Dow climbs in early Friday action as Wall Street attempts to cap tumultuous trading week with an upswing

Stock benchmarks on Friday rose modestly higher as investors looked to close out a volatile, holiday-shortened week that has the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite on track for its biggest weekly loss since the height of the pandemic-induced market selloff in March.

How are major benchmarks trading?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average

rose 117 points, or 0.4%, to around 27,650, while the S&P 500

gained 14 points, or 0.4%, to trade at 3,353. The Nasdaq Composite Index

climbed 48 points, or 0.5%, at 10,952. But all three benchmarks were trading off their intraday peak near the open, highlighting the week’s choppy action.

The Dow on Thursday fell 405.89 points, or 1.5%, to close at 27,534.58, while the S&P 500 ended with a loss of 59.77 points, or 1.8%, at 3,339.19. The Nasdaq Composite fell 221.97 points, or 2%, to finish at 10,919.59. Through Thursday, the Dow was down 2.1% for the week, while the S&P 500 was off 2.6% and the Nasdaq was 3.5% lower; markets were closed Monday for Labor Day.

What’s driving the market?

A decline in the S&P 500 index for the week would mark the benchmark’s first back-to-back weekly drop since May.

“While monetary policy is set to remain supportive for several more quarters, valuations are high across assets and volatility is resurfacing,” said Elia Lattuga, co-head of strategy research at UniCredit Bank, in a note. “The breadth of the rally is still limited and the recovery uneven—hence developments in the economic outlook and political risks represent significant threats to risk appetite.”

Stocks were unable to follow through Thursday on a Wednesday bounce that saw equities recover somewhat from a three-day, tech-led rout that pushed the Nasdaq into correction territory, falling more than 10% from its record close set last week.

Weakness on Thursday was partly tied to the inability of U.S. politicians to agree on a new coronavirus rescue package after Democrats blocked a Republican bill on the Senate floor, leaving the way forward unclear, analysts said.

Meanwhile, investors have fretted that the sharp rally that took stocks from their March pandemic lows to new all-time highs had left valuations significantly stretched for the large-cap, tech-related stocks that had led the rally this year. Among those highfliers, shares of Apple Inc.

 and Netflix Inc.

 were on track for weekly declines of more than 6%, while Facebook Inc.

 is off more than 5%.

In U.S. economic news, the consumer-price index for August rose 0.4% last month, beating average economists’ estimates for a rise of 0.3% but falling below the past two months at 0.6%. On a year-over-year basis, the CPI increased 1.3% after gaining 1.0% in July, the Labor Department said on Friday

Looking ahead, Federal budget figures for August are due at 2 p.m. Eastern.

Which companies are in focus?
What are other markets doing?

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note

 rose 0.4 basis point to 0.687%. Bond prices move inversely to yields.

The ICE U.S. Dollar Index
which tracks the performance of the greenback against its major rivals, fell 0.1%.

Gold futures

were off 0.3% at $1,958 an ounce, threatening to snap a three-day winning streak. The U.S. crude oil benchmark

 fell 16 cents, or 0.5%, to $37.13 a barrel.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index

 was edging 0.1% lower, while the U.K.’s benchmark FTSE

rose 0.2%. In Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index

and the Shanghai Composite Index

 both rose 0.8%, while Japan’s Nikkei

rose 0.7%.

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Wall Street’s ‘fear gauge’ climbs despite U.S. stock rally By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The “Fearless Girl” statue is seen outside the New York Stock Exchange

By April Joyner

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stocks are rallying, but so too is Wall Street’s “fear gauge,” in an unusual twist.

The Cboe Volatility Index () was set for a second week of gains, despite a drop on Friday, even as the benchmark S&P 500 () has climbed nearly 3% for the week. That is a departure from typical activity, in which the VIX falls as stocks rise.

Yet steep climbs higher can also contribute to greater volatility. The S&P 500 is on track for nearly a 7% monthly gain, exceeding the expectations priced into options, said Christopher Murphy, co-head of derivatives strategy at Susquehanna Financial Group. The steady rise in stocks has spurred purchases of upside calls on the benchmark index, which in turn are lifting the VIX.

