Bill Gates on Trump call for quick end to lockdown: It’s tough to tell people ‘keep going to restaurants, go buy new houses, ignore that pile of bodies over in the corner’


‘There really is no middle ground, and it’s very tough to say to people, “Hey, keep going to restaurants, go buy new houses, [and] ignore that pile of bodies over in the corner. We want you to keep spending because there’s maybe a politician who thinks GDP growth is all that counts.” ’


Bill Gates

That’s billionaire Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft

MSFT, -4.11%

and noted philanthropist, sharing in a TED interview as described by the Vox Media site Recode his view on the drumbeat, notably from President Donald Trump, for an earlier end to public health policies aiming to mitigate the spread of a deadly pandemic that has brought much of the world’s business activity to a screeching halt.

Most of the U.S., including New York, New Jersey, Illinois and California, are under rules that limit movement and travel. Those efforts to dull the impact of the outbreak of COVID-19 are putting the U.S. economy into a recession and have tanked U.S. equity markets that were just a month ago at record highs.

See: Governors reject Trump’s timeline to reopen economy; ‘Job one has to be save lives,’ Cuomo says

The illness that is carried by the novel strain of coronavirus first identified in China in December has been contracted by some 622 ,000 people and killed more than 28,000 across the globe, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, as of Saturday late morning.

In the U.S., where the epidemic is likely still in its nascence, more than 105,000 have been infected and 1,710 killed.

Trump, however, said on Tuesday during a Fox News interview in the White House Rose Garden that he hopes to have the country reopened as early as Easter on April 12, though most countries have taken months to achieve some semblance of managing the infection.

Trump has argued that a longer U.S. shutdown would make it more difficult for the economy to rebound from a recession. “The longer it takes, the longer we stay out, the longer that is to do,” he explained.

Read: Do you need to change and wash your clothes after visiting the grocery store?

An early end to the lockdown in the U.S. has been viewed as ill-advised by many experts and politicians who fear that lives would be sacrificed in the bid to resume business-as-usual, and achieve a stock-market rebound, before the virus subsides.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose updates on the virus’s impact on the Empire State have been closely followed, expressed views similar to those of Gates on Tuesday. “No American is going to say, accelerate the economy at the cost of human life, because no American is going to say how much a life is worth. Job [No. 1] has to be save lives,” the governor said.

See: ‘You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die’: New York’s Cuomo, in plea to Trump administration for ventilators

Gates told TED, according to Recode, that “it’s very irresponsible for somebody to suggest that we can have the best of both worlds,” referring to mitigating the impact of the deadly pathogen on human lives and keeping the economy whirring.

U.S., and global, stock markets have been in turmoil due to the viral outbreak, with some at least partly attributing Tuesday’s biggest percentage gain since 1933 by the Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, -4.06%

, up 11.4%, to a belief that Trump’s administration may push forward with reopening the U.S. economy, despite public health experts indicating that such a move would likely be premature. Noted infectious-diseases specialist Anthony Fauci suggested at a late-afternoon news conference at the White House that it might be worth exploring an idea floated by Trump that some sections of the country could have restrictions eased ahead of others.

The Dow surged 2,112 points on Tuesday, while the S&P 500 index

SPX, -3.37%

soared 9.4%, and the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index

COMP, -3.79%

finished Tuesday’s session up 8.1%. All three indexes finished out the week lower but booked strong weekly gains, as President Trump signed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue package into law.

Gates, who boasts a net worth of $94.6 billion, according to Forbes (making him the second wealthiest man in the world behind Amazon.com’s

AMZN, -2.83%

Jeff Bezos) is among a group of billionaire philanthropists who have said they would give away at least half their wealth to charities under terms of the Giving Pledge. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated $100 million to pandemics science and testing.

Check out: Man who scored big wins during the 2008 financial crisis says the stock market could be ‘near a bottom’ if U.S. gets a coronavirus recovery plan



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European stocks slide as U.S. coronavirus cases surpass China and global spread intensifies


European stocks and U.S. equity futures fell on Friday, as U.S. coronavirus cases surpassed China and the global spread intensified.

The pan-European Stoxx 600

SXXP, -2.24%

 index declined 2.5% in early trading, while the FTSE 100

UKX, -3.65%

 slipped 3.8% lower. The German DAX

DAX, -1.89%

 dropped 2.1% and the French CAC

PX1, -2.69%

fell 3%. Stocks slipped back at the end of a good week as investors digested the increasing spread of the virus and the uncertainty ahead. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures

YM00, -1.87%

 were down 2%, Nasdaq futures

NQ00, -1.84%

 fell 1.9% and S&P 500 futures

ES00, -1.90%

 were 2.1% lower ahead of the open.

