Vaccine Rollout, Stimulus Talks Headline Wall Street's Big Week

A bipartisan $908 billion stimulus proposal also boosted investor sentiment

Digital Content Manager
Dec 18, 2020 at 1:57 PM
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The past five days marked a major step in the United States' fight against the pandemic, thanks to the initial rollout of Pfizer's (PFE) and BioNTech (BNTX) COVID-19 vaccine on Monday. Also in focus that day was a new $908 billion stimulus proposal. However, none of those headlines were enough to cheer investors up, as virus cases continued to rise, and the death toll hit a 300,000 record. The Dow fell off its intraday record highs to finish lower, with the possibility of social distancing restrictions weighing on investors' minds. By Tuesday, sentiment had turned optimistic, as lawmakers worked on a stimulus deal, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recognized Joe Biden as president-elect following his Electoral College win. Plus, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said data showed Moderna's (MRNA) COVID-19 vaccine met emergency use expectations.

Wall Street experienced a volatile trading session on Wednesday, which made up for a mixed bag of stocks. While the S&P 500 and tech-heavy Nasdaq reversed earlier losses to finish higher, the Dow slipped into the red, despite Congress leaders getting closer to a stimulus deal and the Fed's decision to keep interest rates low. The major indexes all nabbed record closes on Thursday, however, brushing off dismal jobless claims data while a consensus on stimulus seemed to be within reach. As of Friday afternoon, the benchmarks were poised for weekly wins, but had fallen from those highs, with federal funding set to lapse on Saturday and a final decision on stimulus yet to be announced.

Major Acquisitions Send Stocks Higher

Major deals happened on Wall Street this week. For one, Electronic Arts (EA) was on pace for a seven-day winning streak after acquiring Codemasters for $1.2 billion on Monday, outbidding rival Take-Two Interactive Software (TTWO). Later on Tuesday, Eli Lilly (LLY) was surging as well, after agreeing to buy Prevail Therapeutics (PRVL) for $1.04 billion, in an effort to expand its presence in the lucrative field of gene therapy. And on Wednesday, Aphria (APHA) and Tilray (TLRY) both moved higher, after the Canadian cannabis companies announced an all-stock merger, and became the world's largest cannabis producer.

Big Tech Stocks in Focus

A handful of tech giants were also in focus this week. Tesla (TSLA) was higher on Monday, brushing off a production shutdown after it was reported the 2020 favorite would join the S&P 500, as well as the S&P 100 at the of the week. Meanwhile, newly listed DoorDash (DASH) plummeted after receiving a downgrade from D.A. Davidson to "neutral" from "buy," as well as a price target hike to $150 from $93. The analyst cited "little room" for performance hiccups, due the security's current valuation. And finally on Thursday, Snowflake (SNOW) moved higher, making it to Senior Quantitative Analyst Rocky White's list of 20 stocks that have attracted the highest weekly options volume

Twitter a "Top Pick," Analysts Hit Pause on MRNA

It's probably difficult to quantify, but it felt like there was an inordinate amount of analyst attention doled out this week. Two brokerages pumped the brakes on Moderna (MRNA) despite its upbeat vaccine news. An upgrade sent Nutanix (NTNX) back toward its pre-pandemic levels, while Deere (DE) and Tenet Healthcare (THC) both received lofty price-target hikes.

Elsewhere, J.P. Morgan Securities named social media giant Twitter (TWTR) a top pick, while a bull note sent Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) to new record highs.

Wall Street Slows Down Next Week Ahead of Christmas

The market will be relatively quiet in the days leading up to Christmas, with only a few significant names expected to report earnings next week, including the likes of CarMax (KMX), Paychex (PAYX) and Cintas (CTAS). As for economic indicators, traders will be looking ahead to the weekly jobless claims update, as well as housing, personal income, core durable goods and inflation data. In addition, both the consumer confidence and sentiment indexes are on tap. Before then, dive into what this recent period of bullish seasonality could mean for stocks, as well as what to expect out of a big IPO return.

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