Morning Brief

What to watch today: Dow to soar on coronavirus vaccine hopes

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Dow futures were pointing to a strong gain at this morning's open to begin the holiday-shortened trading week as investors bet on the economy reopening and a coronavirus vaccine breakthrough. With four trading days left in May, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is on track for a monthly gain. (CNBC)

Shares of Novavax (NVAX) were soaring about 20% in Tuesday's premarket after the Maryland-based biotech announced the start of a phase one clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine candidate. Earlier this month, Massachusetts-based Moderna reported positive developments on its vaccine trial. (Reuters)

New Jersey-based Merck (MRK) said it plans to work on a coronavirus vaccine alongside IAVI, a nonprofit scientific research organization. In a separate move, Merck has agreed to acquire Austria-based Themis. Shares of Dow component Merck were higher in the premarket.

On Tuesday's economic calendar, S&P/Case-Shiller reports on March home prices at 9 a.m. ET, one of two housing market data sets due out today. The government, which is out with new home sales for April at 10 a.m. ET, is expected to show a nearly 22% decline after March's 15.4% drop. The Conference Board's May Consumer Confidence Index is also released at 10 a.m. ET., (CNBC)

The floor of the New York Stock Exchange, closed since March 23, partially reopens Tuesday. Only about 80 floor brokers will be allowed, about 25% of pre-coronavirus levels. Everyone entering will be required to get their temperature checked and sign a legal document stating they understand the risks. (CNBC)

IN THE NEWS TODAY

The White House is denying entry into the U.S. anyone from Brazil, effective at midnight. The travel ban comes as Brazil's total coronavirus cases swelled to nearly 375,000, second only to America's almost 1.7 million infections. But President Donald Trump has not moved to restrict travel from Russia, which has the world's third-highest total. (AP)

The World Health Organization is warning that nations seeing declining infection rates could still face an "immediate second peak" if they were to let up too soon on measures to halt the outbreak. The U.S. is nearing 100,000 deaths, over a quarter of the worldwide fatalities. Globally, total cases topped 5.5 million with 346,632 deaths. (Reuters)

The WHO, citing safety concerns, temporarily suspended its trial of hydroxycholoroquine, the unproven drug backed and taken as a precaution by President Donald Trump to combat the coronavirus. There are numerous other clinical trials looking at the possible effectiveness the anti-malarial drug against Covid-19. (CNBC)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed the wording on its website earlier this month to emphasize that the coronavirus is not easily spread through contact with contaminated surfaces. The change was made on May 11 with no public announcement. (NBC News)

Trump said he "will be reluctantly forced" to move the Republican National Convention if North Carolina doesn't ease up on social distancing restrictions to allow full attendance. The president called out Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. The convention is set for the week of Aug. 24 in Charlotte. (CNBC)

The U.S. government would likely impose sanctions against China if the communist government were to implement a Hong Kong national security law, according to the White House. China's decision last week to introduce a draft measure reignited concerns over eroding freedoms in Hong Kong and triggered protests over the weekend. (CNBC)

Elon Musk's SpaceX has officially been given the green light to launch two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station tomorrow. However, bad weather could potentially cause delays. The mission would be the first crewed test flight of SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft following a successful uncrewed test flight last year. (Space.com)

Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit failed in its attempt to launch a rocket over the Pacific Ocean as the race for the small satellite market heats up. Musk tweeted sympathy: "Orbit is hard. Took us four attempts with Falcon 1." Branson is working to save his Virgin empire crippled by the coronavirus crisis. (Forbes)

STOCKS TO WATCH

Regeneron (REGN) will buy back about $5 billion of its shares from French drugmaker Sanofi (SNY), which will continue to own about Regeneron 400,000 shares after the sale. The ongoing partnership between the two companies, which dates back to 2003, will continue.

Gilead Sciences' (GILD) remdesivir is effective at helping Covid-19 patients recover more quickly, according to peer-reviewed data published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Recovery time was cut by nearly a third, or about four days, compared to patients given a placebo.

AutoZone (AZO) reported quarterly earnings of $14.39 per share, compared to the $13.80 estimate. Revenue also beat forecasts, as same-store sales at the auto parts retailer fell just 1% compared to the 6.3% decline expected by analysts surveyed by FactSet.

Hibbett Sports (HIBB), the athletic footwear and apparel retailer, earned 31 cents per share for its latest quarter, beating estimates. Revenue also topped forecasts. Comparable-store sales tumbled 19.5% amid the coronavirus outbreak, but that was smaller than the 34% drop expected by analysts who were surveyed by Refinitiv. E-commerce sales more than doubled during the quarter.

Hertz (HTZ)  filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after talks with creditors proved unsuccessful. The car rental company's business has been impacted severely by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Molson Coors (TAP) is furloughing an unspecified number of employees in North America and in Europe. The beer brewer is also suspending its quarterly dividend as it looks to conserve cash. Molson Coors has seen its business take a hit from pandemic-related closures of restaurants and bars.

Crocs (CROX) saw sales jump 14% in March compared to a year earlier. According to NPD data cited by The Wall Street Journal, it was the only one of the top 30 footwear brands tracked by NPD to show a sales increase during the month.

WATERCOOLER

Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning beat Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady in "The Match: Champions for Charity" made-for-TV golf event, which drew an average of 5.8 million viewers on Sunday across the various Turner Sports channels and raised over $20 million for Covid-19 relief. (USA Today)