What to watch today: Dow set for higher open as Pfizer's vaccine rolls out

Dow futures pointed to a gain at Monday's open as the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech (BNTX) begins to roll out on emergency use basis. Monday's first vaccinations in the U.S. come as cumulative coronavirus deaths in America near 300,000 with the seven-day average of fatalities running at more than 2,400. (CNBC)

Uncertainty over stimulus kept a lid on stocks last week, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq all breaking multiweek winning streaks. President Donald Trump signed a one-week government funding extension Friday to avoid a partial federal shutdown and to buy more time for stimulus talks. (CNBC)

In a fresh effort to reach a deal on new Covid-19 economic stimulus, a $908 billion bipartisan proposal is expected to be split, according to a Reuters report, putting some of the key sticking points such as liability protections for businesses and funding state and local governments in a second package.

Alphabet's (GOOGL) Google appears to be suffering a worldwide outage that has taken several services including YouTube, Gmail and Google Drive offline. "Service has already been restored for some users, and we expect a resolution for all users in the near future," Google said in a statement. "Please note this time frame is an estimate and may change." (CNBC)

* Google reportedly delays return to office, considers a ‘flexible work week’ (NY Times)

IN THE NEWS TODAY

The first of many freezer-packed vials of Pfizer's vaccine are being shipped across the U.S., after the FDA on Friday granted emergency use authorization, trigging the government's massive distribution plans. A key CDC panel voted unanimously Saturday to recommend the vaccine for people 16 years and older and the agency's director quickly signed it. Pfizer plans to ship 50 million doses this year. (CNBC)

* Indoor dining will shut down in New York City again (NY Times)
* California says 10% of state has opted in to coronavirus exposure alerts (CNBC)

FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said Sunday that the agency will publish its data on Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine this week ahead Thursday's advisory panel meeting to vote on whether to recommend it for emergency use. "I'm not going to prejudge that discussion or our assessment of the data," Hahn said during an interview on CNN's "State of the Union."

A health advisor to President-elect Joe Biden on Monday urged Americans to have confidence in Covid-19 vaccines, telling CNBC the regulatory review for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine adhered to scientific protocols and politics did not influence approval. (CNBC)

Presidential electors are set to meet Monday to formally choose Biden as the nation's next president. There's no reason to expect any defections this year. The electors' votes have drawn more attention than usual in 2020 because Trump has refused to concede the election and has continued to make baseless allegations of fraud. Biden is planning to address the nation Monday night, after the electors have voted. (AP)

* Trump loses election challenge lawsuit in Wisconsin, further cementing Biden win (CNBC)
* GOP voters ready for Georgia runoffs despite Trump’s claims (AP)
* Trump blasts Barr over Hunter Biden probe secrecy, condemns Supreme Court (CNBC)

The Trump administration acknowledged reports that a group backed by a foreign government carried out a cyberattack on the Treasury Department and a section of the Commerce Department. The Washington Post linked the hack, which occurred over the weekend, to a group working for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. Russia has denied the allegations. (CNBC)

A former staffer for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday that he sexually harassed her for years. The explosive allegation comes as President-elect Joe Biden is reportedly considering Cuomo to run the Department of Justice. Cuomo's press secretary Caitlin Girouard said, "There is simply no truth to these claims," according to a statement provided to the Associated Press.

Alexion Pharmaceuticals (ALXN) agreed to be bought by AstraZeneca (AZN) in a $39 billion cash-and-stock deal valued at $175 per share, compared to Alexion's Friday close of $120.98. The move will help expand AstraZeneca's presence in treatments for rare diseases. Alexion shares surged 32% in premarket trading. (Reuters)

Tesla (TSLA) will close its Model X and Model S production lines for 18 days beginning December 24, according to an email to factory employees seen by CNBC. Employees working on the lines were told they were being given a full week of pay for the forced time off. Tesla shares were up 1.5% in the premarket. (CNBC)

* Historic stock market volume is likely this week as Tesla goes into the S&P 500 (CNBC)

Reddit has acquired short-video app Dubsmash, entering a crowded market dominated by Chinese-owned firm TikTok. The U.S. social media firm is mostly known for its online forums where users post text, links and media related to certain interests. (CNBC)

The Cleveland Indians are changing their name after 105 years. Citing three people familiar with the decision, The New York Times reported Sunday night that the team is moving away from a name considered racist for decades. The Indians have been internally discussing a potential name change for months.

STOCKS TO WATCH

CureVac (CVAC): CureVac has enrolled its first participant in a clinical trial for the German biotech firm's Covid-19 vaccine candidate. CureVac said the study is expected to include more than 35,000 people in Europe and Latin America. CurVac shares jumped 5.8% in the premarket.

Electronic Arts (EA): Electronic Arts announced a deal to buy U.K.-based videogame maker Codemasters for $1.2 billion in cash, trumping an earlier deal for Codemasters struck by Take-Two Interactive (TTWO). Take-Two said it was considering its position following that news and said it would make a further announcement when appropriate. EA shares rose 1.6% in the premarket.

TCF Financial (TCF): TCF agreed to be bought by Huntington Bancshares (HBAN) for about $6 billion in stock, the latest in a series of regional bank deals. The price represents about an 11 percent premium for Detroit-based TCF shareholders. TCF shares slid 2.5% in premarket trading.

Public Storage (PSA): Public Storage confirmed a Wall Street Journal report that activist investor Elliott Management had nominated six directors to the self-storage company's board of directors. The Journal said Elliott has built a significant stake in Public Storage, but said the nature of the talks could not be learned. Public Storage shares climbed 2.7% in the premarket.

Airbnb (ABNB): Airbnb received a double downgrade at Gordon Haskett Research Advisors, which cut its rating on the stock to "underperform" from "buy." Haskett said valuation for the newly public stock is stretched and that an "overwhelming majority" of investors that it's spoken to are interested in realization their quick gains. The company's shares fell 2.8% in premarket trading.

Virgin Galactic (SPCE): Virgin Galactic said its latest test flight did not reach space as planned, due to an ignition sequence failing to complete. The pilots, mothership and spaceship all returned to earth safely following the flight, held Saturday. Virgin Galactic shares sank 14% in the premarket.

State Street (STT): State Street and UBS (UBS) are in talks to merge their asset management businesses, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke to The Wall Street Journal. The two firms are said to have begun talks early this year and at one point during the summer were reportedly close to an agreement. State Street shares rose 1.3% in premarket trading.

Apartment Investment and Management (AIV): The real estate investment trust will be removed from the S&P 500 Friday to make room for Tesla (TSLA). Apartment Investment is spinning off its Apartment Income REIT and expects to complete that move today. Apartment Investment and Management shares were down 4% in the premarket.

United Airlines (UAL): United raised its estimated cash burn rate for the current quarter to $26 billion per day from a prior estimate of $15 million to $20 million, as the airline industry is hurt by a spike in Covid-19 cases. United shares were up 2.2% in premarket trading.

Nio (NIO): The China-based electric car maker's stock offering was priced at $39 per American Depositary Share, compared to Friday's close of $41.98. It said it plans to use the proceeds for research and development, sales and service network expansion and general corporate purposes. Nio shares were down more than 5% in premarket trading.

WATERCOOLER

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen is adding chocolate beignets to its menu nationwide to lure consumers to its restaurants during the holiday season. The item is part of a broader menu strategy from the fried chicken chain, which is owned by Restaurant Brands International (QSR) to more regularly use desserts to attract customers. (CNBC)

Source: Read Full Article