“Just because (the S&P 500) is up doesn’t mean there isn’t volatility,” Murphy said.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s remarks regarding the central bank’s approach to inflation also likely prompted call buying, said Matt Thompson, managing partner at options firm Thompson Capital Management.

The Fed will now aim for 2% inflation on average, so that periods of too-low inflation would likely be followed by an effort to lift inflation moderately above that level. As a result, the central bank is likely to keep rates near zero, thereby supporting equities.

“That gave the green light to put bets on the upside,” Thompson said.

Longer-term, however, downside concerns for the overall market may also keep the VIX bid up. Some investors have pointed to concerns that a narrow group of tech-related stocks such as Apple Inc (O:) and Inc (O:) is leading the S&P 500 higher, prompting concerns about any slides in their performance. Moreover, VIX futures point to elevated volatility expectations around the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 3.

“If election volatility stays at that level, you could see the VIX marching higher,” Murphy said.

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Gold climbs more than 2% to a record above $1,900

Gold futures hit their highest level on record Monday, as investors continued to fret over the state of the COVID-19 battered global economy and weakness in the U.S. dollar, and amid concerns over the sticking power of stock gains.

August gold


surged $40.30, or 2.1%, to $1,937.80 an ounce after trading as high as $1,941.90. That took it past the record most-active intraday level of $1,923.70 an ounce from Sept. 6, 2011.

On Friday, the contract climbed $7.50 to settle at $1,897.50 an ounce on Comex, after trading as high as $1,904.60. That action took out a most-active contract settlement record of $1,891.90 from Aug. 22, 2011, based on records going back to November 1984, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

Last week, prices rose 4.8%, the biggest weekly percentage climb since the week ended April 9 and some analysts say the never-before-seen level of $2,000 an ounce is within reach. U.S. stocks closed lower on Friday, with the heavy Nasdaq Composite

marking its first back-to-back decline since mid-May.

Read: Gold rides to a record, with prospects for $2,000 an ounce stronger than ever

‘With concerns about further pandemic-related lockdowns, the U.S. dollar decline, real rates continuing to plummet, and rising U.S.-China tensions, it is the entire list of fundamental drivers to get us there getting delivered up in one package…’

— Stephen Innes, AxiCorp

“With concerns about further pandemic-related lockdowns, the U.S. dollar decline, real rates continuing to plummet, and rising U.S.-China tensions, it is the entire list of fundamental drivers to get us there getting delivered up in one package today,” said Stephen Innes, chief global markets strategist at AxiCorp, of that $2,000 level in a note to clients.

The ICE U.S. Dollar Index

slid 0.8% to $93.64, having lost 3.8% for the month so far.

“Given the slumping view toward U.S. economic prospects and ideas that Europe will open a significant macroeconomic edge over the U.S., it is not surprising to see the dollar forge yet another lower low for the move and, in turn, contribute to the upward extension in precious metals prices,” analysts at Zaner Metals wrote in a Monday note.

“Not surprisingly, investors also added to the bullish environment with news that Friday saw 1.76 million ounces purchased by gold [exchange-traded funds], with a more astonishing purchase of 9.1 million ounces of silver by silver ETFs,” they said.

The gold market “continues to get a tremendous amount of bullish press coverage and that is likely to embolden the bull camp further, and is likely to result in a an even wider cross section of small investors learning about precious metals ETFs for the first time,” the Zaner Metals analysts said.

In Monday dealings, the gold-backed SPDR Gold Trust

traded 2.1% higher.

“Another bullish force is a ratcheting up of expectations for U.S. central bank action, as soft U.S. data and the unending infection threat is starting to sink sentiment, and we suspect the [Federal Reserve] is now very keen to cushion against renewed shutdown fears,” analysts at Zaner Metals said.

The Federal Open Market Committee will make an announcement on monetary policy on Wednesday.

And in China, the U.S. says it has closed its consulate in Chengdu, a move ordered by Beijing after the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston last week.

