Stocks were higher to start Thursday with the Dow adding 28 points, or less than 0.1%. The S&P 500 gained nearly 0.2%, while the Nasdaq rose 0.5%.
Bitcoin surged as high as $48,297 this morning, hitting a new all-time high after Bank of New York Mellon said it would provide custody services for digital assets. “BNY Mellon is proud to be the first global bank to announce plans to provide an integrated service for digital assets,” said Roman Regelman, CEO of asset servicing and head of digital at BNY Mellon. “Growing client demand for digital assets, maturity of advanced solutions, and improving regulatory clarity present a tremendous opportunity for us to extend our current service offerings to this emerging field.” Also pushing the cryptocurrency higher, Mastercard said on Wednesday that it would offer support for some cryptocurrencies on its network this year. “Mastercard’s plans to integrate crypto payments represents another indicator of the deep structural shifts taking place in our financial infrastructure,” said John Wu, president of Ava Labs. “Incumbent payment platforms are embracing digital currency solutions that are more equipped for the borderless, internet-enabled economy.”
Pot stocks are sinking this morning as the Reddit-inspired trade loses momentum. Tilray is down more than 38% today after rising more than 140% this week, Aurora Cannabis is down more than 20%, Aphria is down 30%, and Canopy Growth is down 21%, breaking a three day rally as traders tried to pump up the sector to multiyear highs. The rally in pot stocks this week centered around the pending merger between Tilray and Aphria, as well as the possible decriminalization of marijuana at the federal level under the Biden administration.
Jobless claims were worse than expected for last week. The Labor Department reported initial claims of 793,000, above the 760,000 expected by analysts. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for self-employed and gig workers rose by 1.5 million to 8.7 million, while the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program for those who have exhausted their regular state benefits came in at 4.8 million. “Job growth will remain soft for the next few months as the nation continues to struggle with the pandemic,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group. “But job growth will pick up in the spring as vaccine distribution and better weather make people more willing to venture out, and stimulus efforts have given consumers more money to spend.”
A rheumatoid arthritis drug by Roche has been found to reduce the risk of death in hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19, especially when used in combination with the steroid dexamethasone. Researchers from the University of Oxford found that Roche’s tocilizumab also shortened patients’ length of stay at hospitals and reduced the need for a ventilator. “Previous trials of tocilizumab had shown missed results, and it was unclear which patients might benefit from the treatment,” said Peter Horby, a professor at the University of Oxford and joint chief investigator for the trial said in a statement. “We now know that the benefits of tocilizumab extend to all COVID pattens with low oxygen levels and significant inflammation.”
And Kraft Heinz is selling its nuts businesses to Hormel for $3.35 billion. The cash deal includes Kraft Heinz’s Planters products and the Corn Nuts brand, and Hormel will also receive the global intellectual property rights to the two brands. The purchase by Hormel, which has a catalog of brands including Skippy peanut butter, Spam, and its eponymous deli meats, is the company’s largest to date. Hormel CEO Jim Snee said that the acquisition broadens its scope for future deals in the snacking category, saying in a statement, “The acquisition of the Planters business adds another $1 billion brand to our portfolio and significantly expands our presence in the growing snacking space.”
Stocks We’re Watching
TreeHouse Foods (NYSE: THS): TreeHouse Foods shares jumped as much as 23% yesterday after activist Jana Partners disclosed a 7.5% stake, and said in a filing that it believes the company’s shares are undervalued and that it should evaluate a sale. TreeHouse said in a statement, “TreeHouse has held multiple discussions with JANA in the spirit of maintaining constructive dialogue. During those conversations, JANA expressed strong support for the actions TreeHouse has taken to drive growth and profitability and enhance stockholder value. In particular, JANA has highlighted our strong position as a leader in private label, our progress in driving improved operating performance and cash flow, and the value creation opportunity that our acquisition of Riviana represents. TreeHouse is open to constructive input from all stockholders. The Board’s Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee will review JANA’s nominees in accordance with its process.”