Plus, new coronavirus cases hit a record again, Amazon is acquiring self-driving start-up Yoox, Microsoft is permanently closing its retail locations, and Virgin Galactic successfully completed an important test.
Stocks were lower to start Friday with the Dow falling 464 points, or 1.8%. The S&P 500 slid 1.5%, while the Nasdaq traded 1.7% lower.
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New coronavirus cases in the U.S. hit a new record again yesterday, with nearly 40,000 confirmed new cases. As cases spike there, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced this morning that he will roll back some of the state’s reopening measures just a day after saying the state would pause its reopening effort. “As I said from the start, if the positivity rate rose about 10%, the State of Texas would take further action to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Abbott said in a press release. “At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars.” The roll-back in Texas reflects a growing caution nationwide as the virus races across the U.S., extending its tentacles into places largely spared at the beginning of the outbreak. “We reopened too early,” said Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “Masks alone are not going to be adequate.”
Gap shares jumped 42% this morning after rapper and designer Kanye Week tweeted a photo that touted his collaboration with the retailer. Gap said West is developing a clothing line for men, women, and kids called Yeezy Gap to be sold in-store and online. The retailer added that the items from West’s Yeezy fashion brand will be made up of “modern, elevated basics” and will be sold at “accessible price points.” The line is expected to debut in 2021, and while Gap didn’t disclose terms of the deal, Yeezy will reportedly receive royalties and possibly equity depending on the new line’s sales. “We are excited to welcome Kanye back to the Gap family as a creative visionary, building on the aesthetic and success of his YEEZY brand and together defining a next-level retail partnership,” said Mark Breitbard, Gap’s global head of brand.
Amazon announced today that it is acquiring self-driving start-up Yoox. Amazon said Yoox will continue to operate as a standalone business within the e-commerce giant, and that the deal will help bring Yoox’s “vision of autonomous ride-hailing to reality.” Some have speculated that Zoox could provide Amazon with the technology for autonomous delivery vehicles, helping Amazon to slash shipping costs, one of its largest expenses. “Zoox is working to imagine, invent, and design a world-class autonomous ride-hailing experience,” said Jeff Wilke, Amazon CEO of global consumer. “Like Amazon, Zoox is passionate about innovation and about its customers, and we’re excited to help the talented Zoox team to bring their vision to reality in the years ahead.”
Microsoft said this morning that it will permanently close its Microsoft Store retail locations, and refocus on its online store. The move will result in a pretax charge of around $450 million, or $0.05 per share, in the current quarter, the company said in a statement. “Our sales have grown online as our product portfolio has evolved to largely digital offerings, and our talented team has proven success serving customers beyond any physical location,” said Microsoft Corporate Vice President David Porter in a blog post. “We are grateful to our Microsoft Store customers and we look forward to continuing to serve them online and with our retail sales team at Microsoft corporate locations.” The company added, “Microsoft will continue to invest in its digital storefronts on Microsoft.com, and stores in Xbox and Windows, reading more than 1.2 billion people every month in 190 markets. The company will also reimagine spaces that serve all customers, including operating Microsoft Experience Centers in London, NYC, Sydney, and Redmond campus locations.”
Virgin Galactic shares gained nearly 5% at the open today following the company successfully completing its second glide flight test in New Mexico on Thursday, a milestone that should set the company up to soon begin spaceflights. “I am thrilled with the team’s hard work to complete today’s test flight successfully,” said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides in a statement. “It was an important test that, pending data review, means we can now start preparing the vehicles for powered flight.” The company also completed a “wet dress rehearsal” of its systems and facilities last weekend, including fueling up the spacecraft Unity on the runway. Virgin Galactic has said that it expects to begin commercial operations this summer and aims to be profitable by 2021.
Stocks We’re Watching
Aptevo Therapeutics Inc (NASDAQ: APVO): Aptevo shares jumped as much as 104% yesterday after the biotech announced that it will receive a royalty from Pfizer related to sales of a rituximab biosimilar product, RUXIENCE (Rituximab-pvvr), which was approved by the FDA in July 2019 and launched by Pfizer in the U.S. and Japan in early 2020. “We are pleased to be receiving this first royalty payment from Pfizer and look forward to future quarterly payments, all of which will contribute non-dilutive funding to support our organization,” said Marvin L. White, Aptevo President and CEO. “This funding will help to support the advancement of our novel ADAPTIR™ bispecific antibody platform and more specifically, our lead ADAPTIR bispecific candidate, APVO436, which is progressing in a Phase 1/1b clinical study for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia. Dosing in cohort 6 of the study is currently underway. We look forward to providing an update on this clinical program as additional data are available.”
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