Investors buy stocks in shortened Black Friday session
Stock futures saw modest early gains following Wednesday's mixed action and Thursday's holiday closure as investors returned for a shortened Black Friday session. The Nasdaq was the day's biggest winner, but the S&P and Dow also finished higher at 1 pm ET when U.S. stock markets closed.
ECONOMIC EVENTS: In the U.S., no economic data of note was released this morning.
Data from the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering shows there are now 61.2M confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, including 12.9M in the U.S., and roughly 1.44M deaths due to the disease, including about 264,000 in the U.S.
TOP NEWS: AstraZeneca (AZN) is facing questions about the results of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate's phase 3 study as well as the way those results were reported. On Tuesday of this week, Mene Pangalos, AstraZeneca's Executive Vice President for non-oncology research and development, first explained to Reuters that a lab error was the reason why some volunteers had received a smaller dose that proved to be 90% effective. In a statement on Wednesday, the communications manager for vaccines at Oxford, AstraZeneca's partner, told CNN that "dose selection for any new vaccine is a complicated area, and in exploring methods of dose selection, we discovered one gave a lower dose than expected." Oxford elaborated further on Thursday, saying in a statement to CNN that a "difference in the manufacturing process" had led to the error. In an interview with Bloomberg, AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said the company wants an additional global trial to confirm the 90% efficacy rate that the shot showed in a portion of the existing trial, although he didn't expect the additional trial to hold up regulatory approvals in the U.K. and European Union.
MAJOR MOVERS: Among the noteworthy gainers was Rhythm Pharmaceuticals (RYTM), which rose 21% after the company announced the FDA has approved Imcivree for chronic weight management in adult and pediatric patients with obesity due to two rare genetic disorders.
Also higher were Moderna (MRNA) and Novavax (NVAX), which rose 16% and 22%, respectively, in Friday trading as questions came to the forefront regarding the COVID-19 vaccine candidate being developed by AstraZeneca in partnership with the University of Oxford.
Among the notable losers was Sage Therapeutics (SAGE), which dropped about 9% after announcing a global collaboration and license agreement with Biogen (BIIB) to jointly develop and commercialize zuranolone for major depressive disorder, postpartum depression and other psychiatric disorders and SAGE-324 for essential tremor and other neurological disorders. Also lower were Marathon Patent Group (MARA) and Riot Blockchain (RIOT), which fell 16% and 12%, respectively, as the price of bitcoin continued to pull back after recently having run up to a record high.
INDEXES: The Dow added 37.90, or 0.13%, to 29,910.37, the Nasdaq gained 111.44, or 0.92%, to 12,205.85, and the S&P 500 advanced 8.70, or 0.24%, to 3,638.35.