Virus outbreaks and the effect on global economies has also seen investors flocking to gold. While investors have been consumed by concerns about outbreaks across the southern U.S. states, Spain emerged as a fresh worry amid a resurgence of the virus, notably in the northeast region of Catalonia. The U.K. government put Spain back on a list of countries it deemed unsafe for travel and ordered travelers to isolate for 14 days upon return from the popular holiday destination.

“There has been a lot of talk about the $2K hurdle, which has been my long-term target too,” said Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst at ThinkMarkets, in a market update. “Obviously, there is no guarantee gold will get there or indeed stop there, but that target is only $55 away from the overnight high.”

Meanwhile, the September silver contract

climbed $1.66, or 7.3%, to $24.51 an ounce, on track to tally the highest most-active contract settlement since August 2013, according to FactSet data.

September copper

traded unchanged at $2.8925 a pound. October platinum

added 1.3% to $968.70 an ounce and September palladium

traded at $2,397.80 an ounce, up 4.5%. 

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Coronavirus update: U.S. case tally climbs above 3.8 million; President Trump appears to have changed his view on face masks

The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus illness COVID-19 in the U.S. rose above 3.8 million on Tuesday, and President Donald Trump appeared to change his view of face masks in the face of falling poll numbers.

Experts have repeatedly emphasized that face coverings, along with frequent hand washing and social distancing are crucial to contain the spread of the deadly illness, but Trump has stonewalled on the issue for months. As recently as Sunday, he told Fox News Anchor Chris Wallace he would not mandate face masks.

The issue has become caught up in the culture wars that continue to divide America, even as its case tally and death toll continue to rise. The U.S. death toll stands at 140,909, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, the highest in the world. Fifty-four states and territories show rising case numbers over the last 14 days, according to a New York Times tracker.

On Monday, seven states and Puerto Rico — Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Kentucky, North Dakota, Arkansas and Montana — reported record one-day hospitalizations, according to the Washington Post.

Polls show Trump is behind his presidential campaign opponent Joe Biden and Americans are unhappy with how he has handled the pandemic, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, that showed their attitude is hardening as cases climb across the country. A full 66% of those polled said they disapprove of his management of the outbreak, up from 53% in May and 45% in March.

Meanwhile, a new Axios-Ipsos poll found about three quarters of Americans believe that other Americans are making the pandemic worse, and a majority of Republicans, or 65%, agree.

“There may be some truth to this concern as new data suggests social distancing measures have stalled-out and few Americans who interact with friends and family outside the home engage in robust protective measures,” authors Chris Jackson and Mallory Newall wrote. “This comes as more Americans, particularly Republicans, deny the official toll of the pandemic.”

The poll also showed that trust in government at all levels is eroding over time. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and national public health officials are still broadly trusted by Americans, that trust has fallen 15 points since early April.

“State governments, while still trusted by a small majority of the public (57%), have also lost about 15 percent of the public’s trust since April,” the authors wrote. “Least trusted by the public are the federal government (35%) and the White House (31%).”

Latest tallies

There are now 14.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide and at least 610,654 people have died, the Johns Hopkins data shows. At least 8.3 million people have recovered.

Brazil is second to the U.S. by case numbers and fatalities, with 2.1 million cases and 80,120 deaths, crossing the 80,000 threshold overnight. Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro, who has tested positive for COVID-19, has been widely criticized for failing to take the illness seriously. Brazil’s citizenship minister, Onyx Lorenzoni, and education minister, Milton Ribeiro, are also now infected, according to Reuters.

India has the third highest case tally at 1.2 million, followed by Russia, South African and Peru.

The U.K. has 296,944 cases and 45,397 deaths, the third highest in the world and by far the highest in Europe.

There was positive news from the European Union, where leaders agreed to a $1.8 trillion-euro ($2.1 trillion) budget and coronavirus recovery fund in the early hours of Tuesday, after four days of sometimes tense talks, as the Associated Press reported.