What’s moving the market?

The U.S. has now surpassed China as the country with the most coronavirus cases, rising above 85,500. The U.S. death toll climbed to just below 1,300 but sits far below Italy — 8,215 — and Spain — 4,365. Global infections grew by 13.6% in the past 24 hours — the seventh double-digit rise in 8 days. Cases have now tripled in Europe in a week, with Germany and France also among the worst affected.

The Dow entered a new bull-market phase on Thursday, driven by a $2 trillion stimulus package, bringing the 11-day-old bear market to an end, but was set to fall back on Friday. Asian markets followed Wall Street higher overnight but European stocks headed lower as the continent’s own equity rally came to an abrupt end.

OANDA analyst Craig Erlam said it made sense that investors were taking profit ahead of the weekend, given the fast-changing nature of the pandemic.

“We may have had a good run this week but the weekend can feel like a long time at moments like this and the numbers we’re getting from the U.S., which now has more cases than China or Italy, are getting uglier by the day. I fear a few more shocks lie ahead as we get closer to peak coronavirus in countries like the U.S., U.K. and more,” he said.

China’s industrial profits slumped 38% in January and February. As the first country impacted and locked down, global investors are closely following China’s economic fallout and recovery.

Stocks to watch

Cruise operator Carnival plunged 11% in early trading as the hard-hit industry was left out of the $2 trillion U.S. stimulus package.

As the U.K.’s national lockdown took hold and the economic impact began being felt across the country, shares in house builder Persimmon

PSN, -7.82%

 tumbled 9% and retail property company Hammerson

HMSO, -11.12%

 dropped 12%.



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Man who scored big wins during the 2008 financial crisis says the stock market could be ‘near a bottom’ if U.S. gets a coronavirus recovery plan


Hedge-fund manager David Tepper says there is nothing wrong with “nibbling” at stocks that have experienced a brutal selloff in the past month, amid growing fears centered on the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the star fund manager and billionaire says that U.S. lawmakers and the Trump administration need to act quickly to stabilize the economy and mitigate the damage from the deadly pathogen.

“There’s nothing wrong with nibbling here,” the founder of Appaloosa Management said during a phone interview with CNBC on Monday, referring to stocks that have fallen at an unprecedented rate, as business activity across the globe shutters in order to contain the illness, COVID-19, the infectious disease that was first identified in Wuhan, China in December. Nearly 370,000 people have contracted the illness and some 16,000 lives have been lost, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

In the U.S., there are more than 41,000 confirmed cases and almost 500 dead due to the infection.

Tepper signaled that stock-market indexes, that have fallen by more than 20% from their peaks, meeting the widely accepted criteria for a bear market, could be “near a bottom once we get this package done,” he said.

“It might be time to buy a little, and that means a little,” he emphasized. He cautioned that the market could still fall by another 10% or 15%, and investors should be willing to endure further pain.

With that in mind, he told the business network that investors need to be prudent in identifying stocks in the wake of the carnage at least partly sparked by the outbreak.

Asked if it was time to buy stocks, Tepper asked, rhetorically, “Which stocks?”

”You have to be very selective, right here,” he admonished.

For his part, Tepper said he was buying beaten down technology-related names, as well as health-care shares. He said he also was buying corporate debt.

“We are nibbling, no question about it,” he acknowledged. “Things look really interesting for the long term,” he said.

Tepper’s comments come as Senate lawmakers race to finish a massive aid package to help Americans devastated by the coronavirus. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said it needed to be completed “today,” to do the most good.

However, talks have been stalled as Democrats blocked a fresh effort by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to move a bill forward.

“We hope and expect to conclude negotiations today,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

During the CNBC interview, Tepper said, “Tell me when you have a plan.”

“In some sense, you need a plan and you need to go out and do this to give confidence to the market,” he explained. “Do whatever it takes to get it down,” he said, referring, perhaps, both to a plan by U.S. lawmakers and by the Trump administration to get much-needed ventilators and masks produced for those sickened by the illness.

“I can’t wait to invest again,” he said, striking an upbeat tone.

Markets, however, were far from upbeat. The Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, -3.04%,

the S&P 500 index

SPX, -2.93%

and the Nasdaq Composite Index

COM, +0.93%

all ended sharply lower Monday, as investors also awaited clarity from Capitol Hill on a rescue package.

Tepper may be best known for the concentrated bets he made on the financial system during the 2007-09 financial crisis, when he cited the backstop provided by the Federal Reserve as a reason to own beaten-down bank shares.

