By: Ella Koeze·Source: Refinitiv
Stocks rocketed higher after the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said early data showed that its coronavirus vaccine appeared 90 percent effective. The news followed Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s election as the 46th president of the United States on Saturday, a sign that the American vote, which some investors worried could spiral into a chaotic period if President Trump lost, appeared to proceed more or less normally.
On Wall Street, the S&P 500 rose more than 3 percent in early trading before falling back as the day went on. A gain of more than 2 percent for the day would leave it above its Sept. 2 closing record of 3,580.84.
The benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 index surged 4 percent, its biggest one-day gain since March, while the FTSE 100 in Britain rose 4.7 percent. In Asian markets, which closed before Pfizer announced its news, the Nikkei 225 in Japan ended the day 2.1 percent stronger, and the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong finished up 1.2 percent.
Markets were already higher before Pfizer said a vaccine it was developing with BioNTech was found to have been more than 90 percent effective in preventing Covid-19 infections, based on a large study. Pfizer said by the end of the year, it will have manufactured enough doses of the vaccine to immunize 15 million to 20 million people.
Scientists have cautioned against hyping early results before long-term safety and efficacy data has been collected, and no one knows how long the vaccine’s protection might last. It’s likely to be months before Pfizer’s vaccine or any other is able to substantially curb the coronavirus outbreak.
“Hurdles still remain,” said Karen Ward, a strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management. “We need to find out more about production capabilities, rollout and takeup. But for now, this is shifting the winners and losers.”
Shares of companies that would benefit from a return to economic normalcy surged. American Airlines and United Airlines rose about 17 percent. Carnival, the cruise ship operator, rose nearly 36 percent. Also sharply higher were the shopping center owners Simon Property Group and Kimco Realty, the concert promoter Live Nation, and the office-building owner Vornado Realty Trust.
Crude oil prices also leapt about 9 percent, to more than $40 a barrel. Prices for government bonds — where investors traditionally park funds during times of uncertainty — tumbled sharply.
Trading on Monday followed the best week for the S&P 500 since April, as investors became more convinced that President-elect Biden would govern alongside a Republican-held Senate. However, two runoff elections in Georgia mean the control of the Senate will not be known until January.
“With more certainty around the election, a strong quarter of earnings across many sectors, and extremely positive news on the vaccine front, there is little to hold us back,” said Chris Larkin, managing director of trading and investment products at E-Trade Financial.
The European Union said Monday that it would begin imposing billions of dollars in tariffs on a wide range of popular American food, drinks and other products beginning Tuesday, an action that was cleared by the World Trade Organization after it said Europe could retaliate against the United States for years of illegal subsidies given to the airplane maker Boeing.
The decision, which stems from a 16-year-old dispute before the global trade body, comes after the Trump administration last year decided to impose tariffs on as much as $7.5 billion in European exports annually as retaliation for what the W.T.O. ruled were illegal subsidies given to the European airplane maker Airbus, Boeing’s main rival.
European officials, however, are hoping for a settlement between the two countries that would put an end to the tit-for-tat tariffs once and for all, perhaps even before President Trump leaves office on Jan. 20 to make way for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., according to a European Union official with knowledge of the cases who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss private negotiations.
It remains to be seen if the European tariffs will encourage the United States to negotiate — or if they further inflame a trans-Atlantic trade spat where the Trump administration has vowed not to bend. Last month, Mr. Trump threatened retaliation if the European Union went ahead with its levies.
“If they strike back, then we’ll strike back harder than they’ll strike. They don’t want to do it,” Mr. Trump told reporters.
Details of the tariffs, including the value of the targeted items, will be released later Monday.
Both Boeing and Airbus have taken steps to remove subsidies and fiscal support that had been deemed illegal by the W.T.O., opening the door to both sides entering into a negotiated settlement quickly, said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
At a media briefing in Brussels, Valdis Dombrovskis, executive vice president of the European Commission, called on the United States to come to the table and urged both sides to “drop existing countermeasures with immediate effect so we can quickly put this issue behind us.”
Removing the tariffs “would represent a strong win-win for both sides,” he said.
Any discussions, should they take place, may not be easy. Both sides have said they want to avoid inflaming a trade war, but a stumbling point is a standing demand by the Trump administration that Europe repay previous subsidies received by Airbus, the European official said. The W.T.O. rulings only require that companies halt current illegal financial support — not repay previous subsidies.
And it was not immediately clear whether the Trump administration would be interested in negotiating a settlement before Mr. Biden takes office.. The Office of the United States Trade Representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
For now, American producers of a wide variety of foods, drinks and other goods will face steep levies on their imports to Europe.
The W.T.O. gave the European Union permission to impose tariffs of as much as 25 percent on $4 billion of American goods, but it remains unclear if the E.U. proposal would cover as much as $4 billion.
