Plus, weekly jobless claims hit their lowest level in the pandemic era but still came in above 1 million, White House and congressional Democratic negotiators have a self-imposed deadline of Friday to come to agreement on a relief package, and Bausch Health is spinning off is eye care business.
Stocks traded along the flatten to start Thursday with the Dow adding just 1 point. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq slipped 0.1% lower.
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Weekly jobless claims hit their lowest level of the pandemic era. The Labor Department reported initial jobless claims of 1.186 million for the week ended August 1, representing a drop of 249,000 from the week prior. Even as economists expected initial claims to come in around 1.5 million, the damage to the labor market remains deep and this report marks the 20th consecutive week that claims have run above 1 million. Continuing claims dropped by 844,000 to 16.1 million. “Both initial and continuing claims are at extremely high levels, and indicate that many employers continued to lay off workers in July,” said PNC senior economist Bill Adams in a note. “Further complicating the picture, the expiration of extended unemployment insurance benefits on July 31 may be clouding the signal from the claims data.”
The White House and congressional Democrats are running up against a self-imposed deadline to come to agreement on the next coronavirus relief package with little sign they’ve narrowed most fundamental differences. “Our objective is to try to reach an understanding of the major issues by Friday,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters after meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday. “If we can’t reach an agreement on the major issues, it’s going to be hard to complete a deal.” Still, both Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell believe a deal will be reached eventually. “Exactly when that deal comes together I can’t tell you, but I think it will at some point in the near future,” McConnell said. Pelosi said, “Will we find a solution? We will. Will we have an agreement? We will.”
Coronavirus cases in the U.S. have risen to more than 4.82 million. White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said that U.S. regulators overseeing the approval of potential coronavirus vaccines have promised scientists that politics won’t play a role in their approval process. “We have assurances, and I’ve discussed this with the regulatory authorities, that they promise that they are not going to let political considerations interfere with a regulatory decision,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said to Reuters. “We’ve spoken explicitly about that, because the subject obviously comes up, and the people in charge of the regulatory process assure us that safety and efficacy is going to be the prime consideration.” Fauci’s reassurance comes after President Donald Trump said this week that a vaccine may be made available to the public “far in advance of the end of the year” even as the nation’s top infectious disease experts believe a vaccine is more likely in the early part of 2021.
Nintendo reported operating profits skyrocketed 428% in its fiscal first quarter to 144.7 billion yen ($1.4 billion). The video game company posted a year-over-year gain of 108% for net sales to 358.1 billion yen and said sales of its popular Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite consoles grew around 167% to 5.68 million units in the quarter. Elsewhere, Restaurant Brands International reported its second quarter revenue plunged 25% as the coronavirus pandemic weighed on same-store sales at Burger King and Tim Hortons. And Cronos Group shares are down more than -14% this morning after the cannabis producer reported a second quarter net loss of $107 million, sales of $9.9 million, and a $3.1 million inventory write-down. “Broadly, excess supply and increased competition around the low-end remain concerns for us,” said MKM Partners analyst Bill Kirk. “With outdoor harvest coming in the next two months, we expect pricing pressure to continue, making industry operating margin unlikely to improve. that said, Cronos has limited exposure to those factors.”
Bausch Health Companies shares are up more than 7% this morning after the company said it is planning to spin off its eye-care business into a separate public company. Its Bausch & Lomb business accounted for nearly half of the company’s $8.6 billion in revenue last year, and the spin-off will allow Bausch to focus on expanding its position in GI, aesthetics and dermatology, neurology, and international pharma. “We are committed to taking action to unlock what we see as unrecognized value in Bausch Health shares, and we believe that separating our business into two highly focused, stand-alone companies is the way to accomplish that goal,” said Joseph C. Papa, chairman and CEO of Bausch Health. “Four years ago, we initiated a multi-phase plan, first to stabilize and then to transform Bausch Health into a company positioned to deliver long-term organic growth. We have divested approximately $4 billion of non-core assets, paid down over $8 billion of debt, resolved numerous legacy legal issues and managed a loss of exclusivity on an approximately $1.4 billion product portfolio, while also investing in R&D, new product launches and core franchises with attractive growth opportunities. Our Board of Directors and management team have been working on alternatives over the last 12 months to determine how to best unlock value across our businesses, and we believe that the time is right to begin the separation process, so each business has greater flexibility to pursue strategic opportunities in their respective markets.”
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Aileron Therapeutics Inc (NASDAQ: ALRN): Aileron Therapeutics shares are up nearly 61% over the last week following its announcement that it has completed enrollment in the dose optimization expansion cohort of its ongoing open-label Phase 1b clinical study of ALRN-6924. Aileron is studying ALRN-6924 as a therapeutic age administered ahead of chemotherapy to prevent chemotherapy-induced bone marrow toxicities, including severe anemia, thrombocytopenia, and neutropenia, in patients with p52-mutated small cell lung cancer who are being treated with topotecan. “We’re very encouraged by the data we reported from the dose optimization part of the Phase 1b in June demonstrating ALRN-6924’s potential to shield multiple healthy cell types from chemotherapy-induced damage without limiting the effect of chemotherapy on cancer cells,” said Manuel Aivado, M.D., Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer at Aileron. “Per the interim findings, the 0.3 mg/kg dose of ALRN-6924 achieved the most robust and consistent chemoprotective effects of the three dose levels evaluated. The chemoprotection results were further supported by pharmacodynamic biomarker results also observed in the interim analysis.”
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