To confront the biggest recession in its history, the EU will establish a 750 billion-euro coronavirus fund, partly based on common borrowing, to be sent as loans and grants to the hardest-hit countries. That comes on top of the seven-year, 1 trillion-euro EU budget that leaders had been haggling over for months even before the pandemic.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “We have laid the financial foundations for the EU for the next seven years and came up with a response to this arguably biggest crisis of the European Union.”

The coronavirus has killed about 135,000 EU citizens and sent its economy into an expected contraction of 8.3% this year.

Read now:Germany’s DAX turns positive for the year after EU leaders agree coronavirus recovery package

What’s the latest medical news?

Analysts weighing in on the data released Monday from two early-stage clinical trials of experimental COVID-19 vaccines showing a T-cell response said the news was positive, but much remains unknown, as MarketWatch’s Jaimy Lee reported.


and Pfizer Inc.

said an ongoing early-stage clinical trial for their coronavirus vaccine candidate, BNT162b1, reported a T-cell response in participants, in addition to neutralizing antibody titers.

Then, in a highly anticipated study published in The Lancet published Monday morning, researchers at AstraZeneca


and the University of Oxford said their investigational COVID-19 vaccine also produced a T-cell response, as well as antibody titers.

“What remains unknown is whether the antibody response translates into protection, the level of neutralizing antibodies required for durable protection, and the role of T-cell immunity in the process,” SVB Leerink analysts wrote on Monday.

BioNtech, taking advantage of the rally in its shares, announced plans to issue 5 million American Depositary Shares in a syndicated deal on Tuesday and said it will follow up with a rights offering. The company joins the many companies raising capital during the pandemic.

Australian biotech Immuron Ltd.

announced a direct offering of 1.07 million ADS. The company had announced earlier that its IMM-124E used to make its gastrointestinal and digestive health immune supplements Travelan and Proectyn demonstrated neutralizing activity against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, but that was in “laboratory studies.”

Small-cap Moleculin Biotech Inc.

saw its shares rally after it said a second round of laboratory testing confirmed antiviral activity for WP1122, its candidate as a treatment for COVID-19. The lab involved was IIT Research Institute, an affiliate of the Illinois Institute of Technology, which conducted additional in vitro testing of the drug candidate.

What are companies saying?

Earnings season brought numbers from two Dow Jones Industrial Average components, starting late Monday with International Business Machines Corp.’s latest report, showing another decline in revenue, but more profit and sales than Wall Street was expecting, as MarketWatch’s Wallace Witkowski reported.

Big Blue

reported second-quarter net income of $1.36 billion, or $1.52 a share, compared with $2.5 billion, or $2.81 a share, in the year-ago period. Adjusted earnings were $2.18 a share, compared with $3.17 a share a year ago. Revenue declined to $18.12 billion from $19.16 billion in the year-ago quarter. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had forecast adjusted earnings of $2.09 a share on revenue of $17.73 billion on average.

Cloud and cognitive software sales, which includes IBM’s Red Hat business, came in at $5.75 billion, compared with $5.65 billion in the year-ago quarter, while analysts had forecast $5.74 billion.

“Only 20% of the workloads have moved to the cloud,” said Arvind Krishna, IBM’s chief executive, on a conference call. “The other 80% are mission-critical workloads that are far more difficult to move. There is a massive opportunity in front of us to capture these workloads.”

On Tuesday, it was Coca-Cola Co.’s turn with the drinks and snacks giant saying it expects the worst of the pandemic is behind it, even as cases surge across the U.S. Coca-Cola’s business has been impacted by the closure of venues like bars, restaurants and sports stadiums during lockdown periods.

Sales picked up in May and June as stay-at-home measures were eased around the world. Chief Financial Officer John Murphy told the Wall Street Journal that Latin America and Africa offer the most uncertainty.

Tobacco giant Philip Morris International beat estimates for profit and revenue and offered an upbeat outlook for the full year, even as it expects duty-free sales to take a long time to fully recover.

Elsewhere, companies continued to issue debt and equity and to announce job cuts and other savings.