He also saw a windfall after betting, correctly, that commercial property bonds underpinned by New York City’s hulking Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residential complex would recover.

Tepper’s net worth was estimated at $12 billion by Forbes, ranking him as the world’s fifth-wealthiest hedge-fund manager. Tepper has also been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump.

Since buying the National Football League’s Carolina Panthers, Tepper mostly retreated from investing for others. Back in May, he started converting his hedge-fund firm to a family office, according to reports.

Appaloosa Management LP has earned an average annual return of 25% since its inception in 1993, and his flagship fund regularly features among the ranks of all-time top performers.



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Second dog tests positive for coronavirus as owners warned not to abandon pets


The Hong Kong government has urged people not to abandon their pets and to stop kissing them after a second dog repeatedly tested positive for coronavirus.

The German shepherd living in the Pok Fu Lam area on Hong Kong Island was sent for quarantine along with another mixed-breed dog from the same residence on Thursday after its owner was confirmed as being infected, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said in a statement.

No positive results were obtained from the mixed breed dog and neither dog has shown any signs of disease,” the department said, adding it will continue to closely monitor both dogs and conduct repeated tests on the animals.

The animal welfare authority reminded pet owners to use good hygiene practices and urged them to avoid kissing their pets, but stressed that there is currently no evidence that pet animals can be a source of the virus or that they can get sick from it.

”Under no circumstances should they abandon their pets,” the AFCD said.

The new case comes after a 17-year-old Pomeranian which had tested “weak positive” during repeated tests for the virus died two days after it was released from quarantine virus-free. The AFCD said the dog’s owner wasn’t willing to allow an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

Some animal welfare experts have suggested that the elderly Pomeranian’s death could have been caused by the stress of being quarantined and separated from its owner.

Both the World Organisation for Animal Health and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention have said there is no evidence that companion animals such as cats and dogs can spread the virus. “Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare,” the animal health organization said.

The AFCD said it “strongly advises” that mammalian pet animals including dogs and cats from households with persons infected with Covid-19 or those who have had close contacted with others infected with the virus, should be quarantined in government facilities.



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These 13 companies are working on coronavirus treatments or vaccines — here’s where things stand


A mix of legacy drugmakers and small startups have stepped forward with plans to develop vaccines or treatments that target the infection caused by the novel coronavirus.

COVID-19, which was first detected in December in Wuhan, China, has sickened more than 194,000 people worldwide and killed at least 7,800. There are no Food and Drug Administration-approved vaccines or therapies for the disease.

Read more of MarketWatch’s coverage of COVID-19.

In the U.S., the companies that are initiating development have received funding from two organizations: the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), which is a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a division of the National Institutes of Health. Some companies have received funding from Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a global organization based in Oslo. Other companies are funding trials by themselves or through partnerships with other life sciences companies.

Here are some of the companies developing treatments or vaccines in the U.S. for COVID-19:

Companies: BioNTech SE and Pfizer Inc.

Type: Vaccine

Stage: Preclinical

Name: BNT162

Background: On March 17, Pfizer announced that it would help develop and distribute BioNTech SE’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate, though the deal excludes China. BioNTech plans to put the vaccine candidate into clinical trials in late April, in Germany and the U.S. It is testing the vaccine in collaboration with Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co. Ltd. in China. Pfizer and BioNTech for several years have said they would partner to develop mRNA-based influenza vaccines.

Year-to-date stock performances: Shares of BioNTech have soared 104%; Pfizer’s stock is down 20%.

Company: Gilead Sciences Inc.

GILD, +6.61%

Type: Treatment

Stage: Phase 3 clinical trials

Name: remdesivir

Background: Gilead is a longtime drug maker that is best known for developing the first major cure for hepatitis-C in Sovaldi, a therapy that changed the standard of care for that disease but also kicked off the national debate about drug pricing. The company has experience developing and marketing HIV drugs, including Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), its preventive HIV medicine. Along with U.S. trials, Gilead is conducting a randomized, controlled clinical trial in Wuhan, testing remdesivir as a treatment for mild to moderate forms of pneumonia in people with the virus. The trial was given the go-ahead by China’s Food and Drug Administration in February.

Clinical trials:

1. On Feb. 21, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases started enrolling patients in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled Phase 3 trial evaluating 394 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 at up to 50 sites worldwide. The trial is expected to conclude April 1, 2023. Sites include the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., (not recruiting), the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha (recruiting), the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston (not recruiting), and Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane (recruiting).

