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What to watch today: Stocks to rise on positive Covid vaccine, treatment news

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BY THE NUMBERS

U.S. stock futures pointed to a strong open, supported by positive Covid-19 vaccine data from AstraZeneca and FDA emergency approval for Regeneron's treatment that President Donald Trump received. Wall Street was focusing on hope around the third Monday in a row of encouraging vaccine data instead of the spiking virus infections. (CNBC)

The Dow on Friday dropped 219 points, or 0.8%, which contributed to the first down week in the past three. On Friday, the U.S. saw another record in new daily cases of 196,004. Infections numbers were lower on Saturday and Sunday. (CNBC)

* Goldman cuts fourth-quarter and first-quarter GDP forecasts on coronavirus ‘resurgence’ (CNBC)
* UK expected to announce it will lift lockdown soon; with conditions (CNBC)

IN THE NEWS TODAY

U.K. pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca said Monday that late-stage trials of its Covid vaccine showed as much as 90% efficacy when participants received a half dose, followed by a full dose at least one month apart. When given as two full doses at least one month apart, effectiveness was lower at 62%. The AstraZeneca vaccine was developed in collaboration with the University of Oxford. (CNBC)

The Pfizer (PFE)-BioNTech (BNTX) alliance and Moderna reported results showing that their respective vaccines were around 95% effective. Pfizer's vaccine could get British regulatory approval in this week, according to The Telegraph.

* G-20 leaders pledge to ‘spare no effort’ to ensure equitable vaccines access worldwide (CNBC)
* Trump attends his final G-20 summit but does not participate in pandemic session (CNBC)

The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday granted an emergency use authorization for Regeneron's antibody treatment, the experimental therapy given Trump when he contracted the coronavirus in October. The approval comes after the FDA announced on Nov. 9 emergency use authorization for Eli Lilly's antibody treatment. (CNBC)

Merck (MRK) said Monday it plans to acquire privately held OncoImmune for $425 million in cash, gaining rights to an under-the-radar drug that has shown striking results in hospitalized patients with Covid. The treatment was shown to reduce the risk of respiratory failure or death by more than 50% in patients hospitalized with Covid and requiring oxygen. (CNBC)

Veteran diplomat and longtime Joe Biden foreign policy advisor Antony Blinken is the president-elect's top choice to serve as secretary of State, multiple sources told NBC News. Incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain said Sunday that Biden will begin announcing his Cabinet picks on Tuesday. A source familiar with the process told NBC News that Biden's first Cabinet selections will be in the areas of diplomacy and national security.

A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Saturday dismissed a lawsuit by Trump's campaign that sought to block that state's certification of millions of voters. The Trump campaign and its allies have now lost or withdrawn more than 30 lawsuits that were part of that effort. Biden is projected to win 306 votes in the Electoral College, three dozen more than he needs to clinch a win in the White House race. (CNBC)

* Business leaders, citing damage to country, urge Trump to begin transition (NY Times)
* Blackstone CEO and Trump ally Stephen Schwarzman says Biden won (Axios)
* Chris Christie tells Trump to end election lawsuits, calls his legal team ‘national embarrassment’ (CNBC)

STOCKS TO WATCH

Consulting firm Korn Ferry (KFY) reported quarterly profit of 54 cents per share, more than 10 times estimates. Revenue came in well above consensus as well, helped by cost cuts. Korn Ferry also said it benefited from an increase in clients seeking services to aid in a rebound from the pandemic.

Boeing's (BA) 737 Max jet is safe to fly, according to European Union Safety Agency Executive Director Patrick Ky. He told the Paris Air Forum that the agency is set to lift its grounding order for the jet in January. His remarks come after the FAA officially ungrounded the jet last week.

Needham raised its price target on Roku (ROKU) to a Wall Street-high $315 per share from $255 a share, saying the streaming video-device maker is benefiting from accelerated cord-cutting and the presence of multiple devices in homes among other factors.

Foot Locker (FL) was downgraded to "underweight" from "neutral" at Piper Sandler, which said the athletic footwear and apparel retailer lacked near-term visibility due to rising coronavirus cases. Longer-term, Piper sees Foot Locker coming under pressure from Nike's (NKE) direct-to-consumer efforts.

Delta Air Lines (DAL) and Canada's WestJet scrapped a planned joint venture, after the U.S. government demanded changes that the airlines called "arbitrary and capricious." The demands included the divestiture of 16 takeoff and landing slots at New York's LaGuardia Airport.

Western Union (WU), the money transfer company, is paying $200 million for a 15% stake in the digital payments unit of Saudi Arabia's STC Group.

Blackstone (BX) is seeking to raise about $5 billion for a second private-equity fund focused on Asia, according to sources who spoke to Bloomberg.