Morning Brief

What to watch today: Dow set to jump on more promising Covid-19 vaccine data


Dow futures pointed to a strong rally at Monday's open after Moderna (MRNA) said that preliminary trial data showed its coronavirus vaccine was more than 94% effective. Pfizer and BioNTech's announcement last Monday that their Covid-19 vaccine had efficacy of more than 90% also sent the stock market soaring and pushed the Dow Jones Industrial Average up over 4% last week. The Dow was about 72 points away from its closing record in February and 454 points away last Monday's all-time intraday high. (CNBC)

The S&P 500 on Friday closed at a record high and jumped more than 2% for all of last week. The Nasdaq, which pared its losses later in the week, was stung by a stampede out of stay-at-home tech stocks and into value stocks on the hope that eventual widespread availability of Covid-19 vaccines will allow life to get back to normal. Nasdaq futures were modestly lower, in a similar, albeit smaller, rotation. (CNBC)


Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel on CNBC on Monday called the preliminary phase-three Covid-19 vaccine trial data a "game changer." Shares of Moderna soared 14% in the premarket. The Moderna and Pfizer candidates both employ a new approach to vaccines that uses genetic material to provoke an immune response. (CNBC)

* Dr. Scott Gottlieb: 'We could effectively end this pandemic in 2021' with Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines (CNBC)
* Creator of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine says life could return to normal by next winter (CNBC)

President-elect Joe Biden's coronavirus advisors are set to meet with the leading drug companies developing coronavirus vaccines this week, according to Ron Klain, Biden's newly selected chief of staff. Klain, the former Ebola czar under former President Barack Obama, on Sunday named Pfizer as one of those companies. (CNBC)

* Top Biden health advisor: National Covid-19 lockdown is a 'measure of last resort' (CNBC)

As Moderna becomes the second company to report promising coronavirus vaccine data, the seven-day average of daily new U.S. cases rose to another record of 148,725. Friday saw the worst-single day of the pandemic at 177,224 cases. Saturday and Sunday levels were not that high, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Michigan and Washington on Sunday joined several other states in announcing renewed efforts to combat Covid-19 as total U.S. cases now exceed 11 million. The last 1 million cases were recorded in less than a week. Chicago's 30-day, stay-at-home advisory, designed to reduce spread over the holidays, takes effect on Monday. (AP & CNBC)

Walmart (WMT) – Walmart resumed counting and monitoring the number of customers in its stores at any one time. The retail giant has had customer limits in place since April due to Covid, but had not been physically counting them in recent months. (CNBC)

Costco (COST) will no longer make an exemption for people who say they can't wear a face covering because of a medical condition. The wholesale club's updated face mask policy goes into effect Monday and requires all members, guests and employees to wear a face mask or a face shield. (USA Today)

Trump acknowledged publicly for the first time that Biden won the election. The president's comments, made in a seemingly offhand post on Twitter, come as his campaign continues to challenge the results of the election in court and as his administration holds up formal transition processes. However, in subsequent tweets, Trump wrote that he would not concede, and falsely claimed the election was rigged. (CNBC)

* Trump campaign retreats from key claim in Pennsylvania suit (AP)

Jay Clayton, who has led the Securities and Exchange Commission for the past three and a half years that included a number of major changes in financial markets, said Monday he will step down at the end of the year. Clayton's term would have expired in June 2021. (CNBC)

China and 14 other Asia-Pacific countries, excluding the U.S., signed the world's largest trade agreement, a move that analysts said will further elevate China's political and economic influence in the region. The deal is larger than what's covered under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement and the European Union. (CNBC)

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket crackled through the sky last night, carrying the Elon Musk company's Crew Dragon spacecraft "Resilience" to orbit, marking the beginning of a new era of human spaceflight for NASA. It's a historic milestone for SpaceX, coming after years of work to develop and test its spacecraft to fly people regularly to orbit. (CNBC)


Casper Sleep (CSPR) lost 40 cents per share for the third quarter, wider than the 33 cents a share loss that analysts were expecting. The mattress and bedding maker's revenue came in short of estimates, hurt by Covid-related supply chain disruptions..

Palo Alto Networks (PANW) earned an adjusted $1.62 per share for its latest quarter, compared to a consensus estimate of $1.33 a share. Revenue topped estimates as well. Palo Alto also raised its full-year earnings and revenue forecast. (JD), a China-based e-commerce company, beat estimates on both the top and bottom lines for the third quarter, as online orders remained strong even after coronavirus-related restrictions were lifted in China.

Walmart (WMT) is selling its majority stake in Japanese supermarket chain Seiyu to KKR (KKR) and e-commerce company Rakuten for more than $1 billion. Walmart will keep 15% of Seiyu, with KKR holding 65% and Rakuten 20%. Walmart shares edged up 1% in the premarket.

Simon Property Group (SPG) will buy rival mall operator Taubman Centers (TCO) in a revised takeover deal worth $43 per share. That's down from an original deal worth $52.50 per share, struck in February before the full impact of Covid-19 on retailers took hold.

PNC Financial (PNC) is buying the U.S. unit of Spanish banking company BBVA (BBVA) for $11.6 billion in cash. The deal is the second biggest US banking transaction since the 2008 financial crisis, trailing only last year's acquisition of SunTrust Banks by BB&T for $28.2 billion.

British billionaire Fred Done, the largest stakeholder in British betting firm William Hill, will back the planned $3.7 billion takeover of the company by Caesars Entertainment (CZR), according to a report in the Telegraph newspaper.

Uber Technologies (UBER) is in talks to sell its autonomous driving unit to self-driving car startup Aurora, according to multiple reports. The talks are said to be ongoing with no certainty that a deal will be reached.

Western Union (WU) will suspend money transfers to Cuba, following a White House move to ban transfers that are sent through military-controlled companies like Western Union's main Cuban partner Fincimex.

Qualcomm (QCOM) received permission from the U.S. government to sell 4G mobile chips to China's Huawei, in an exception to an ongoing ban that took effect in September.


Just a month ago, Dustin Johnson was holed up in a Las Vegas hotel room self-quarantining for 11 days after testing positive for Covid-19. Now, after a week of record-setting brilliance in the Masters, he can head to the exclusive Champions Locker Room at Augusta National for the rest of his life. (GolfWeek)

After Tiger Woods made his worst score ever on a hole in his professional career, a 10 at Augusta National's par-3 12th hole during the final round of the Masters, his longtime caddie, Joe LaCava, took the big-picture view of the situation. (ESPN)