Dow futures pointed to a 1,600 point rally — over 6% — at Monday's open after Pfizer and BioNTech said that data from their Covid-19 vaccine trial showed 90% efficacy. The broad surge in stocks included up to 30% gains in airline and cruise stocks on the thought that eventual widespread vaccine distribution would allow people to safety travel again. Tech stocks, which have been beneficiaries of the stay-at-home economy caused by the pandemic, were under pressure and Nasdaq futures were lower.
President Donald Trump tweeted about the "GREAT NEWS!" about the vaccine and the stock market surge.
President-elect Joe Biden also called the Pfizer vaccine data "great news" but said, it "does not change this urgent reality. Americans will have to rely on masking, distancing, contact tracing, hand washing, and other measures to keep themselves safe well into next year." Any vaccine will still need regulatory approval and widespread distribution won't happen right away.
Before the vaccine news, U.S. stock futures had already been sharply higher, fueled by Biden's Saturday night victory speech, in which he spoke of unity. Trump has refused to concede, saying over the weekend that the election is "far from over." Strong stock gains heading into the new week added to Wall Street's post-election rally.
2. Additional data continues to be collected on Pfizer Covid vaccine
Pfizer and BioNTech saw their shares up sharply after announcing Monday that their coronavirus vaccine was more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 among those without evidence of prior infection. The final vaccine efficacy percentage may vary, however, as safety and additional data continue to be collected. Pfizer Chairman and CEO Dr. Albert Bourla joined CNBC shortly after Monday's vaccine announcement, saying "It is a great day for science. It is a great day for humanity." He also called the efficacy data a "light at the end of the tunnel" in the pandemic. Scientists were hoping for a coronavirus vaccine that is at least 75% effective, while White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has previously said one that is 50% or 60% effective would be acceptable.
3. Biden appoints members of his coronavirus task force
Biden earlier Monday announced the members of his coronavirus task force, a group charged by the president-elect with crafting a plan to curb the spread of Covid-19 as new daily cases reached record-high levels. The advisory board — co-chaired by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, former FDA Commissioner Dr. David Kessler and Yale's Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith. The task force includes Dr. Rick Bright, the vaccine expert and whistleblower who resigned from the Trump administration last month.
As of Saturday, the U.S. reported four straight days of record new daily cases. Saturday saw more than 128,400 U.S. infections. Nineteen states reported a record-high number of people hospitalized with Covid-19, based on a seven-day average, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by the Covid Tracking Project. Total U.S. Covid-19 cases approached 10 million on Monday after worldwide cumulative infections topped 50 million.
4. Balance of power in the Senate and the House
While major news organizations called the presidential race for Biden, the balance of power in the Senate might not be decided until the new year. It appears that Republicans will keep their majority. However, four races on Monday remained too close to call, including two in Georgia heading for run-off elections in January. NBC News has the Senate count deadlocked at 48 Republicans and 48 Democrats. On the House side, Democrats will keep their majority but it won't be big, according to NBC News, which puts the count at 225 Democrats and 210 Republicans. That would be a net-loss of seven seats for the Democrats.
5. McDonald's and Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway report earnings
McDonald's shares gained 4% in the premarket after the fast food giant reported adjusted quarterly earnings of $2.22 per share, beating estimates. Revenue was slightly above Wall Street forecasts. Comparable store sales were down 2.2% globally, but increased by 4.6% in the U.S., as sales in those stores benefitted from stronger average check growth.
Berkshire Hathaway reported a third-quarter drop in operating profit compared with a year earlier, as the insurance underwriting operation lost money. However, Warren Buffett's Berkshire posted an overall profit thanks to the rising value of its equity investments. The conglomerate bought back $9 billion of its own stock. Shares of Berkshire rose more than 4% in the premarket.
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