Stocks rally to six-week high with big tech leading way higher
The S&P 500 has extended its gains into a fourth straight session as U.S. stocks have climbed to their highest levels in six weeks ahead of the start of the earnings season. In addition to a number of earnings reports from the nation's biggest banks, investors are gearing up for Apple's (AAPL) iPhone launch event and the two-day Prime Day sale that Amazon (AMZN) has shifted into October from its typical summer window.
ECONOMIC EVENTS: In the U.S., the economic calendar was quiet as bond markets were closed for the Columbus Day holiday. However, it is an important week of data that will include several key reports that should reveal further news on the recovery. This week's releases will include reports on retail sales, industrial production, regional manufacturing PMIs, consumer sentiment, and consumer prices.
Data from the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering shows there are now 37.6M confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, including 7.76M in the U.S., and 1.08M deaths due to the disease, including about 215,000 in the U.S.
Outside of the U.S., United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced three local COVID alert levels - medium, high and very high - will be in place throughout England, depending on local infection rates, and laid out the restrictions that will be imposed for each.
China's stock markets outperformed after the offshore yuan fell following the PBoC removing a bank reserve requirement on yuan forward contracts, which signaled that policymakers may have been concerned about the currency's recent gains.
TOP NEWS: Shares of Ford (F) and Twitter (TWTR) are among the best performers in the S&P 500 after both were upgraded by Wall Street research firms. Ford shares are up 6.5% near noon after Benchmark analyst Michael Ward upgraded the stock to Buy from Hold with a $10 price target. The new management team, and better than expected third quarter earnings, should provide a near-term catalyst for the shares, argues Ward. Meanwhile, Twitter shares have risen about 5% after Deutsche Bank analyst Lloyd Walmsley upgraded the stock to Buy from Hold with a price target of $56, up from $36. The shares should continue to re-rate higher with improving growth in the second half of 2020 and a "compelling bull case" for 2021, Walmsley
Apple shares are up more than 5% at midday on Monday ahead of tomorrow's product launch event, during which the company is expected to officially unveil its iPhone 12 product lineup and kick off its iPhone 5G supercycle. Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives, who said he would characterize this "as Apple's most important product cycle since the iPhone 6 in 2014," expects four models to be unveiled on Tuesday and thinks all four iPhone types will feature 5G connectivity.
In M&A news, Twilio (TWLO) announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Segment for approximately $3.2B in Twilio Class A common stock, on a fully diluted and cash free, debt free basis. Jeff Lawson, co-founder and CEO of Twilio, said, "Segment lets developers and companies break down [data silos that destroy great customer experiences] and build a complete picture of their customer. Combined with Twilio's Customer Engagement Platform, we can create more personalized, timely and impactful engagement across customer service, marketing, analytics, product and sales."
In COVID-19 news, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Defense announced late Friday an agreement with AstraZeneca (AZN) for late-stage development and large-scale manufacturing of the company's COVID-19 investigational product AZD7442, a cocktail of two monoclonal antibodies, that may help treat or prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2. The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, collaborated with the DoD Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense and Army Contracting Command, to provide approximately $486M to AstraZeneca for two Phase 3 clinical trials and related development activities.
MAJOR MOVERS: Among the noteworthy gainers was Dillard's (DDS), which rose 35% after Ted Weschler, one of Warren Buffett's lieutenants, disclosed a 5.89% stake in the embattled retailer. Also higher was LMP Automotive (LMPX), which gained 12% after announcing a definitive agreement for the acquisition of a 70% interest in Atlantic Automotive Group and Atlantic Central Storage in a deal valued at $608M.
Among the notable losers was Avenue Therapeutics (ATXI), which dropped 58% after receiving a complete response letter from the FDA regarding the company's new drug application for IV tramadol. The agency said that, although the pivotal Phase 3 clinical trials demonstrated statistically significant outcomes for all of the primary and many secondary endpoints, the FDA has determined that it cannot approve the application in its present form.
Also lower was Huya (HUYA), which fell 11% after announcing it will acquire all the outstanding shares of DouYu (DOYU), including ordinary shares represented by American depositary shares, through a stock-for-stock merger.
INDEXES: Near midday, the Dow was up 288.56, or 1.01%, to 28,875.46, the Nasdaq was up 293.02, or 2.53%, to 11,872.97, and the S&P 500 was up 58.85, or 1.69%, to 3,535.98.