Here’s the latest news about companies and COVID-19:

• Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings Inc.

is planning a $350 million offer of five-year senior secured notes through its subsidiary Clear Channel International B.V. Proceeds will be used to repay a $54.9 million promissory note in full at par, and for general corporate purposes. The billboard ad company is joining a rake of companies that have been issuing debt at record levels during the pandemic.

• Coca-Cola Inc.

reported a second-quarter profit that topped expectations but revenue that fell a bit shy, amid challenges resulting from the pandemic. Unit case volume fell 16% from a year ago, but improved from a 25% decline for the month of April to a 10% decline in June. Operating margin decreased to 27.7% from 29.9%, citing pressure on revenue and the negative impact of currency translation. “We believe the second quarter will prove to be the most challenging of the year; however, we still have work to do as we drive our pursuit of ‘Beverages for Life’ and meet evolving consumer needs,” said Chief Executive James Quincey.

• Hibbett Sports Inc.

shares soared after the athletic retailer offered a second-quarter business update that includes a 70% same-store sales growth forecast. The FactSet consensus was for 15.7% growth. Bricks-and-mortar same-store sales are expected to grow 60% and online sales are forecast to jump 200%. Nearly all of Hibbett’s stores are open. Among the factors that Chief Executive Mike Longo attributes to the sales leap are stimulus checks and pent-up demand. New customers contributed to the results, with 25% of bricks-and-mortar sales and 40% of online sales coming from new shoppers. Hibbett has paid back the $50 million it borrowed as a precautionary measure during the early days of the pandemic. Raymond James analysts say Hibbett benefited from strong Nike Inc.

sales, which accounts for 68% of the retailer’s product.

• Job networking site LinkedIn is cutting about 960 jobs, or 6% of its workforce, as it moves to align the business with the new COVID-19 world. In a message posted on the Microsoft Corp.-

company’s website, Chief Executive Ryan Roslanksy said LinkedIn is not immune to the effects of the pandemic. “When we took a hard look at the business, we decided we needed to make some hard calls,” the CEO wrote. The cuts will be carried out across the company’s global sales and talent acquisition divisions. “COVID-19 is having a sustained impact on the demand for hiring, both in our LTS business and in our company,” the executive wrote. “In GSO and GTO, there are roles that are no longer needed as we adjust to the reduced demand in our internal hiring and for our talent products globally.”

• Lockheed Martin Corp.

reported second-quarter profit and sales that rose above expectations, and lifted its full-year outlook. Each of the company’s business segments saw sales rise above expectations. For 2020, Lockheed raised its guidance ranges for EPS to $23.75 to $24.05 from $23.65 to $23.95 and for sales to $63.50 billion to $65.00 billion from $62.25 billion to $64.00 billion. The company said the 2020 financial outlook remain uncertain as a result of the pandemic, and current assumptions assume production facilities don’t experience significant work stoppages and closures.

• Philip Morris International Inc.

shares rose after the Marlboro parent reported second-quarter earnings and revenue that beat expectations. Cigarette shipment volume was down 17.6% while heated tobacco unit shipment volume, which includes the company’s IQOS product, was up 24.3% for the period. IQOS users totaled 15.4 million by quarter-end, of which Philip Morris says 11.2 million made the switch from cigarettes. Philip Morris has been touting its heated tobacco product as an alternative to cigarettes, and recently got FDA approval to market the product as a “modified risk” item. Certain cigarette production facilities have been impacted by COVID-19, but those facilities account for less than 5% of production capacity around the world. As of June 30, the company had approximately $4.2 billion of cash and cash equivalents on hand. For the full year, Philip Morris forecasts EPS of $4.84 to $4.99, and adjusted EPS of $4.92 to $5.07. The FactSet consensus is for EPS of $4.92. Philip Morris’ forecast assumes that none of the company’s key markets will undergo another lockdown, though the company doesn’t anticipate a recovery in duty-free sales given uncertain global travel conditions.

