5 Things to Know

5 things to know before the stock market opens Friday


1. Dow futures dropped as Wall Street's volatile week continues

American flags hang from the facade of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) building in New York January 28, 2021.
Mike Segar | Reuters

On the final day of a volatile week of short-squeezing frenzy, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was set to drop about 150 points at Friday's open, with Dow stock Johnson & Johnson falling after the U.S. drug giant released data about its one-dose coronavirus vaccine. The shot was 72% effective in the U.S., but less so in other regions. Wall Street's volatility came amid the Reddit-fueled trading around GameStop and other highly shorted stocks.

The Dow on Thursday recovered nearly half of Wednesday's 633-point decline, the worst one-session drop since late October. Ahead of Friday's trading, the Dow was nearly 2% away from its closing record high earlier this month. Three Dow stocks — Caterpillar, Honeywell and Chevron — reported quarterly earnings before-the-bell, along with drugmaker Eli Lilly.

2. J&J says vaccine less effective against some Covid variants

Johnson & Johnson Coronavirus vaccine illustration
Dado Ruvic | Reuters

J&J's highly anticipated vaccine results were based on 468 confirmed Covid cases among the phase three trial's more than 43,000 volunteers, including those infected with the new, highly contagious strain found in South Africa. J&J also said the vaccine was 85% effective in preventing severe disease four weeks after vaccination in all adults. If the J&J vaccine gets cleared by the FDA, it would be the third approved for emergency use in the U.S., behind the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and Moderna's, both of which require two doses.

U.S.-based biotech firm Novavax said late Thursday its vaccine was more than 89% effective in protecting against the coronavirus. In its phase three clinical trial conducted in Britain, the two-shot vaccine appeared to be 85.6% effective against the new strain originally found in that country. However, in a phase two study in South Africa, the Novavax was only 49.4% effective against the new variant found there. Shares of Novavax surged nearly 60% in Friday's premarket.

3. Robinhood raises $1 billion, taps credit lines to facilitate GameStop trading

An epic battle is unfolding on Wall Street, with a cast of characters clashing over the fate of GameStop, a struggling chain of video game retail stores. The conflict has sent GameStop on a stomach-churning ride with amateur investors taking on the financial establishment in the mindset of the Occupy Wall Street movement launched a decade ago.
Olivier Douliery | AFP | Getty Images

Robinhood raised $1 billion overnight from investors to shore up its balance sheet as the brokerage app was set to ease restrictions in the trading of certain volatile stocks, according to CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin. The money raised was on top of the $500 million the broker accessed through credit lines to ensure it had the capital required to keep allowing its clients to trade stocks like GameStop and AMC Entertainment. Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev told CNBC tapping the credit lines was a proactive measure and denied it was because of a liquidity issue. After stumbling a day earlier, GameStop and AMC shares surged 90% and 60% in Friday's premarket, respectively.

4. Elon Musk's tweets about cryptocurrencies spark rallies

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, stands on the construction site of the Tesla Gigafactory in Grünheide near Berlin, September 3, 2020.
Patrick Pleul | picture alliance | Getty Images

Robinhood restricted trading in cryptocurrencies Friday as the price of bitcoin and a meme-inspired token rose sharply after Elon Musk tweets.

Bitcoin skyrocketed as much as 20% early Friday to about $38,100 after Musk added #bitcoin to his Twitter bio. The Tesla CEO also sent out a cryptic tweet: "In retrospect, it was inevitable." The world's most valuable cryptocurrency hit an all-time high of $41,940 earlier this month before sinking sharply a week later.

Dogecoin, originally founded as a joke about a dog meme, soared as much as 800% on Thursday after a Reddit board talked about making it the cryptocurrency equivalent of GameStop. Musk tweeted out Thursday evening a picture of a magazine cover of "Dogue," play on popular fashion title "Vogue."

5. Democrats reject GOP attempts to break up Biden relief measure

U.S. President Joe Biden signs executive orders strengthening access to affordable healthcare at the White House in Washington, January 28, 2021.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Democrats on Capitol Hill and the White House rejected a Republican pitch to split President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue plan into smaller chunks. Democrats appeared ready to push the measure through without GOP help. Success would give Biden a signature accomplishment in his first 100 days in office, unleashing money to expand vaccinations and reopen schools, send $1,400 direct payments to households, and other priorities, including a gradual increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. Failure would be a high-profile setback early in his presidency.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow all the developments on Wall Street in real time with CNBC Pro's live markets blog. Get the latest on the pandemic with our coronavirus blog.