Jobless Claims Climb To Nearly 1 Million As Coronavirus Cases Continue To Surge

Plus, President Trump was impeached by the House for a second time, Delta shares are up even after reporting its worst year ever, and Yum Brands shares are up after its Taco Bell chain said it was bringing potatoes back.

Stocks were higher to start Thursday with the Dow adding 113 points, or 0.4%. The S&P 500 rose 0.2%, while the Nasdaq gained 0.6%.

Jobless claims rose to nearly 1 million last week, the most since late March 2020, amid signs of a slowdown in hiring due to the growing coronavirus crisis. The Labor Department reported initial jobless claims for last week of 965,000, far above economists estimates for a reading of around 800,000 and the previous week’s total of 784,000. Continuing claims were also higher, rising 199,000 to 5.27 million. “The restrictions imposed to combat the third COVID wave clearly have done great damage, but it’s not obvious that the incremental hit is still increasing,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. “Claims will drift sideways, more or less, over the next two to three months, before restrictions on the services sector can be gradually eased as vaccination brings herd immunity into sight.”

President Donald Trump was impeached by the House for the second time Wednesday afternoon, with the chamber charging him with high crimes and misdemeanors for inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol las week. The chamber charged Trump in a 232-197 vote, with all Democrats and 10 Republicans backing the measure. The article of impeachment now heads to the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said there is no chance that the chamber will convict Trump before the end of his term. As Trump’s term comes to an end and President-elect Joe Biden’s term nears its start, Biden is expected to unveil his long-awaited stimulus plan today, which is expected to include another round of direct payments to most Americans, an extension of increased unemployment insurance, and support for state and local governments.

As the U.S. surpasses 23 million coronavirus cases and nears 400,000 deaths from COVID-19, researchers found that those who have been infected with the deadly virus are likely to have some form of immunity for at least five months following infection. The U.K.-based study found antibodies provide an 83% rate of protection against reinfection. “We now know that most of those who have had the virus, and developed antibodies, are protected from reinfection, but this is not total and we do not yet know how long protection lasts. Crucially, we believe people may still be able to pass the virus on,” said Susan Hopkins, a senior medical advisor at Public Health England and the lead of the SIREN study. “This means even if you believe you already had the disease and are protected, you can be reassured it is highly unlikely you will develop severe infections, but there is still a risk that you could acquire an infection and transmit to others. Now more than ever it is vital we all stay at home to protect our health service and save lives.”

Delta shares are up more than 3% this morning after reporting that it halved its cash burn and narrowed its losses in the fourth quarter, even as the coronavirus pandemic led the carrier to its worst year ever. The airline posted a record net loss of nearly $12.39 billion for 2020, and reported adjusted earnings per share of $2.53 on revenue of $3.97 billion, compared to estimates for a loss of $2.50 per share on revenue of $3.59 billion. Delta CEO Ed Bastian said that the airline expects to turn cash-flow positive this spring as COVID-19 vaccines are administered and people begin to travel again. “While our challenges continue in 2021, I am optimistic this will be a year of recovery and a trueing point that results in an even stronger Delta returning to revenue growth, profitability and free cash generation,” Bastian said.

And Yum Brands shares are up 2% today after its Taco Bell chain said it was bringing back its popular potato options and will be testing a menu item with a Beyond Meat substitute after having cut meat-free options from its menu last year. Beginning on March 11, customers will be able to order the Spicy Potato Soft Taco and Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes for the first time since they were eliminated from Taco Bell’s menu in September. Liz Matthews, Taco Bell’s global chief food innovation officer, said that the chain is also planning new menu items that use the Fiesta Potatoes, and added that the forthcoming item with Beyond Meat is “going to be unique to the things that you’ve seen elsewhere, so we’re definitely going to put our Taco Bell innovation and spin on it.”

Stocks We’re Watching

Vuzix Corp (NASDAQ: VUZI): Vuzix shares gained nearly 20% yesterday after the company announced that it is working with medical device company BioSig Technologies to offer remote servicing for BioSig’s PURE EP System for electrophysiology, expanding Vuzix’s remote support solutions for the medical device market. “Vuzix continues to support numerous medical and healthcare organizations that are relying on our smart glasses to perform a wide range of services in healthcare ranging from performing surgeries, providing patient care, training, remote learning, remote field services, and much more,” said Vuzix President and CEO Paul Travers. “Vuzix Smart Glasses have been deployed successfully around the world to support healthcare and solve operational challenges. We are happy to support BioSig as they continue their plans for commercialization of their PURE EP System.”

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