The Dow and the S&P advanced on Friday after the September retail sales report lifted spirits, with the fifth consecutive sales gain coming in much better than expected. On the COVID-19 treatment front, Pfizer reported it could apply for emergency-use authorization of its vaccine by late November, which may also have had a hand in equities' strength.
ECONOMIC EVENTS: In the U.S., retail sales beat estimates with big September gains of 1.9% overall and 1.5% ex-autos. Industrial production dropped 0.6% in September and capacity utilization fell to 71.5%, which were weaker than expected. Consumer sentiment ticked up 0.8 points to 81.2 in the preliminary October report from the University of Michigan. Business inventories undershot estimates with a 0.3% rise in August, with sales up 0.6%. In energy news, Baker Hughes reported that the U.S. rig count is up 13 from last week to 282 with oil rigs up 12 to 205.
Data from the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering shows there are now 39M confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, including nearly 8M in the U.S., and 1.1M deaths due to the disease, including about 218,000 in the U.S.
TOP NEWS: Shares of Pfizer (PFE) rose 3.8% after chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said that the COVID-19 vaccine candidate under development by the company and BioNTech (BNTX) could be ready for an Emergency Use Authorization application by late November. "As I've said before, we are operating at the speed of science," Bourla said in an open letter. "This means we may know whether or not our vaccine is effective by the end of October. To do so, we must accumulate a certain number of COVID-19 cases in our trial to compare the effectiveness of the vaccine in vaccinated individuals to those who received a placebo. Since we must wait for a certain number of cases to occur, this data may come earlier or later based on changes in the infection rates." BioNTech shares rose 4.1% after the news.
In M&A news, Volkswagen's (VWAGY) TRATON SE and Navistar (NAV), in which TRATON already holds a stake of 16.8 %, announced an agreement in principle that TRATON will acquire by merger all shares in Navistar not already held at a price of $44.50 per Navistar share. Navistar jumped 22.9% to close at $43.52 following the news.
Meanwhile, HP Enterprise (HPE) fell over 4% despite the company providing upbeat earnings guidance for fiscal 2021 and reaffirming its earnings guidance for fiscal 2020. Of note, HP Enterprise said that it is "accelerating its pivot" as an edge-to-cloud platform as-a-service company. “While the global pandemic is unlike any crisis we have ever faced, it has served as a catalyst, making digital transformation a strategic imperative for enterprises,” said CEO Antonio Neri.
Additionally, Politico reported that the Trump administration intends to announce a deal with CVS (CVS) and Walgreens (WBA) to administer a future coronavirus vaccine to seniors and staff in long-term care facilities free of charge. The president is expected to reference the deal Friday afternoon during a speech to be delivered in Forida on "protecting seniors," sources told Politico.
MAJOR MOVERS: Among the noteworthy gainers was GTT Communications (GTT), which rose 6.8% after it agreed to sell its infrastructure division to I Squared Capital for $2.15B. Also higher was CIT Group (CIT), which gained 26.6% after it reported quarterly results and announced an agreement to combine with First Citizens (FCNCA) in an all-stock merger. First Citizens jumped 12% after the news.
Among the notable losers was Nikola (NKLA), which declined 16.1% after CEO Mark Russell said in interviews that the company has a "base plan" to go it alone if deal talks with General Motors (GM) fall through and attempted to distance the company from the prior statements of its founder, Trevor Milton, regarding the still-in-development Badger pick-up truck. Also lower was Del Taco (TACO), which fell 21.3% after reporting quarterly results.
INDEXES: The Dow rose 112.11, or 0.39%, to 28,606.31, the Nasdaq fell 42.31, or 0.36%, to 11,671.56, and the S&P 500 advanced 0.47, or 0.01%, to 3,483.81.