• Tailored Brands Inc.
the parent of apparel retailers Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank, expects to cut about 20% of its corporate workforce and close up to 500 stores given the impact of the pandemic on its business. The company expects to record a $6 million charge in the second quarter for severance payments and other termination costs. The company is realigning its store organization and supply chain to help support its store footprint going forward and its e-commerce business. Separately, Tailored Brands said Chief Financial Officer Jack Calandra will leave the company as of July 31; he joined as CFO in January 2017.

• Tapestry Inc.
parent of the Coach, Stuart Weitzman and Kate Spade brands, said fiscal fourth-quarter earnings due Aug. 13, “exceeded internal expectations from a top and bottom-line perspective. Importantly, gross margin expanded on a year-over-year basis, reflecting lower promotional activity, while inventory declined from prior year.” The company ended the year with a cash balance of $1.4 billion. Chief Executive Jide Zeitlin is resigning from his role and from the board for personal reasons. The company named Chief Financial Officer Joanne Crevoiserat as interim CEO, and said it would launch a search for a permanent CEO including external candidates. Andrea Shaw Resnick, currently head of investor relations and corporate communications, has been named interim CFO. The company’s lead independent director Susan Kropf has been named chair of the board.

• Ulta Beauty Inc.

will close 19 stores and open fewer new stores than it expected given “the uncertainty and disruption created by COVID-19.” Ulta said it now expects to open about 30 new stores in fiscal 2020, compared with a late May expectation of between 30 and 40 new stores this year. The company expects to resume new-store openings in August, and enter Canada in mid-2021, it said. Ulta did not provide the locations of the stores to close. It plans on reassigning salespeople “where possible,” it said. To date, about half of the employees furloughed in April are back to work. Ulta also joined a growing list of retailers requiring customers to wear face coverings while in its stores, starting Monday.

• United Airlines Holdings Inc.

is looking to make air travel safer for passengers, through improving air flow and filtration and limiting the number of passengers that can board and deplane at a time. The air carrier said it will now maximize air flow volume for all high-efficiency particular rate (HEPA) filtration systems during the boarding and deplaning process. The air conditioning systems on its aircraft recirculates the air every 2 to 3 minutes and removes 99.97% of particles, including viruses and bacteria. United was also taking steps to limit the number of passengers on its planes, saying only 15% of its flights had more than 70% of the seats filled. In addition, the company will board fewer customers at a time and will deplane in groups of five rows at a time.

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Coronavirus update: Global case tally tops 14.5 million as U.S. death toll climbs above 140,000 with new infections still rising

The number of cases of the coronavirus illness COVID-19 world-wide rose above 14.5 million on Monday, and the U.S. case tally rose to 3.77 million and its death toll topped 140,000, as new infections continued to surge in the South and West.

There was positive news from two separate trials of vaccine candidates, both of which triggered immune responses. Experts cautioned that the data is preliminary and more evidence from bigger trials is needed.

In an interview with Fox News Anchor Chris Wallace, President Donald Trump defended his record on managing the pandemic, but he again claimed that testing is behind spikes in the U.S. and belittled his leading infectious-disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, calling him an “alarmist.”

Trump claimed that young people are to blame for the recent spike and claimed they “would heal in a day.”

“They have the sniffles and we put it down as a test,” he said.

Trump said he did not support a federal mandate on wearing face masks, a step that health experts say is needed to contain the spread of the deadly illness, along with frequent hand washing and social distancing. Roughly half of U.S. states have taken some action mandating face masks and on Monday, retailers including Walmart Inc.
Target Corp.
Best Buy Co. Inc.

and Lowe’s Cos.

launched face-covering requirements for all of their customers across the U.S.

Outside the U.S., more countries are adopting mandatory face-masks, including France, where it is required in all indoor spaces as of Monday, and the U.K., where it will be required from Friday.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Trump’s comments showed that he is still denying the severity of the crisis: “He still has no adequate national testing strategy and continues to underutilize the Defense Production Act, wasting valuable time and resources,” Schumer wrote in a letter to Democrats as they gear up to debate the next stimulus bill.

On Sunday, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oregon and South Carolina set new one-day records for new infections, the Washington Post reported.

