What to Watch Today: Stocks Set to Drop as Covid Vaccine Rally Takes a Breather

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BY THE NUMBERS

Dow futures pointed to a sharp decline at Thursday's open as Wall Street worried about record spikes in new U.S. daily coronavirus cases. On Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed slightly lower after soaring nearly 1,100 points in a two-session rally on Covid-19 vaccine optimism that added to last week's almost 7% gain. (CNBC)

The Nasdaq jumped 2% on Wednesday, breaking a sharp two-session losing streak that was fueled by the pummeling of stay-at-home tech stocks. Nasdaq futures pointed to a small gain Thursday. (CNBC)

The Labor Department this morning reported a fewer-than-expected 709,000 initial filings for unemployment benefits for the week ending Nov. 7. That's down 48,000 from the prior week's revised number, a sign of improvement in the job market but still well above pre-pandemic levels. At 9:30 a.m. ET, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell makes a virtual appearance at a ECB forum on central banking. (CNBC)

* October consumer price index unchanged (Labor Department)

IN THE NEWS TODAY

Shares of Moderna, already up over 300% this year, rose in Thursday's premarket trading after the U.S. biotech firm said it had enough data from a late-stage trial of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate to begin a planned interim analysis. Moderna did not specify when it planned to release data on the vaccine's effectiveness. (Reuters)

On Monday, Pfizer and BioNTech said that data from their joint vaccine trial showed more than 90% efficacy. Top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that a high degree of effectiveness for Moderna would make sense since its vaccine is "almost identical" to Pfizer's.

* Qiagen says it would begin selling a rapid, portable Covid-19 test in U.S. (MarketWatch)

The U.S. reported over 144,100 new infections of coronavirus Wednesday, the worst single day of the pandemic and the ninth straight day of 100,000-plus infections. In fact, the seven-day new case average of more than 127,600 hit another record, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Wednesday also saw 1,984 Covid deaths, the worst total since early May, and a record number of people hospitalized with the disease. Starting Thursday, New Jersey put some coronavirus restrictions back into effect. New York is set to reimpose similar curbs on Friday.

* California nears 1 million Covid-19 cases after Texas became first state to top that level (AP)

Dr. Michael Osterholm, a coronavirus advisor to President-elect Joe Biden, said ia nationwide lockdown would help control the spread of Covid and revive the U.S. economy. Osterholm, who serves as director of the Center of Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said earlier this week that the country is headed toward "Covid hell." (CNBC)

Biden is moving forward with his transition even as President Donald Trump continues denounce and fight the election result. The president-elect picked his longtime adviser Ron Klain as his chief of staff. Klain served as the White House coordinator to the Ebola response during the 2014 outbreak when Biden was vice president under former President Barack Obama. (CNBC)

Two more people who attended an election night party at the White House have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, NBC News reported Wednesday. That brings the tally of Covid cases from the event to at least five, including Trump's White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson.

After his first public appearance since Biden was declared the winner on Saturday, Trump met with his top election advisors Wednesday to discuss a path forward. The meeting came as NBC News reported that there's growing expectation among Trump's advisors that the president will never concede that he lost to Biden, even when ballots are certified in coming weeks around the country.

* Facebook and Google extend bans on political ads for next several weeks (WSJ)

Facing the Trump administration's Thursday deadline, TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance are asking a U.S. federal appeals court for additional time to work out a potential divestiture of the popular video-sharing app, according to The Wall Street Journal.

STOCKS TO WATCH

Fossil (FOSL) shares surged 25% in the premarket after the maker of watches, handbags and other luxury goods swung to a third quarter profit, thanks to e-commerce momentum and lower expenses.

Energizer Holdings (ENR), a maker of batteries and other consumer products, reported adjusted quarterly profit of 59 cents per share, short of the 81 cent consensus estimate. Energizer's revenue did beat estimates, but the company said it incurred higher Covid-related costs to help it meet the needs of its customers and employees.

Edgewell Personal Care (EPC) beat estimates by 2 cents with adjusted quarterly earnings of 59 cents per share, with revenue beating estimates as well. The company behind brands such as Schick, Wilkinson, Edge and Playtex also said it expects sales for fiscal 2021 to increase in the mid-single digit range.

Alibaba (BABA) reported record Singles Day sales of about $75 billion, with the event actually extending over several days this year. Alibaba shares have been under some pressure on concerns about new regulations for tech companies and the postponement of Alibaba affiliate Ant Group's initial public offering.

Jaws Acquisition (JWS) is merging with primary-care medical center operator Cano Health and taking it public in a deal that values Cano at $4.4 billion. Jaws Acquisition is a SPAC, a special purpose acquisition company backed by Starwood Capital Group founder Barry Sternlicht.

Salesforce.com (CRM) was downgraded to "equal-weight" from "overweight" at Morgan Stanley, which said the dynamics of the company's subscription model may pressure earnings and free cash flow in the near term.

Wells Fargo (WFC) is exploring the sale of its private-label credit card unit, according to people with knowledge of the matter who spoke to Bloomberg. Wells Fargo is said to have begun reaching out directly to possible bidders. 

Vroom (VRM)  posted a smaller than expected loss for its latest quarter, with the online used car seller also reporting better than expected revenue.  However, the company gave a weaker than expected current quarter forecast, expecting losses to widen.

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