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Moderna Shares Surge After Early Trial Shows Its Coronavirus Vaccine Candidate Generates A “Robust” Immune Response

Jul. 15, 2020 2:12 PM ET
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  • Stocks were higher to start Wednesday with the Dow adding 326 points, or 1.2%.
  • The S&P 500 gained 1.1%, while the Nasdaq traded 1% higher.
  • XBiotech shares got a boost yesterday after the company announced a discovery that its drug candidate antibody that blocks interleukin-1 alpha can be used as a therapeutic.

Plus, Goldman Sachs reported blow-out earnings results, Walmart announced it will now require shoppers to wear masks at all of its stores, Apple won an appeal against the European Commission, and Zoom Communications is getting into hardware.

Stocks were higher to start Wednesday with the Dow adding 326 points, or 1.2%. The S&P 500 gained 1.1%, while the Nasdaq traded 1% higher.

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Goldman Sachs shares gained nearly 5% at the open after the bank reported blow-out earnings results. Goldman posted $2.42 billion in profit, or $6.26 per share, crushing analysts’ estimates for $3.78 per share. Revenue came in more than $3.5 billion higher than estimates at $13.3 billion—the second highest revenue ever reported for the firm—on strong results in the bank’s trading and investment banking divisions, with revenue from trading stocks and bonds surging 93% in the quarter. “This quarter demonstrated the continued dedication of the people of Goldman Sachs to helping our clients navigate a very challenging environment, while working remotely or returning to offices that are quite different than the ones we left earlier in the year,” said Goldman CEO David Solomon. “While the economic outlook remains uncertain, I am confident that we will continue to be the firm of choice for clients around the world.”

Moderna shares are up 9.5% at the time of writing following the biotech’s release of promising data on its coronavirus vaccine candidate late yesterday. Moderna said the vaccine candidate generated a “robust” immune response producing neutralizing antibodies in all 45 patients in the phase 1 trial. The newly released data “puts us on a positive path towards a larger phase three trial with which we hope to demonstrate the safety and efficacy,” Moderna chief medical officer Tal Zaks said. “I believe we have an ethical obligation to advance this vaccine as fast as possible given the unmet need on one hand and given what science enables us to do on the other. I think it is incumbent upon us to do this in a manner that’s responsible, judicious and accounts for the emerging understanding of the safety profile and I think we’re doing that by enduring that our phase three is a large phase three.” Moderna said it will begin its late-stage trial for the vaccine candidate on July 27, with the trial enrolling 30,000 participants across 87 locations.

In other coronavirus news, the U.S. reported a fresh record of 67,417 new cases on Tuesday. The seven-day average is now 62,210 new cases per day, more than tripe the number just a month ago and up more than 21% compared with the seven-day average from a week ago. The CDC said yesterday afternoon that the U.S. could get the virus outbreak under control in one to two months if every American wore a mask. “The time is now,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, in an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association. “I think if we could get everybody to wear a mask right now I think if four, six, eight weeks we could bring this epidemic under control. I think we’re being very clear now. Now’s the time to wear a mask.” One more place Americans soon won’t be able to enter without a mask is Walmart. The big-box retailer announced today that shoppers to its Walmart and Sam’s Club stores will be required to put on a mask or face covering before entering beginning on July 20. With the new policy, Walmart joins a growing list of retailers requiring face coverings, including Apple, Best Buy, and Costco.

Speaking of Apple, the iPhone maker won a landmark case today against the European Commission over a dispute concerning 13 billion euros ($14.9 billion) in Irish taxes. The EU’s general court decided that the European Commission did not prove that the Irish government had given the U.S.-based tech giant a tax advantage, despite the Commission concluding in August 2016 that the Irish government had granted Apple illegal benefits that enabled the company to pay “substantially less tax than other businesses over many years.” While Apple and the Irish government are rejoicing the ruling on their appeal of the 2016 ruling, this may not quite be the end of the legal story. The Commission now has the right to appeal to the Court of Justice of the European Union, and it may take another few years before a final ruling is issued from the EU’s highest court should such an appeal play out. However, today’s decision is likely to influence the way the Commission and other EU bodies address the still-unresolved issue of widely diverging corporate tax policies within the European Union. “What is at stake is more than just the alleged aid granted to Apple,” said Paolo Palmigiano, head of U.K. competition, EU, and trade practice at the law firm Taylor Wessing. “The judgment has consequences on the ability of the Commission to use state aid to rebalance tax regimes across Europe and also on its current plans to pursue low-tax member states which have advantageous corporate tax regimes.”

And work-from-home darling Zoom Communications is now getting into the hardware business as remote work shows no signs of going away any time soon. The company’s first gadget is the $599 Zoom for Home – DTEN ME, an “all-in-one personal collaboration device” that allows users to create a more immersive work space in their home offices. The large tablet-like device features a 27-inch screen with three wide angle cameras, eight microphones, and a touchscreen display, and is most similar to other chat devices including Google’s Nest Hub, Facebook’s Portal, and Amazon’s Echo Show. “Zoom for Home is an initiative from Zoom that allows any Zoom user to deploy a personal collaboration device for their video meetings, phone calls, interactive whiteboard annotation – all the good stuff that you want to do on Zoom, you can do with a dedicated purpose-built device,” Jeff Smith, head of Zoom Rooms, told TechCrunch.

Stocks We’re Watching

XBiotech (NASDAQ: XBIT): XBiotech shares got a boost yesterday after the company announced a discovery that its drug candidate antibody that blocks interleukin-1 alpha can be used as a therapeutic to reduce brain damage and neurological deficit after stroke. The drug candidate was researched by the team of Dr. Giovanni Camici, Director for the Center for Molecular Cardiology at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. Dr. Camici said, “This study demonstrates the importance of IL-1α in mediating the damages caused by ischemic stroke and the efficacy of IL-1α blockade in improving outcome after transient cerebral ischemia in mice. The availability of a clinically approved anti-human IL-1α antibody could offer the possibility to establish new treatment strategies for the management of ischemic stroke patients. Based on our results, randomized clinical trials should be designed to assess the potential of anti-IL-1α therapy as an adjuvant to interventional or thrombolytic treatment of acute ischemic strokes.”

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