Stocks were mixed to start Thursday with the Dow dropping 207 points, or 0.7%. The S&P 500 slid 0.4%, while the Nasdaq rose 0.3%.
Initial unemployment claims fell by the most in five weeks, signaling the gradual recovery in the labor market amid the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing. The Labor Department reported new jobless claims for the week ended November 7 of 709,000, down 48,000 from the week prior. Continuing claims fell by 436,000 to 6.79 million for the week ended October 31, while the number of people claiming support in programs offering extended assistance continued to rise as more Americans exhausted their regular state benefits. “I can’t stress enough that 700,000 initial claims a week is an extraordinarily high number,” said Lewis Alexander, chief U.S. economist at Nomura Securities International Inc. “The fact that continuing claims are stable in an environment where you have that level of initial claims means that there’s a lot of hiring going on as well. And we still are just in a very disrupted state.”
The U.S. reported more than 152,000 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, setting the highest single-day record yet and pushing the national seven-day average to more than 130,000. Fatalities rose to their highest level since May, with 1,987 deaths reported on Wednesday. White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci warned this morning that a vaccine may not be enough to help eradicate the deadly virus. “We essentially put it to rest but… putting it to rest doesn’t mean eradicating it,” Fauci said in reference to coming vaccines. “I doubt we are going to eradicate this. I think we need to plan that this is something we may need to maintain control over chronically. It may be something that becomes endemic, that we have to just be careful about. Certainly, it is not going to be a pandemic for a lot longer because I believe the vaccines are going to turn that around.”
Speaking of vaccines, Moderna shares are up nearly 4% this morning after the company said on Wednesday that its coronavirus vaccine study has accumulated more than 53 infections, allowing a preliminary analysis of the shot’s effectiveness to begin. Moderna didn’t say how long it may take an independent monitoring committee to analyze the data, but said that the blinded data could be delivered to the committee within the coming days. “Moderna has seen a significant increase in the rate of case identification across sites in the last week,” the company said in a statement. “As a result, the company expects the first interim analysis will include substantially more than 53 cases, the targeted trigger point for the analysis.”
Walmart is going to the dogs. The big box retailer launched Walmart Pet Care today. The full-service, omnichannel business will include animal products, pet insurance, dog walking, and pet sitting via partnerships with PetPlan and Rover, as well as its online pharmacy, WalmartPetRX. Melody Richard, vice president of Walmart Pets, said Walmart customers will get unique discounts and perks, including 10% off on pet insurance policies. “We’re focused on bringing our customers and the beloved pets in their lives trusted, convenient and affordable programs at one destination,” Richard said. “And we’ll continue to focus on that.”
And Ford unveiled its new all-electric Transit van this morning. The company said it expects the electric van will help it hold on to its lead in commercial vans as new and longtime competitors enter the growing space. “Our commercial business is absolutely key to the company,” said Ted Cannis, Ford North America general manager of commercial business, adding that the Transit will be profitable. “We were targeting customers that have to do real work.” The all-electric Transit is expected to arrive late next year and will start at under $45,000, and is part of Ford’s plan to invest $11.5 billion in electric vehicles through 2022.
Stocks We’re Watching
Surface Oncology Inc (NASDAQ: SURF): Surface Oncology shares are up 4% today following yesterday’s announcement that the FDA has granted Fast Track designation to its SRF388 treatment for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), or liver cancer. “Liver cancer is the most rapidly increasing type of cancer in both men and women in the U.S., with incidences tripling since 1980. There is a significant need to expedite the development of new therapies to treat liver cancer as the five-year survival for patients with unresectable or metastatic liver cancer is less than five percent,” said Rob Ross, M.D., chief medical officer. “SRF388 targets IL-27, an immuno-suppressive cytokine that has been found to be elevated in patients with liver cancer, as well as kidney cancer, and we believe SRF388 has the potential to be an effective treatment option for these patients, as monotherapy or in combination with anti-PD-1 therapies.”