Chris Swonger, the president of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, said that the tariffs would be a “major blow to the U.S. spirits industry” that is struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic. The European Union already imposed levies on American whiskey in 2018 as retaliation for Mr. Trump’s tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum.
Ana Swanson contributed reporting from Washington.
What do you do when your local business is thrust into the spotlight as the improbable stage for a political campaign’s news conference challenging the outcome of the presidential election?
Sell T-shirts, of course.
Four Seasons Total Landscaping, a family-operated business in Philadelphia, found itself the subject of merciless mocking on Saturday after President Trump tweeted, “Lawyers News Conference Four Seasons, Philadelphia, 11 a.m..” He later deleted the post and tweeted again, revising the location to a similarly named venue, Four Seasons Total Landscaping.
The landscaping company, which was started in 1992 and offers a variety of services like mulching and 24/7 snow removal, got more attention when Philadelphia’s Four Seasons hotel tweeted: “To clarify, President Trump’s news conference will NOT be held at Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia. It will be held at Four Seasons Total Landscaping — no relation with the hotel.”
On Monday morning the landscaping business was selling patriotic-themed merchandise on its website, including a $5 sticker with the catchphrases “Make America Rake Again” and “Lawn and Order!”
The choice of location — the parking lot of a landscaping business next door to an adult bookshop and a crematory — was ridiculed on social media. Some people started selling T-shirts, mugs and other items featuring the name of the business.
Four Seasons Total Landscaping issued a statement on its Facebook page on Sunday morning, saying it was “honored” to host the news conference and was saddened by the “harsh judgment” it received from the public.
“Our team at Four Seasons would have proudly hosted any presidential candidate’s campaign at our business,” the statement read. “We strongly believe in America and in democracy. We hope that our fellow Americans can join together and support all local small businesses during this time.”
Four Seasons Total Landscaping also pledged to offer other merchandise on its website. In addition to the sticker, the company is now selling a sweatshirt for $50 and T-shirts for $25, some bearing American flags.
At the Saturday news conference, Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, said Mr. Trump did not plan to concede that he had lost the election to Joseph R. Biden Jr. About the same time, major news organizations started reporting that Mr. Biden had won enough Electoral College votes to be declared president-elect.
The moment was not lost on political pundits. “Look, the founders were very clear on this,” the MSNBC host Chris Hayes tweeted. “If there’s *any* doubt whatsoever, the head of Four Seasons Landscaping Services in Philly, PA flips a coin, and Kanye calls it.”
Four Seasons Total Landscaping, which did not respond to a request for comment, reported on Twitter Monday that its merchandise business was booming.
Supreme, the elder statesman of the subversive streetwear sector and godfather of “the drop,” is about to officially become part of the apparel establishment.
VF Corp, owner of the NorthFace, Timberland and Dickies (among other outdoor brands) announced on Monday that it was acquiring 100 percent of the company in a deal that valued Supreme at $2.1 billion. The Carlyle Group and Goode Partners, private equity groups that previously invested in Supreme, are exiting the company. James Jebbia, who founded the brand in 1994, and the senior leadership team will remain with the brand.
The change of ownership is yet another example of the realignment taking place in the fashion sector. The industry has been shaken by the effects of the pandemic, which has seen e-commerce and direct-to-consumer brands dominate the landscape, while those dependent on brick-and-mortar stores and mall traffic have shrunk substantially or been forced into bankruptcy.
“The Supreme brand will further accelerate VF’s hyper-digital business model transformation,” Steve Rendle, VF’s chief executive, said in a statement. It also noted VF expected Supreme to contribute “$500 million of revenue” to the group in 2022.
More than 60 percent of Supreme’s sales come from its e-commerce site, though it is known for getting people to line up, and even camp out, outside one of its 12 stores to snatch up its limited new product drops on the day they appear — as well as its ability to supply ironic meta-commentary on contemporary branded culture while also exploiting it for sales. Some of Supreme’s most famous products, for example, include a brick splashed with the Supreme logo, a hammer and a New York MetroCard that at its height was selling for almost $1,000 on the resale market.
Though it was originally positioned in opposition to the luxury and fashion world (when Mr. Jebbia was named men’s wear designer of the year at the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards in 2018, he said, “I’ve never considered Supreme to be a fashion company or myself a designer”), Supreme has long straddled the sector, collaborating with brands from Louis Vuitton and Meissen to the VF names.
“This partnership will maintain our unique culture and independence, while allowing us to grow on the same path we’ve been on since 1994,” Mr. Jebbia said in the statement. Whether he can sell this idea to his fan base after selling his brand remains to be seen.
United Airlines is adding more than 1,400 domestic flights around Thanksgiving in anticipation of what it expects will be the busiest week for air travel since March.
