received in April. While those factors could support another strong gain in sales in June, thereafter the recovery will get slower and more uneven.” The Trump Administration is also reportedly working on a nearly $1 trillion infrastructure spending proposal which would include traditional infrastructure work like roads and bridges, as well as 5G wireless infrastructure and rural broadband. It is unclear how the administration’s proposal will authorize spending or how it will pay for the programs, though it’s possible that the infrastructure measures being drafted could be rolled into the next round of coronavirus pandemic relief.
Also pushing stocks higher this morning was news from the University of Oxford that dexamethasone, a cheap and widely used steroid, has proven to be the first drug shown to be able to save lives among COVID-19 patients in what scientists hailed as a “major breakthrough.” Oxford researchers reported today that deaths among patients who needed breathing assistance were lower over a four week period when they received the widely used anti-inflammatory drug. “It’s because we’ve backed the science and because we’ve taken an approach that’s guided by the science that we’ve been able to get this result,” said U.K. Heath Secretary Matt Hancock. In other positive coronavirus news, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said today that efficacy data for its COVID-19 vaccine could be available as soon as Thanksgiving if everything goes right. Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine is currently in its phase 2 trials, with final-stage trials expected to begin next month with 30,000 people in the test group. Bancel said he’s cautiously optimistic that one or more of Moderna’s vaccines in testing will work.
But it’s not all good news this morning. Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell warned there’s “significant uncertainty” regarding the pace of the U.S. economic recovery and said small businesses and lower-income and minority Americans are particularly at risk. In his semiannual testimony before Congress, Powell said that while some indicators have shown improvement, there’s still a long way to go as the economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic. “The levels of output and employment remain far below their pre-pandemic levels, and significant uncertainty remains about the timing and strength of the recovery,” Powell told the Senate banking committee. “Much of that economic uncertainty comes from uncertainty about the path of the disease and the effects of measures to contain it. Until the public is confident that the disease is contained, a full recovery is unlikely.” Elsewhere, Stephen Roach, the former chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, said this morning that a crash of the U.S. dollar is virtually inevitable as the U.S. budget deficit balloons. “The U.S. economy has been afflicted with some significant macro imbalances for a long time, namely a very low domestic savings rate and a chronic current account deficit. … These problems are going from bad to worse as we blow out the fiscal deficit in the years ahead,” Roach said to CNBC. “The dollar is going to fall very, very sharply.”
And in an escalation of tensions, North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office on its side of the border on the divided peninsula. The move, which is the most serious provocation by North Korea in years, comes about a week after the regime abandoned its operations at the South Korea-funded facility, and just days after Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, Kim Jo Jong, issued a statement saying that it is “high time” to break ties with South Korea. “North Korea is working toward re-militarization of Kaesong industrial complex,” said Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Centre for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute. “And blowing up the liaison office in the complex would just be the first stem on their road map.”
McDonald’s shares are up slightly this morning after the fast food giant said sales markedly improved in May from April. In May, McDonald’s said same-store sales fell just 5.1% in the U.S. as the chain reopened dining rooms, up from a 19.2% decline in April. Across all three of its segments—U.S., international operated markets, and international developmental licensed markets—same-store sales improved from April to May. Still, McDonald’s traffic and same-store sales remain negative, with breakfast taking a particularly hard hit as consumers working from home switch to making their own morning meals.
Stocks We’re Watching
Momenta Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: MNTA): Momenta shares jumped as much as 21% higher yesterday after the biotech announced positive topline data from an interim analysis of its phase 2 Vivacity-MG study of nipocalimab (M281) in generalized myasthenia gravis (gMG). “We are thrilled with the success of nipocalimab’s proof of concept trial in MG. We met our primary endpoint in this trial, demonstrating rapid and durable responses in all 4 dosing arms and a significant correlation between IgG reduction and efficacy,” said Craig Wheeler, President and CEO of Momenta Pharmaceuticals. “The data we are sharing today continues to build the evidence that nipocalimab has the potential to be a best-in-class agent in terms of efficacy, safety and dosing. Thank you to the patients, families and researchers who made this study possible, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. We look forward to sharing the full data set later this year at a medical conference and discussing our phase 3 plans as we work to bring forward what we hope will be the best in class FcRn agent.”
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