U.S. GDP Dropped The Most On Record In The Second Quarter

Plus, jobless claims rose to 1.43 million last week, Johnson & Johnson said its coronavirus vaccine candidate protected moneys from the virus with a single shot, and big tech reports earnings after the bell. 

Stocks fell sharply to start Thursday with the Dow trading 500 points lower, or 1.9%. The S&P 500 slipped 1.5%, while the Nasdaq fell 1.1%.

Worst ever. The U.S. economy saw its biggest quarterly plunge ever in the second quarter as gross domestic product from April to June plunged 32.9%. The Commerce Department’s report result wasn’t quite as bad as the 34.7% plunge expected by economists, it was the steepest annualized decline in quarterly records dating back to 1947. “We already know that activity rebounded strongly in May and June, setting the stage for a strong rise in GDP in the third quarter,” said Andrew Hunger, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics. “Nevertheless, with the more recent resurgence in virus cases starting to weigh on the economy in July, continued ‘V-shaped’ recovery is unlikely.”

In a separate report out this morning, the Labor Department said initial jobless claims rose 1.43 million last week, marking the nineteenth straight week of at least 1 million claims and the second consecutive week in which initial claims rose after declining for 15 straight weeks. Continuing claims rose by 867,000 to 17.018 million. “the level of claims still remaining elevated and the rise in continuing claims definitely reflects the reclosings over the past few weeks [that] we’ve seen in some states where the virus has flared up in,” said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group. “Bumpy and uneven will be the economic recovery until we have a vaccine where most of the world is mass inoculated.”

Amid the grim economic news, Republicans and Democrats appear far from striking an agreement on a coronavirus relief bill. Negotiators on both sides report little progress in talks as congressional leaders snipe at one another on Capitol Hill. The Trump administration has raised the prospect of a short-term plan to address only enhanced unemployment insurance and a federal eviction moratorium while the sides hash out a larger bill, though Democrats have repeatedly rejected a temporary fix. “We’re nowhere close to a deal,” said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows yesterday following a meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. The three biggest roadblocks remained McConnell’s plan to shield employers against lawsuits stemming from COVID-19 infections, and Democrats’ drive to maintain $600-a-week supplemental unemployment payments as well as the $1 trillion in aid to state and local governments included in their bill from May. 

Johnson & Johnson said that its experimental coronavirus vaccine protected a group of macaques with a single shot in an early study, prompting the drugmaker to begin human trials in humans this month. The data “show our SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate generated a strong antibody response and provide protection with a single dose,” said Paul Stoffels, Johnson & Johnson’s chief scientific officer. “The findings give us confidence as we progress our vaccine development and upscale manufacturing in parallel, having initiated a Phase 1/2a trial in July with the intention to move into a Phase 3 trial in September.”

And in earnings news, UPS shares are up nearly 15% this morning after posting a 13% jump in revenue in the second quarter to $20.5 billion. UPS managed to “crush elevated expectations on surge in volume,” said JPMorgan analyst Brian Ossenbeck. “Parcel carriers have a unique opportunity to increase price given demand has never been higher for delivery services.” PayPal reported its strongest quarterly performance ever amid a shift to online and contactless payments amid the coronavirus pandemic. Procter & Gamble reported sales rose 4% as consumers stocked up on household cleaning products, and Comcast delivered an earnings beat, posting strong internet customer growth and 10 million sign-ups for its new Peacock streaming service. The picture wasn’t so rosy for Yum! Brands, which said same-store sales fell 15% in its second quarter, while Dunkin Brands said revenue in the quarter fell 20%. After the bell, watch for reports from big tech names Apple, Amazon, Google-parent Alphabet, and Facebook

Stocks We’re Watching

Heat Biologics Inc (NASDAQ: HTBX): Heat Biologics shares gained as much as 38% yesterday after the biopharma company announced successful pre-clinical testing of its COVID-19 vaccine. “We are pleased to report this significant milestone in the development of our COVID-19 vaccine,” said Jeff Wolf, CEO of Heat. “Specifically, our latest pre-clinical studies demonstrated immunogenicity proof-of-concept, illustrating that our vaccine can expand human-HLA-restricted T-cells against immunodominant epitopes of SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein, and validating that the selected vaccine antigen may be appropriate for human testing.”