Market Brief: April 29, 2020

A daily summary of news, analysis and data shaping the market.
Market Brief
Wednesday, April 29, 2020
High Hopes. U.S. stocks finished at their highest level in weeks on Wednesday as investors assessed progress on treatment for the novel strain of coronavirus and the Federal Reserve pledged to use its policy tools to help limit the economic damage from business shutdowns intended to slow down the spread of the virus. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose around 532 points, or 2.2%, to around 24,634, marking its highest level since March 10, the S&P 500 index advanced 2.7%, to about 2940, representing its highest close since March 6, while the Nasdaq Composite Index closed up 3.6% at about 8915. Helping set the stage for gains on the day was data from Gilead Sciences, which showed that its anti-malarial drug remdesivir was successful in treating certain patients with Covid-19. Meanwhile, The New York Times on Wednesday reported that the Food and Drug Administration is
preparing to grant an emergency-use authorization as early as Wednesday. Elsewhere, the Fed kept interest rates at a range of 0% and 0.25% but said that it intends to do whatever is necessary to help support an economy and market beleaguered by the viral outbreak.
DJIA 24,633.86 532.31
S&P 500 2,939.51 76.12
NASDAQ 8,914.71 306.98
US 10-Year Note 0.62 0.00
Dollar Index 99.52 -0.34
Crude Oil 15.34 3.00
Gold 1,730.60 8.40
Global Dow 2,688.92 64.49
Powered by Dow Jones Research, FactSet, Eurostat, SIX Financial Information.
Gilead Sciences Had Good News on Virus Drug. More Data Are Coming Soon.
Gilead Sciences said Wednesday that a controlled study of its antiviral remdesivir conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases found that the drug had shortened the time to recovery for Covid-19 patients.

Details were scant in the news release, which said that the NIAID, part of the National Institutes of Health, would provide more information soon. A NIAID spokesperson said the institute had no further information at the moment, but was planning an announcement as early as later Wednesday.

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Microsoft Tops $10 Billion in Earnings, Beating Even Pre-Coronavirus Expectations
Microsoft Corp. outperformed the financial expectations that it faced even before the coronavirus in an earnings report Wednesday, sending shares slightly higher in after-hours trading.

Microsoft reported fiscal third-quarter earnings of $10.75 billion, or $1.40 a share, on sales of $35 billion Wednesday, up from profit of $1.14 a share on revenue of $30.57 billion a year ago. Analysts on average expected earnings of $1.27 a share on sales of $33.76 billion, according to FactSet.

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GDP Declines at 4.8% Pace in First Quarter. That’s Worse Than Economists Expected.
The U.S. economy contracted at a 4.8% pace in the first quarter, representing the start of the pain inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the economy shrank at the fastest rate since the last recession as governments responded to the spread of Covid-19 with stay-home orders in March, leading to rapid changes in demand as businesses and schools switched to remote work or closed and consumers canceled, restricted, or redirected their spending. The decline was worse than the 4% contraction economists polled by Bloomberg anticipated.

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Fed Chief Vows a Long-Term, Robust Response to Nurse Economy Back to Health
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday reiterated that it would continue to support the U.S. economy as it suffers the consequences of the coronavirus crisis.

The Fed’s policy-setting arm, the Federal Open Market Committee, left interest rates unchanged in a range of 0% to 0.25% and refrained from announcing any new policies meant to prop up a quickly deteriorating economy. Since early last month, the Fed has responded quickly to evolving economic and financial conditions with little regard for its official meeting schedule.

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Fed Will Broaden a Key Support Program for Credit Markets
The Federal Reserve is planning to backstop a broader range of credit markets, and the expansion could start relatively soon, according to comments from Chairman Jerome Powell.

Officials are close to releasing updated details for their Main Street Lending Program, Powell said on Wednesday. The central bank will “keep looking to add products and add different borrowers to it as we go,” he said.

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Home Purchase Applications Rose Last Week. It’s a Bright Spot in a Tough Housing Market.
Applications for loans to purchase a home increased for the second week in a row, according to data released by the Mortgage Bankers Association, or MBA, Wednesday. That’s a little good news for the U.S. residential real estate market, which has been plagued by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The volume of home purchase applications jumped by 12% week over week on a seasonally adjusted basis, or 13% on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, for the week ending April 24, according to the MBA. The same index increased 2% on a seasonally adjusted basis, or 3% non-seasonally adjusted, the week prior.

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Tesla Surprises With First-Quarter Profit
Tesla posted a surprise profit in the first quarter, the first to reflect the economic destruction wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

Tesla late Wednesday said it earned $16 million, or 9 cents a share, in the first quarter, versus losses of $2.90 a share in the year-ago period. Adjusted for one-time items, the company earned $1.24 a share. Sales rose to $5.99 billion from $4.5 billion a year ago. Shares rose more than 2% following the report.

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Boeing Reports Significant First-Quarter Loss
Commercial aerospace giant Boeing lost $1.70 a share—net of all adjustments—from $16.9 billion in sales in the first quarter. Analysts had predicted a loss of $1.57 per share from $17.3 billion in sales.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is affecting every aspect of our business, including airline customer demand, production continuity and supply chain stability,” said CEO Dave Calhoun in the company’s news release. “Our primary focus is the health and safety of our people and communities while we take tough but necessary action to navigate this unprecedented health crisis and adapt for a changed marketplace.” To adjust, Boeing is cutting aircraft production rates as well as staffing levels.

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Lyft Lays Off 17% of Staff and Reduces Executive Pay Amid Coronavirus Challenges
Lyft said Wednesday it plans to cut its staff by 982 jobs, or about 17% of its employees, as it moves to reduce operating expenses and cash flows “in light of the ongoing economic challenges resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the company’s business.”

The ride-sharing company said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it will take $28 million to $36 million of restructuring and related charges, mostly in the second quarter, in connection with the cuts.

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Astrazeneca’s Strong First Quarter Shows the Stock Can Weather the Coronavirus Storm
AstraZeneca said on Wednesday it had kept its earnings outlook for the year as patients and hospitals stockpiling during the coronavirus pandemic helped drive sales and profits during the first quarter.

AstraZeneca posted a 16% rise in revenue to $6.4 billion during the first three months of 2020 compared with the same period a year earlier, driven by the strong growth across every therapy area and region. That beat analysts’ overall expectations of $5.91 billion, according to a consensus based on estimates by 12 analysts polled by FactSet.

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