Florida, the new U.S. hot spot, is running out of intensive-care unit beds. Miami-Dade Country, the Florida epicenter, now has 84,237 cases and 1,302 deaths, according to a New York Times tracker.

The mayor of Hialeah, Fla., a city in Miami-Dade country, told CNN it is at a “breaking point.”

Latest tallies

There are now 14.54 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, and the death toll has climbed 606,206. At least 8.1 million people have recovered.

The U.S. has 3.77 million cases, or about a quarter of the global total, and 140,534 deaths. A full 53 states and territories have seen cases climb for the last 14 days, according to a New York Times tracker.

Brazil is second to the U.S. with 2.1 million cases and 79,488 deaths. India is third measured by cases at 1.1 million, followed by Russia with 770,311 and South Africa with 364,328, which has moved ahead of Peru, which has 353,590 cases.

The U.K. has 296,364 cases and 45,385 fatalities, the highest in Europe and third highest in the world. China, where the illness was first reported late last year, has 85,314 cases and 4,644 fatalities.

See now: Amid summit stalemate, EU leader pleads for unity to pass massive coronavirus recovery fund

What’s the latest medical news?

A flurry of news on potential COVID-19 vaccines led to active trading of drug and biotech stocks Monday. AstraZeneca shares


were volatile after a medical journal published a study that found the company’s vaccine candidate produced antibody and T-cell responses in participants in a Phase 1/2 clinical trial, MarketWatch’s Jaimy Lee reported.

AstraZeneca is developing the experimental vaccine with the University of Oxford; the study was published in The Lancet.

The single-blind, randomized, controlled trial found that neutralizing antibody responses were reported in 91% of 35 patients when utilizing one test and 100% of 35 patients when using a different test. It also found that T-cell responses peaked on day 14.

“A single dose elicited both humoral and cellular responses against SARS-CoV-2, with a booster immunization augmenting neutralizing antibody titers,” the study’s authors wrote.

Read:Abbott, J&J results buoyed by surprising June uptick in medical procedures even as coronavirus cases rise


and Pfizer Inc.
which are also developing a COVID-19 vaccine, said earlier on Monday that their vaccine candidate produced a T-cell response in participants in an early-stage trial in Germany.

The U.K. Government said it has secured early access to 90 million vaccine doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine candidate, as well as one from French group Valneva.

The business ministry signed an agreement with the BioNTech/Pfizer alliance for 30 million doses. Delivery of an initial 10 million doses is expected to start by the fourth quarter of 2020, subject to clinical success and regulatory approval, with a further 20 million doses to be delivered in 2021.

Shares of Enzymatica

jumped 67% in Stockholm after the company said preliminary results in a study of the mouth spray ColdZyme, shows that in vitro, it can deactivate the virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic. A study demonstrated that ColdZyme deactivates the coronavirus by 98.3%, the company said.

See now:Rule change for how hospitals report coronavirus data to government comes under fire

“Even if the current in vitro results cannot be directly translated into clinical efficacy, it is very interesting that ColdZyme is able to effectively deactivate SARS-CoV-2 in vitro since it constitutes a proof-of-principle that can be taken further into clinical studies. Thus, the results indicate that ColdZyme can offer a protective barrier against SARS-CoV-2,” says Claus Egstrand, Enzymatica’s chief operating officer.

a U.K. respiratory drug company, saw its shares jump 370% after announcing positive results from a trial in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The odds of developing severe disease during the treatment period were significantly reduced by 79% for patients receiving its SNG001 compared to patients who received placebo, the company said.

“The results confirm our belief that interferon beta, a widely known drug that, by injection, has been approved for use in a number of other indications, has huge potential as an inhaled drug to be able to restore the lung’s immune response, enhancing protection, accelerating recovery and countering the impact of SARS-CoV-2 virus,” said Tom Wilkinson, professor of respiratory medicine at the University of Southampton and trial chief investigator.

Finally, Moderna Inc. shares

slid 10%, after J.P. Morgan downgraded the stock to neutral from overweight over concerns about the valuation of the preclinical company, which has never produced an approved product.