2. On March 3, Gilead said a randomized, open-label Phase 3 trial will evaluate remdesivir in 600 patients with moderate COVID-19. The trial is expected to start enrolling patients in March, with results to come in May.

3. On March 3, Gilead said a randomized, open-label Phase 3 trial will evaluate remdesivir in 400 patients with severe COVID-19. The trial is expected to start enrolling patients in March, with results in May.

Year-to-date stock performance: Shares of Gilead are up 13.43%.

Company: GlaxoSmithKline

GSK, +7.69%

 

Type: Pandemic adjuvant platform for vaccines

Name: AS03 Adjuvant System

Background: GSK is another leading vaccine maker, having brought to market vaccines for human papillomavirus (HPV) and the seasonal flu, among others. On Feb. 3, it said the CEPI-funded University of Queensland will have access to the British drugmaker’s vaccine adjuvant platform technology, which is believed to both strengthen the response of a vaccine and limit the amount of vaccine needed per dose. On Feb. 24, GSK said that Clover Biopharmaceuticals Inc., a Chinese biotechnology company, is also using adjuvant technology in combination with its vaccine candidate, COVID-19 S-Trimer, in preclinical studies. Dr. Thomas Breuer, chief medical officer for GSK Vaccines, is leading work on vaccines and the adjuvant platform.

Year-to-date stock performance: Shares of GSK have tumbled 23.46%.

Company: Heat Biologics Inc.

HTBX, +19.12%

 

Type: Vaccine

Stage: Preclinical

Background: Heat Biologics has previously announced that it is developing a vaccine for the novel coronavirus with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. It disclosed March 17 in a financial filing that its COVID-19 vaccine candidate had been added to the World Health Organization’s “draft landscape” of 41 candidate vaccines. The company also recently joined the Alliance for Biosecurity, which may help it “secure government funding to support its rapid development, production, and distribution” of its COVID-19 vaccine, according to Maxim Group analysts.

Year-to-date stock performance: Heat’s stock has gained 19%.

Company: Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc.

INO, +21.48%

 

Type: DNA-based vaccine

Stage: Preclinical

Name: INO-4800

Background: Another CEPI grantee, awarded $9 million, Inovio has said it already began preclinical testing and small-scale manufacturing.

Timeline: Inovio develops immunotherapies and vaccines but hasn’t yet had a product approved for treatment. For INO-4800, preclinical testing was performed between Jan. 23 and Feb. 29. The company plans to begin clinical trials in the U.S. with 30 participants in April. It also plans to launch human trials in China and South Korea that same month, and that it has a total of 3,000 doses prepared for the trials in the three countries. Inovio said it expects to have the first results from the trial in the fall and to have 1 million does of the vaccine ready for additional clinical trials or emergency use by the end of the year. Inovio on March 12 announced a $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to test a delivery device for its vaccine candidate. RBC analyst Gregory Renza recently downgraded the stock to sector perform from outperform on valuation grounds and said he believed in the technology.

Year-to-date stock performance: Shares of Inovio have soared 124.64%.

Company: Johnson & Johnson

JNJ, +4.10%

 

Type: Vaccine

Name: TBD (“We are still in the process of identifying a vaccine candidate, so no there is no name at this time,” a spokesman said March 4.)

Background: On Feb. 11, J&J said it is working with BARDA to test its vaccine candidate, with both organizations providing funding for research and development and the public-health organization funding the Phase 1 trials. Similar to GSK, J&J’s AdVac and PER. C6 technologies are used to improve the development process for a vaccine and were also used to develop J&J’s experimental Ebola vaccine. “We are also in discussions with other partners, that if we have a vaccine candidate with potential, we aim to make it accessible to China and other parts of the world,” Dr. Paul Stoffels, J&J’s chief scientific officer, said in a statement. On March 13, J&J said it started preclinical testing on multiple candidates in collaboration with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and it aims to have a vaccine candidate by the end of the month. J&J also said in February that it partnered with BARDA on a project that aims to screen existing antiviral medications, including experimental or approved therapies, that may be effective against COVID-19.

Timeline: The company aims to start a Phase 1 clinical trial by the end of 2020, “compared to the typical five to seven years it takes for this milestone in vaccine development,” Stoffels said on Dr. Paul Stoffels, J&J’s chief scientific officer and leader of J&J’s global COVID-19 response, said March 2.

Year-to-date stock performance: Shares of J&J are down 7.49%.

.

Company: Moderna Inc.