“While this holiday travel season looks quite different than recent years, we’re continuing to follow the same playbook we have all year long — watching the data and adding more flights, adjusting schedules and leveraging larger aircraft to give customers more ways to reunite with family or reach their destinations,” Ankit Gupta, United’s vice president of network planning and scheduling, said in a statement.
Throughout the pandemic, customers have purchased tickets close to the day of travel, and United said it was prepared to swap in larger aircraft for flights that are in high demand.
The airline also said it planned to operate about 48 percent as many flights in December as it did in the same month last year, with customers expected to book holiday vacations to ski resorts and destinations like Florida, Hawaii and the Caribbean.
United’s share price, like that of other airlines, was up more than 13 percent by late morning on news that Pfizer’s early data shows its coronavirus vaccine is more than 90 percent effective, though it is unlikely to be widely available soon.
Despite a record surge in coronavirus infections nationwide, nearly one million people were screened at airport checkpoints on Sunday, one of a handful of days since March to surpass 40 percent of last year’s traffic, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
For Wall Street, the 2020 election was fraught with risk and uncertainty.
Early on, candidates who promised to rein in the excesses of corporate America and tax the superrich, as part of their pledges to close the country’s wealth gap, were in contention to be the Democratic nominee for president.
More recently, the concern shifted to the potential for civil unrest, or an election with no clear outcome, both factors that would result in the kind of uncertain environment that investors and chief executives both loathe.
In the end, though, big companies and wealthy investors seem to have landed in a sweet spot: a more predictable White House under Joseph R. Biden Jr., now the president-elect, paired with a Republican-led Senate that can ward off higher taxes or other policy changes investors find unappealing. (At least for now, that is. Control of the Senate is a matter that won’t be settled until January after Georgia holds two runoff elections.)
“Financial markets don’t want risk or sudden changes,” said Charles Phillips, a longtime software executive who is raising a technology-investment fund and a supporter of Mr. Biden. “So the fact that he’s levelheaded and collaborative, and the fact that most likely we may have a Republican Senate — if that happens, it’ll limit what he can do,” he said.
Markets bolted upward last week as the national vote count appeared to point to that result. Over the weekend, after the race was called for Mr. Biden, some analysts said to expect more gains over the peaceful completion of the voting process, and to watch for an uptick in shares of companies Mr. Biden’s policy agenda is likely to benefit — including green-energy companies, producers of virus-testing materials and laboratories, and those in the infrastructure space.
Mr. Biden did win substantial financial backing from finance-industry donors, (about $74 million, according to figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, which overshadowed Mr. Trump’s support from those donors by a factor of four to one), and some expressed their excitement for their candidate.
“President-elect Biden offers enormous experience, a steady hand and an unparalleled ability to overcome obstacles,” said Jon Gray, the president of the giant investment firm Blackstone Group.
Other reactions from across Wall Street after the election was called were more measured.
Ken Griffin, the billionaire founder of Citadel, said he was “relieved there is no social unrest,” David Solomon, the C.E.O of Goldman Sachs, and George Wallace, who runs Neuberger Berman, both pointed to the challenges Mr. Biden faces with the country in a pandemic and an economic crisis. Bill Ackman, who runs the hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management, meanwhile, called on President Trump to “concede graciously and call for unity from all who have supported you.”
A new partial lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus in France is having a smaller impact on the national economy than a total lockdown earlier this year, the French central bank said Monday. But business leaders still expect a sharp decline in activity across the board in November, as order books at construction companies shrink, the bank added.
France’s second lockdown, which began Oct. 17 and is now expected to stretch beyond Dec. 1, was aimed at minimizing damage to the economy just as a recovery was starting to take hold during a summer rebound. Unlike the earlier lockdown, France is allowing public services and schools to stay open, and activity at construction and factory sites to continue.
The Banque de France said it expected the economy was likely to show a shrinkage of about 12 percent in November from a year ago. That compares with a wrenching 31 percent year-over-year contraction in April, when economic activity ground to a halt.
Whether that improvement lasts remains to be seen. Fears of coronavirus outbreaks have worsened the outlook for French business activity, and are likely to lead to a wave of layoffs, economists say.
French companies have said they expect earnings to decline in 2021, and they don’t expect to substantially increase spending on capital investment.
Working from home, and the use of socially distanced workplaces has so far helped maintain corporate activity. The opening of schools is easing child care burdens for employees with children.
Activity in agro-foods, pharmaceuticals and other industrial sectors enjoyed a bounce after an earlier national quarantine, and are now back to pre-pandemic levels, the central bank added.
At the same time, a quarter of the economy remains hard hit by social-distancing measures, including hotels, restaurants, tourism and catering, the central bank said.
