Stocks little changed near noon following Chinese data
The S&P and Dow are hugging the flatline while the Nasdaq is slightly higher at midday following some encouraging economic data from China. The Chinese reports may provide hope for how the American economy could rebound when the COVID-19 restrictions are able to be eased.
ECONOMIC EVENTS: In U.S. data, the Conference Board's consumer confidence index fell to a three-year low of 120.0 from a 6-month high of 132.6 in February. The Case Shiller 20-city home price index dipped -0.04% in January to 218.6. The Chicago PMI fell 1.2 points to 47.8 in March.
In China, the official March manufacturing and services indexes bounced from record lows in February, with the composite index improving too. The CFLP manufacturing index rebounded 16.3 points to 52.0, the services index rose 22.7 points to 52.3, and the composite index rose to 53.0 after falling 24.1 points in February to 28.9.
Meanwhile, the latest data from the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering shows there are now 809,608 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 39,545 deaths due to the disease.
TOP NEWS: Amazon (AMZN) confirmed that it fired Chris Smalls, a fulfillment center employee who led the Staten Island warehouse strike, for violating its quarantine measures, including failing to abide by a 14-day quarantine required after being exposed to an employee with a confirmed case of COVID-19, Bloomberg's Josh Eidelson and Luke Kawa reported.
In a statement Monday night in response to the news, New York State Attorney General Letitia James said it was "disgraceful that Amazon would terminate an employee who bravely stood up to protect himself and his colleagues." The Office of the Attorney General is "considering all legal options, and I am calling on the National Labor Relations Board to investigate this incident," James added.
Carnival (CCL) announced that it has commenced private offerings of $3B aggregate principal amount of first-priority senior secured notes due 2023, $1.75B aggregate principal amount of senior convertible notes due 2023, and commenced a $1.25B stock offering. After the news, Wells Fargo analyst Timothy Conder called the capital raise of $6B "needed" and "expected," adding that he hopes Royal Caribbean (RCL) and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) will also consider "proactive" equity raises.
Shares of drugmaker Amarin (AMRN) have lost 70% of their value after a federal judge ruled in favor of generic companies Dr. Reddy's (RDY) and Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HKMPF) in the patent litigation for its Vascepa capsule franchise. Following the news, Goldman Sachs and Jefferies downgraded Amarin to Neutral-equivalent ratings, while Citi analyst Joel Beatty called the legal defeat a "major negative" for the shares.
Papa John's (PZZA) issued the "second business update in the pizza space in the span of 18 hours" following Domino's Pizza's (DPZ) own update last night, after which Stephens analyst James Rutherford said the updates affirm his view that "pizza names are the investor's safe haven during COVID-19." However, the shares are moving in different directions after the updates, with Domino's sliding 6% near noon and Papa John's trading 5.5% higher.
General Motors (GM) reported that it had launched a rapid-response project to produce masks at scale on Friday, March 20 and by next week expects to deliver its first 20,000 masks to frontline workers. Meanwhile, peer Ford (F), which has also pivoted to making medical supplies to help in the COVID-19 fight, announced that it is delaying the restart of production at its North America plants "to help protect its workers."
MAJOR MOVERS: Among the noteworthy gainers was Kiniksa (KNSA), which rose 31% after it announced early evidence of treatment response with mavrilimumab.
Also higher was MagnaChip (MX), which gained 25% after it agreed to sell its Foundry Services Group and Fab 4 factory in Cheongju to a special purpose company for $435M.
Among the notable losers was Delphi Technologies (DLPH), which slid 21% after BorgWarner (BWA) accused its of breaching their transaction agreement.
BorgWarner was 2% higher near noon. Also lower were RH (RH) and Cronos Group (CRON), which fell a respective 11% and 10% after reporting quarterly results.
INDEXES: Near midday, the Dow was down 25.43, or 0.11%, to 22,302.05, the Nasdaq was up 11.77, or 0.15%, to 7,785.92, and the S&P 500 was down 5.78, or 0.22%, to 2,620.87.