Stocks were higher to start Thursday with the Dow opening just above the flatline. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq both added 0.2%.
On his first full day in office, President Joe Biden is unveiling a sweeping plan to combat the coronavirus, announcing 10 executive orders and directing agencies to use the Defense Production Act to require U.S. companies to prioritize the manufacturing of supplies including N95 masks, swabs, and other equipment to fight the pandemic. “The National Strategy provides a roadmap to guide America out of the worst public health crisis in a century,” Biden’s plan says. “America has always risen to the challenge we face and we will do so now. It’s past time to fix America’s COVID-response supply shortage problems for good.” The Biden administration will also seek to vaccinate 100 million Americans for the coronavirus within its first 100 days, and will establish a “COVID-19 Response Office” to coordinate the pandemic response across federal agencies and establish clear lines of communication to state and local officials.
In other COVID-19 news, Eli Lilly’s antibody therapy reduced nursing home residents’ risk of symptomatic COVID-19 by as much as 80% when used preventively, a new study found. The infused treatment, which has already been approved for use in high-risk coronavirus patients with mild-to-moderate disease who haven’t been hospitalized, was also found to significantly reduce the risk of symptomatic disease in nursing home workers. Lilly said it will work with U.S. regulators to explore expanding the experimental drug’s emergency-use authorization to include prevention of the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities, Lilly Chief Scientific Officer Daniel Skovronsky said. “This is an urgent situation,” Skovronsky said. “Where there’s an outbreak in nursing homes and people haven’t yet received the vaccine, this could be a potential way to protect them before they get it.”
The Labor Department reported initial jobless claims for last week came in at 900,000, below the previous week’s downwardly revised total of 926,000. Continuing claims decreased by 127,00 to 5.05 million, while the total number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits came in just below 16 million. The market reaction to the still-elevated reading was muted given the anticipation that President Biden and Congress will soon deliver another large infusion to help the economy through the pandemic. “Widespread vaccination is key to stopping the mounting labor-market damage,” said AnnElizabeth Konkel, economist at Indeed Inc. “Until people feel safe again, industries like hospitality and tourism cannot ramp back up. Right now, it’s a muted recovery at best.”
United Airlines shares are down nearly 7% this morning after it reported its fourth quarterly loss in a row late yesterday. The carrier posted an earnings loss of $7 per share on revenue of $3.41 billion, compared to estimates for an earnings loss of $6.60 per share on revenue of $3.44 billion. United CEO Scott Kirby said today that many more people will need to be vaccinated against the coronavirus before travel demand will return, pointing to difficult months ahead for the industry. “Until we can put as a society coronavirus in the rearview mirror, it’s going to continue to be a tough environment for aviation for everyone who’s involved in travel, tourism and leisure,” Kirby said. “We really need to get a critical mass of people in the country vaccinated, and we also need a scientific medical conclusion that it not only protects you from the virus when you get vaccinated but also protects you from transmitting the virus.”
Bitcoin is continuing its slump today, falling as low as $31,006 in the last 24 hours. The largest digital asset has trended lower ever since rising to $41,940 earlier this month. “Corrections are a natural part of any market and are especially natural in the bitcoin ecosystem,” said Michael Sonnenshein, CEO of Grayscale Investments. “From 2016 – 2017, we experienced 6 corrections of approximately 30% or more on the way to new highs.” JPMorgan strategists John Normand and Federico Manicardi wrote in a report released today, “Bitcoin has already achieved the fastest-ever price appreciation of any must-have asset. Current prices are so far above production costs that mean-reversion lower in returns is a recurring concern.”
Stocks We’re Watching
Adverum Biotechnologies (NASDAQ: ADVM): Adverum shares are up more than 18% over the last week following the clinical-stage gene therapy company’s announcement that it has completed enrollment for is INFINITY Phase 2 trial to evaluate a single intravitreal injection of ADVM-022 for the treatment of diabetic macular edema (DME). “2021 is an exciting year for Adverum as we build on the tremendous progress we have made to advance ADVM-022, a potential one-time intravitreal injection gene therapy for VEGF-driven retinal diseases, into a pivotal trial for wet AMD and in Phase 2 for DME. ADVM-022 has the potential to help millions of patients at risk of losing their vision,” Laurent Fischer, M.D., CEO at Adverum Biotechnologies, said in a statement. “Our investigators understand the potentially transformative clinical data emerging for ADVM-022, and we have seen rapid enrollment of patients in our clinical trials. In INFINITY, we began patient enrollment during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in less than six months, we recently completed patient enrollment. We look forward to sharing data from this trial in the second half of 2021. We are grateful to the participants and investigative sites. As we move through 2021, we are in a strong position with an expert team, a promising lead therapy, and expanding manufacturing capabilities which will enable us to continue to deliver on our mission to bring novel gene therapies to patients as quickly as possible.”