MRNA, +10.29%

Type: RNA-based vaccine

Stage: Phase 1

Name: mRNA-1273

Background: Moderna received funding from CEPI in January to develop an mRNA vaccine against COVID-19. On Feb. 24, it said it had shipped the first batch of mRNA-1273 to the NIAID for a Phase 1 clinical trial in the U.S.

Clinical trials: The first patient in the Phase 1 trial received a dose of the vaccine candidate on March 16. The study is expected to enroll 45 healthy adult patients, between the ages of 18 and 55 years old, in an open-label Phase I clinical trial to test mRNA-1273 as a vaccine for COVID-19. It’s expected to conclude June 1, 2021. Participants will be followed for one year. The trial will be conducted at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. CEPI funded the manufacturing of the investigational vaccine for the first phase of the trial, which is evaluating different doses for safety and immune response.

Year-to-date stock performance: Moderna’s shares have gained 51.35%.

Company: Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.

REGN, +11.56%

 

Type: Treatment

Stage: Preclinical

Name: No name yet

Background: On Feb. 4, Regeneron announced it is working on developing monoclonal antibodies as treatments for COVID-19. The company’s VelocImmune platform uses genetically-engineered mice with humanized immune systems in preclinical testing. “We are aiming to have hundreds of thousands of prophylactic doses ready for human testing by end of August,” a spokesperson said. Christos Kyratsous, VP of infectious disease R&D and viral vector technology, is running the project.

Year-to-date stock performance: Regeneron’s shares are up 29.77%.

Companies: Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Sanofi

Type: Treatment

Stage: Phase 2/3 clinical trial

Name: Kevzara

Background: The FDA previously approved Kevzara, a treatment developed by Regeneron and Sanofi, as a therapy for rheumatoid arthritis in 2017.

Clinical trial: On March 16, the companies said they had started a Phase 2/3 trial testing Kevzara as a treatment for patients who have been hospitalized with severe COVID-19 infections. This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial is expected to enroll up to 400 patients and will take place at 16 sites in the U.S. The aim is to evaluate if the drug lessens patient fevers and their need for supplemental oxygen. The Phase 3 trial will evaluate if Kevzara prevents deaths and reduces need for mechanical ventilation, supplemental oxygen, or hospitalization. Early results from a small 21-person trial in China and that have not been peer-viewed found that COVID-19 patients reported reductions in fever and 7% of them had a reduced need for supplemental oxygen within days of starting treatment.

Company: Sanofi

SNY, +3.20%

 

Type: Vaccine

Stage: Preclinical

Name: No name yet

Background: Starting Feb. 18, Sanofi is working with BARDA to test a preclinical vaccine candidate for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) for COVID-19 using its recombinant DNA platform. It has a long history of producing vaccines in its Sanofi Pasteur business and acquired this candidate through its 2017 acquisition of Protein Sciences for $750 million. The French drugmaker previously worked with the organization on flu vaccines. Scientists in Meriden, Ct., are working on the vaccine; David Loew, Sanofi Pasteur’s EVP, is leading the project.

Timeline: A spokesperson said Sanofi aims to put a vaccine into a Phase 1 clinical trial between March 2021 and August 2021.

Year-to-date stock performance: Shares of Sanofi are down 14.4%.

Company: Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Ltd.

TAK, +4.06%

 

Type: Treatment

Stage: Preclinical

Name: TAK-888

Background: The Japanese drugmaker said March 4 it plans to test hyperimmune globulins for people who are at high risk for infection. As part of its research, which will be performed in Georgia, Takeda said it would need access to plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 or those who have received a vaccine if one is developed. Dr. Rajeev Venkayya, president of Takeda’s vaccine business, is the co-lead of the company’s COVID-19 response team. Like J&J, Takeda plans to examine whether other therapies, both experimental or with regulatory approval, may have treatment potential.

Year-to-date stock performance: Shares of Takeda are down 29.01%.

Company: Vir Biotechnology Inc.

VIR, +13.77%

 and Biogen Inc.

BIIB, +8.28%

 

Type: Treatment

Stage: Preclinical

Background: Vir said Feb. 25 it is collaborating with Shanghai-based WuXi Biologics to test monoclonal antibodies as a treatment for COVID-19. If the treatment is approved, WuXi will commercialize it in China, while Vir will have marketing rights for the rest of the world. The preclinical company is run by George Scangos, the former CEO of Biogen. It later announced a partnership with Biogen to help develop and manufacture its monoclonal antibodies as a potential treatment for COVID-19. Biogen will handle clinical manufacturing of Vir’s antibodies, the company said.

Year-to-date stock performance: Vir shares have jumped 324.94%; Biogen’s stock is up 4.95%.



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