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The U.S. Surpassed 250,000 Deaths From COVID-19

The U.S. Surpassed 250,000 Deaths From COVID-19

Plus, AstraZeneca and Oxford University said their coronavirus vaccine shows the same immune response for all adults, including the elderly, jobless claims rose for the first time in five weeks, and Sonos delivered a massive earnings beat.

Stocks were mixed to start Thursday with the Dow dropping just 16 points, or 0.1%. The S&P 500 traded just below the flatline, while the Nasdaq rose 0.3%.

The U.S. hit the grim milestone of 250,000 deaths from the coronavirus. The national seven-day average of daily new infections has risen to 161,165, 26% higher than a week ago. As cases continue to rise, the demand for COVID-19 testing is spiking with an average of 1.6 million tests run every day over the last week. The surge in demand is yet again stressing the supply chain for tests, leading to long lines for testing, shortages in testing kits and other supplies, and processing delays across the country. With coronavirus cases running rampant across the U.S., cities and states across the nation are closing nonessential businesses, limiting public and private gatherings, and imposing mask mandates to try to slow the rapid spread ahead of the winter season. “We are in the worst moment of this pandemic to date,” said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer during a new conference while announcing a ban on in-person high school and college classes as well as indoor dining service for three weeks. “The situation has never been more dire We are at the precipice and we need to take some action.”

In positive COVID news, AstraZeneca and Oxford University said their coronavirus vaccine candidate is safe and triggers a similar immune response among all adults, according to preliminary findings of a peer-reviewed phase two trial. “In this study, we have… been trying to examine the immune responses in older adults and address this question that has been out there about as you get older whether the immune system is less able to respond,” said professor Andrew Pollard, the head of Oxford’s vaccine trial team. “And these first data are really encouraging… showing that we are getting very good immune responses – even in the over 70s, which look very similar to those in younger adults.” Elsewhere, Roche’s rheumatoid arthritis medicine Actemra was found to help severely ill patients survive COVID-19 in a clinical trial. Professor Anthony Gordon, Chair in Anaesthesia and Critical Care at Imperial College London and a Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said, “These early findings show that treatment with this immune modulating drug is effective for critically ill COVID-19 patients in intensive care units. When we have the results available from all participants, we hope our findings will offer clear guidance to clinicians for improving the outcomes of the sickest COVID-19 patients.”

Jobless claims rose for the first time in five weeks. The Labor Department reported today that new jobless claims totaled 742,000 for last week, well ahead of economists’ estimate for a reading of 710,000. Continuing claims, which trail by a week, fell 429,000 to 6.37 million, while the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which runs two weeks behind, increased by 233,458 to 4.38 million. “The road to recovery is likely to be quite rocky, unfortunately,” said Nathan Sheets, PGIM Fixed Income’s chief economist and a former Federal Reserve official. “The virus and the restrictions being put in place to fight the virus are likely to take a bite out of economic activity over the next, say, three or four months.”

Macy’s reported a quarterly same-store sales decline of more than 20% today. The department store retailer posted a loss of $0.19 per share on revenue of $3.99 billion for its fiscal third quarter. “COVID is surging again across the country,” said Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette during a post-earnings call with analysts. “And that continues to impede our recovery, in international tourism and urban areas. And the supply chains have opened up, yet problems remain.” In a separate interview, Gennette added, “We’re going to continue to grow very robustly [online], with double-digit growth. But I do expect that it continues to taper off, as our stores come online and get stronger.”

And Sonos shares are up nearly 27% this morning following its massive earnings beat after the bell on Wednesday. The speaker maker reported earnings per share of $0.33 on revenue of $339.8 million, compared to estimates for earnings of $0.00 per share on revenue of $298.8 million. Sonos also said it projects $1.44 billion to $1.5 billion in revenue for fiscal year 2021, implying 11% to 15% growth, well ahead of the $1.38 billion projected by analysts. “While Sonos has historically been valued as a single-product, product cycle dependent hardware company, it is becoming clear that consistent product launches, strong new household growth and growing engagement within existing households combine to deliver consistent top and bottom-line growth not enjoyed by many of its consumer electronics peers,” Morgan Stanley said in a note to investors.

Stocks We’re Watching

Socket Mobile (NASDAQ: SCKT): Socket Mobile shares gained nearly 30% yesterday after announcing that its SocketScan S550 Contactless Membership Card Reader/Writer has passed the Google Wallet Certification process. “The S550 delivers an engaging, contactless, and frictionless experience for your customers and guests using mobile passes.  The Capture SDK provides our developers with the tools to use the magic of the Google Wallet eco-system.  We’re excited to be at the forefront of these new mobile pass capabilities and their ability to improve customer experiences” said Vince Coli, Staff Director, Technical Product Marketing.

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