Moderna is also developing a COVID-19 vaccine candidate, one that is widely considered one of the front-runners; it was the first company to share data about how its experimental vaccine performed in a Phase 1 clinical trial.

Shares have soared 384.9% since the start of the year, as the S&P 500

has dipped 0.2%.

“This stock move itself isn’t entirely surprising given the rapid execution on mRNA-1273, the tremendous widespread investor interest on this program, and the obvious unmet need/opportunity for a COVID-19 vaccine,” they wrote in a note Monday. “That said, at these levels we are having difficulty justifying more upside given the uncertainty of the duration/characteristics of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

What are companies saying?

The second-quarter earnings season continued with numbers from egg producer Cal-Maine Foods Inc., which swung to a profit from a loss a year ago. Profit and sales were boosted by demand for eggs and a big improvement in pricing, driven by consumers eating more at home during the pandemic.

Read now:S&P 500 earnings set to plunge as the coronavirus batters all sectors — with Wall Street counting on a bounce that may not come

Oil services company Halliburton Co. reported an unexpected adjusted profit for its quarter, but revenue fell short of expectations. Oil companies have been hit by the twin effects of a falling oil price and lowered demand during the pandemic.

Here’s the latest news on companies and COVID-19:

• Briggs & Stratton Corp.

filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and reached an agreement to sell most of its assets to KPS Capital Partners. The Milwaukee-based company, which makes gasoline engines for outdoor power equipment like lawn mowers, has secured debtor-in-possession financing of $677.5 million from KPS and its existing lenders to allow it to continue normal operations ahead of the closing of the deal. “Over the past several months, we have explored multiple options with our advisers to strengthen our financial position and flexibility,” Chief Executive Todd Teske said in a statement. “The challenges we have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic have made reorganization the difficult but necessary and appropriate path forward to secure our business

• Cal-Maine Foods Inc.

swung to a profit in its fiscal fourth quarter from a loss a year ago, buoyed by demand for eggs during the pandemic. “After three fiscal quarters characterized by an oversupply of eggs and depressed market prices, demand for eggs increased and market prices rose 62.4 percent during our fourth fiscal quarter over the average price for the first three quarters, as consumers purchased more eggs for preparing meals at home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Chief Executive Dolph Baker said in a statement. The demand trend coincided with the Easter season, a peak for egg sales. The supply of eggs continued to trend downward through the quarter, he said, as hen numbers fell by 13.9 million to 319.8 million, according to USDA numbers. Specialty egg sales came to $133.3 million to account for 29.9% of egg sales revenue, compared with 119.9 million, or 44.1 percent of egg sales revenue, in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019. “Current supplies of corn and soybeans are favorable, and we believe we will continue to have an adequate supply of both grains in fiscal 2021,” said Baker. “However, current ongoing uncertainties and supply chain disruptions related to the COVID-19 outbreak, weather fluctuations and geopolitical issues surrounding trade agreements and international tariffs may lead to further price volatility.” The company will not pay a dividend this quarter.

• Halliburton Co.

reported a surprise second-quarter adjusted profit but revenue that fell short of expectations. Completion and production revenue dropped 56% to $1.67 billion, just below the FactSet consensus of $1.70 billion, and drilling and evaluation revenue fell 28% to $1.52 billion to miss expectations of $1.62 billion. North America revenue dropped 68% to $1.05 billion, just shy of expectations of $1.08 billion. The company said results were pressured by a decrease in pumping activity and drilling-related services.

• ManpowerGroup

reported an adjusted second-quarter profit that missed expectations, while revenue fell less than forecast, as the pandemic “materially” impacted results. The company swung to a net loss as revenue fell 30.4%

• PetMed Express Inc.

reported first-quarter earnings that missed expectations. Reorder sales rose 19% to $80.4 million, and new orders were up 29% to $15.8 million. PetMed acquired 186,000 new customers for the quarter, up from 140,000 last year. The company is considered an essential business and was open during coronavirus lockdown periods. PetMed declared a quarterly dividend of 28 cents per share, payable on August 7 to shareholders of record as of the close of business on July 31.

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