The U.S. Will Pay Sanofi & GlaxoSmithKline Up To $2.1 Billion For 100 Million Doses Of Their Coronavirus Vaccine Candidate

Plus, big tech stocks crushed earnings, $600-a-week unemployment benefits are set to expire with no agreement on a new stimulus bill in Congress, Merck is preparing to launch a large study of its experimental coronavirus treatment, and Pinterest is on the rise.

Stocks were mixed to start Friday with the Dow falling 161 points, or 0.6%, and the S&P 500 dropping 0.3%. The Nasdaq gained 0.2%.

Four big tech stocks added $214 billion in market value after reporting earnings beats Thursday after the bell. Apple and Amazon both posted quarter results that crushed expectations, while Facebook and Google-parent Alphabet posted solid, if less jaw-dropping, results. “Obviously, no one was doubting any of those companies so the fact they all exceeded expectations isn’t exactly shocking,” said Vital Knowledge’s Adam Crisafulli in a note. “Investors are now trying to smooth out some of the numbers (i.e. how much of the monster upside was a function of extremely conservative guidance along w/an unsustainable spike in revenue and decline in expenses?)” Apple also announced a four-for-one stock split, which means that for each share of Apple an investor owns, they’ll receive three additional shares, which in turn makes the stock more affordable for investors to buy.

As $600-a-week unemployment benefits expire, Congress has failed to agree on the next coronavirus stimulus deal and the Senate has gone home for a three-day weekend. Congress is struggling to find common ground on a relief bill even after Thursday’s report of another 1.43 million initial jobless claims and second quarter GDP that fell by a record 32.9% amid the coronavirus shutdowns. “On certain issues we made progress, on certain issues we’re still very far apart,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin following a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Mnuchin added that the two sides would continue talking Friday and Saturday, or “as long as it takes to get this done.” The Trump administration and congressional Republicans are pressuring Democrats to go along with a stopgap extension of the expanded unemployment benefit and a moratorium on evictions while talks continue on a more comprehensive deal, while Pelosi says a one-week extension to avoid a lapse in benefits would be “worthless” without the prospect of a comprehensive deal. “We just don’t think they really understand the gravity of the problem,” Schumer said.

The U.S. government will pay drugmaker Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline up to $2.1 billion to develop and deliver 100 million doses of their coronavirus vaccine candidate, the companies said Friday. The funds will be used to support further development of the vaccine, including clinical trials, as well as manufacturing for delivery of the 100 million doses. The U.S. will have the option to order an additional 500 million doses. “The global need for a vaccine to help prevent COVID-19 is massive, and no single vaccine or company will be able to meet the global demand alone,” said Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president and global head of Sanofi’s vaccine division in a statement. “From the beginning of the pandemic, Sanofi has leveraged its deep scientific expertise and resources to help address this crisis, collaborating with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to unlock a rapid path toward developing a pandemic vaccine and manufacturing at large scale.”

Merck said it has scheduled “very large pivotal studies” for its oral coronavirus treatment in collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics as early as September. “We will be embarking, probably in September, on very large pivotal studies, and so those are going to be the important ones,” said Dr Roger Perlmutter, president of Merck Research Laboratories, on the pharmaceutical giant’s second quarter earnings call. Merck’s experimental therapeutic, dubbed MK-4482, is in the midst of phase two trials, and if approved, would join Gilead’s remdesivir as a treatment for critically ill coronavirus patients. “The good news about MK-4482 is that because it’s an oral drug given in capsules, it can be easily administered from the time that people have symptoms,” Perlmutter added.

And in other earnings news, Pinterest shares are up 33% this morning after the company reported a second quarter jump in revenue and a surge in users returning to the social-sharing app. “People needed Pinterest in Q2,” the company said in a statement. “They needed a service that helped them adjust to radically changed circumstances – one that inspired them to cook at home, build vegetable gardens, plan activities for their kids and set up remote offices and home gyms, to name just a few typical COVID-19-related use cases we saw during the quarter.” And Exxon and Chevron posted their worst losses in a generation after the pandemic and a global crude glut battered their businesses in the second quarter. Exxon posted a $1.1 billion loss, its deepest loss in its modern history. “I was looking at the press release and was like, ‘Is that a typo?’” said Edward D. Jones analyst Jennifer Rowland. “It’s mind boggling for a company the size of Exxon.” Chevron reported its weakest performance in at least three decades and warned that the global pandemic wreaking havoc on energy markets could continue to weight on earnings into the future. “While demand and commodity prices have shown signs of recovery, they are not back to pre-pandemic levels, and financial results may continue to be depressed into the third quarter,” Chevron said in a statement.

Stocks We’re Watching

Teledoc Health Inc (NYSE: TDOC): Teladoc Health shares jumped nearly 10% yesterday after reporting better-than-expected revenue growth, posting an 85% year-over-year jump to revenue of $241 million. “Even as we continue to battle the coronavirus in the U.S. and other hard-hit countries, we are also seeing sustained demand in areas that are no longer considered hot spots. In some states where the curve has flattened, we are still seeing twice as many patient visits as last year,” Teladoc CEO Jason Gorevic said in a statement. “While Covid-19 has accelerated the virtual care needs of consumers and providers alike, our broad based momentum in 2020 and beyond is rooted in the satisfaction and trust our partners have in our ability to transform the healthcare experience.”

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