Investors anticipate the release of Airbnb’s I.P.O. prospectus, potentially on Thursday, ahead of a blockbuster listing that is expected to raise around $3 billion at a $30 billion valuation (and that’s after a pandemic hit the travel industry).
In earnings highlights: the mall owner Simon Property Group, which acquired Brooks Brothers, Forever 21 and J.C. Penney during the downturn, reports on Monday; Adidas and Lyft on Tuesday; Cisco, the Walt Disney Company, Palantir (its first earnings as a public company) and Tencent on Thursday; and DraftKings on Friday.
Trade talks between Britain and the European Union enter a critical phase, with both sides saying that Nov. 15 is the deadline for a deal to be struck before the Brexit transition period ends. If there is no agreement, tariffs and other barriers will be imposed on Jan. 1.
In time for the holiday shopping season, Apple is expected to unveil its first Macs without Intel chips at an event on Tuesday. In the gaming world, Microsoft offers new XBox consoles on Tuesday and Sony unveils the PlayStation 5 on Thursday.
Over the past year, SoftBank, the Japanese conglomerate headed by maverick billionaire Masayoshi Son, has come back from the brink of disaster.
SoftBank said on Monday that the trend had continued through the end of the summer, extending a recovery that followed one of the worst losses in Japan’s corporate history.
The company on Monday reported 562 billion yen, or $5.4 billion, in profit for the three months that ended in September. The jump from a big loss a year ago was largely driven by broad growth in global tech stocks as the coronavirus pushes consumers to spend more of their lives online.
Last year, a disastrous investment in the office space company WeWork cast doubt on Mr. Son’s investment strategy. Earlier this year, the coronavirus pandemic cratered Softbank’s high-profile bets on companies like Uber and Oyo, which were hit hard by lockdowns across the world.
But a broad market recovery has pushed up the value of some stocks held by Softbank’s Vision Fund, the world’s largest tech investment vehicle. The company said the fund’s original investment of $75 billion in 83 companies had grown to $76.4 billion by the end of September.
Around half of the fund’s growth, however, came from increased valuations in its unlisted companies. SoftBank has frequently come under criticism by analysts for a lack of transparency in how it values its investments in the these privately held companies.
The market volatility was not all good news for SoftBank. The company also recorded $1.27 billion in losses from risky bets on derivatives. The moves, which were widely reported in September, have raised additional concerns about Mr. Son’s investment acumen.
In an earnings conference Monday evening, Mr. Son brushed off criticism about his management, dismissing the losses as short-term setbacks that distracted from his long-term vision for the company’s success.
The third-quarter earnings season is nearly over, and so far the results have been better than expected, by a wide margin. About 80 percent of companies in the S&P 500 stock index that have reported third-quarter earnings so far have exceeded analysts’ expectations, The New York Times’s Peter Eavis and Niraj Chokshi report.
That’s well over the norm. Typically, just shy of two-thirds of companies beat analysts’ quarterly forecasts.
Here are the highlights of Peter and Niraj’s takeaway from the earnings season.
The strong are getting stronger.
As the pandemic forced people to stay home and do more things online, some successful companies were perfectly positioned to take advantage of the change.
Consider Amazon. Its profits in the first nine months were up $5.8 billion compared with a year earlier. They allowed the company to spend 120 percent more during the period on things like warehouses, technology and other capital investments. That spending — $25.3 billion — could make it harder for all but Amazon’s biggest competitors to keep up with its growth.
Some companies are doing better than expected.
When the pandemic hit, many executives understandably feared that their companies were facing an existential crisis. But a surprising number of those have excelled in part because many Americans who did not lose jobs but were also not spending on travel and entertainment found themselves with more disposable income.
General Motors, Ford Motor and other automakers reported big profits.
For some large restaurant chains, drive-through customers, as well as delivery and takeout orders helped them grow. On Thursday, Papa John’s, whose stock is up 32 percent this year, reported surging sales, profits and cash flow and announced a new stock buyback program.
Businesses have adapted, successfully in some cases.
Hertz sought bankruptcy protection in May. And its biggest competitor, the Avis Budget Group, ran up large losses — $639 million in the first six months of the year. But Avis turned a modest $45 million profit in the third quarter.
The company’s comeback was made possible by cost-cutting and a decision to sell 75,000 vehicles in the United States to take advantage of strong demand for used cars. (Nationally, spending on used light trucks, including sport utility vehicles, was up nearly 19 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier.)
The outlook is dire for others.
Passenger airlines are among the biggest losers of the pandemic, and they have few options to improve their prospects. Delta, United Airlines and American Airlines worked quickly to cut costs and got $50 billion in the March federal stimulus package.
In the third quarter, American lost $2.4 billion and United lost $1.8 billion. For all three, revenue fell more than 70 percent from the same three months last year.