The major averages are mixed at midday, with the Nasdaq higher but the Dow and S&P 500 lower. Technology shares continue to march higher after the Nasdaq managed to edge up to a new record high Friday even as the other major indexes slid. The earnings slate is heavy this week, with results due from Apple (AAPL), Tesla (TSLA) and Facebook (FB) as well as over one hundred other members of the S&P 500.
ECONOMIC EVENTS: In the U.S., the Chicago Fed national activity index rose 0.21 points to 0.52 in December. The Dallas Fed's manufacturing PMI fell another 3.5 points to 7.0 in January.
Data from the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering shows there are now 99.3M confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, including over 25M in the U.S., and 2.1M deaths due to the disease, including 419,000 in the U.S.
TOP NEWS: Shares of GameStop (GME) are about 40% higher near noon, but had been up as much as 100% in earlier trading, as the stock continues its incredible rally despite more commentators weighing in with the view that the stock price has become "disconnected" from the company's fundamentals. Telsey Advisory analyst Joseph Feldman this morning double downgraded GameStop to Underperform from Outperform with a $33 price target, citing his view of this "disconnect" between GameStop's fundamentals and its valuation following the recent surge in the shares. Meanwhile, Loop Capital analyst Anthony Chukumba, who has dropped coverage of the stock, said on CNBC that GameStop is "Blockbuster all over again," referring to the movie video chain that went out of business.
Merck (MRK) has announced that the company is discontinuing development of its COVID-19 vaccine candidates, V590 and V591, and plans to focus its SARS-CoV-2 research strategy and production capabilities on advancing two therapeutic candidates, MK-4482 and MK-7110. This decision came after both V590 and V591 were generally well tolerated in Phase 1 clinical studies, but "the immune responses were inferior to those seen following natural infection and those reported for other SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 vaccines," the company stated.
In other COVID-19 news, Moderna (MRNA) announced results from in vitro neutralization studies of sera from individuals vaccinated with Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine showing activity against emerging strains of SARS-CoV-2. "Vaccination with the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine produced neutralizing titers against all key emerging variants tested, including B.1.1.7 and B.1.351, first identified in the UK and Republic of South Africa, respectively," the company reported.
Pfizer (PFE) will be shipping fewer vaccine vials to fulfill its commitment to the U.S. government after having successfully convinced the FDA to acknowledge that the vials contained six doses and not five as originally thought, according to The New York Times' Noah Weiland, Katie Thomas and Sharon LaFraniere.
In M&A news, NCR Corporation (NCR) announced an agreement to acquire all outstanding shares of Cardtronics (CATM) for $39 per share in an all-cash transaction with an enterprise value of approximately $2.5B, including debt. Prior to entry into the agreement with NCR, Cardtronics terminated its previously announced acquisition agreement with an entity affiliated with funds managed by affiliates of Apollo Global (APO) in accordance with the terms of the acquisition agreement. In connection with the termination, NCR paid a termination fee of $32.6M, the company noted.
MAJOR MOVERS: Among the noteworthy gainers was Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY), which rose 9% amid a short squeeze like the one that has been attributed for driving up GameStop.
Also higher was BlackBerry (BB), which gained 30% despite the company saying it is "not aware" of any material or undisclosed corporate developments.
Among the notable losers was ReneSola (SOL), which declined 21% after it announced a $250M registered direct offering of American Depositary Shares, or ADSs. Also lower was Magnite (MGNI), which fell 8% after Truist analyst Matthew Thornton downgraded the stock to Hold from Buy.
INDEXES: Near midday, the Dow was down 171.59, or 0.55%, to 30,825.39, the Nasdaq was up 39.96, or 0.30%, to 13,583.02, and the S&P 500 was down 4.65, or 0.12%, to 3,836.82.