By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
There are now 9.8 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide and at least 495,079 people have died, the Johns Hopkins data shows. About 4.9 million people have recovered.
The U.S. continues to lead the world, with a case tally of 2.47 million and death toll of 125,081. Brazil has the next highest totals of 1.27 million cases and 55,961 deaths.
Internationally, Russia is third measured by cases at 626,779, followed by India with 508,953 and the U.K. with 310,837.
The U.K. has 43,498 fatalities, the highest in Europe and third highest in the world.
China, where the illness was first reported late last year, has 84,725 cases and 4,641 fatalities.
The European Union is expected to announce a decision later Saturday on which countries citizens will be allowed to enter the trading bloc starting July 1, and the U.S. is not expected to make the cut, the Wall Street Journal reported.
A final decision is yet to be taken on the list, but diplomats said they were reasonably confident it would be approved unchanged. Member states have been asked to approve it by Saturday evening.
What’s the latest medical news?
A number of small biotechs were heavily traded Friday on COVID-19-related news.
Vaxart Inc. stock /zigman2/quotes/202331031/composite VXRT -4.99% skyrocketed 77%, on the news that its oral COVID-19 vaccine has been selected to take part in a non-human primate challenge study funded by the U.S. government’s ‘Operation Warp Speed’ program, that aims to accelerate development of a vaccine.
The study is designed to evaluate the efficacy of the candidate. Chief Executive Andrei Floroiu said it’s the only oral candidate in the program.
“SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, is primarily transmitted by viral particles that enter through the mucosa - nose, mouth or eyes - strongly suggesting that mucosal immunity could serve as the first line of defense,” he said in a statement. “In addition, our vaccine is a room temperature-stable tablet, an enormous logistical advantage in large vaccination campaigns.”
Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. shares /zigman2/quotes/202993817/composite INO -1.96% rose nearly 4%, erasing an earlier loss of as much as 21%, after a Stifel analyst downgraded the stock to hold from buy, while raising his stock price target to $24 from $19. Stifel’s Stephan Willey said the risk-versus-reward investment scenario “seems less palatable” at current prices.
“While acknowledging peer COVID-19 vaccine company valuations would suggest we’re potentially leaving significant upside on the table should promising immunogenicity data (i.e. robust neutralizing antibody responses) and a large government-written check subsequently materialize, we also believe any potential downside risk in the absence of the aforementioned events occurring is equally-significant,” Willey wrote in a note to clients.
Shares of IBio Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207088894/composite IBIO -3.85% , which is developing a plant-based vaccine in collaboration with Beijing CC-Pharming Ltd., rose 47% on the news that it will join the Russell 2000 /zigman2/quotes/210598147/delayed RUT +0.68% and Russell 3000 /zigman2/quotes/210598149/delayed RUA +0.42% indexes on Monday.
What are companies saying?
There was grim news for sporting goods maker Nike Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203439053/composite NKE +0.92% after it swung to a loss for its fiscal fourth quarter and sale sales fell a whopping 38% despite a big surge in online shopping. The Dow Jones Industrial Average component saw its shares slide 6% in early trade.
Nike lost $790 million, or 51 cents a share, in the fourth quarter, contrasting with earnings of $989 million, or 62 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. Sales fell to $6.3 billion from $10.1 billion a year ago.
Nike pinned the 38% drop on store closures due to the coronavirus pandemic and fewer shipments to its wholesalers, which increased inventory.
Analysts polled by FactSet had expected Nike to report a GAAP loss of 8 cents a share on sales of $7.3 billion.
The company vowed to continue to invest more in online sales.
“We are uniquely positioned to grow, and now is the time to build on Nike’s strengths and distinct capabilities,” Chief Executive John Donahoe said in a statement. “We are continuing to invest in our biggest opportunities, including a more connected digital marketplace, to extend our leadership and fuel long-term growth.”
Elsewhere, companies continued to offer updates on reopening efforts and to raise funds to bolster liquidity positions.
Here are the latest things companies have said about COVID-19:
• Big Lots Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202923245/composite BIG -1.58% has seen a continuation of the strong demand that began in mid-April during the pandemic, putting its same-store sales in the second quarter-to-date “well ahead of expectations.” Columbus, Ohio-based Big Lots is now expecting second-quarter same-store sales to be up in a mid-to-high twenties percentage, which reflects some moderation from current trends. That is far ahead of the 13.3% FactSet consensus. It expects second-quarter adjusted per-share earnings to range from $2.50 to $2.75, excluding a gain of about $11 a share on the sale of four distribution centers in a sale and leaseback transaction. That will be up from 53 cents in the same period a year ago. The FactSet consensus is for EPS of 84 cents. The company has cash of about $890 million and has not tapped its $700 million revolving credit facility. The cash position does not include about $170 million relating to the sale/leaseback deal.
• The Kroger Co.’s /zigman2/quotes/206215053/composite KR +1.72% board approved an increase in its quarterly dividend to 18 cents a share from 16 cents. The new dividend will be payable Sept. 1, to shareholders of record as of close of business Aug. 14. The supermarket chain posted better-than-expected first-quarter earnings last week as consumers stocked up for in-home dining during the pandemic.
• Office Depot Inc. /zigman2/quotes/204015456/composite ODP +2.19% is planning a 1-for-10 reverse stock split effective June 30. The Boca Raton, Florida-based office goods retailer said shareholders approved the move at its May 11 annual meeting. The company will not issue any fractional shares in connection with the move, but shareholders who would have been entitled to them will receive a cash payment in lieu.
• Progress Software Corp. /zigman2/quotes/205828109/composite PRGS -1.63% hiked its outlook for the year even as earnings fell short of Wall Street estimates. “We had solid performances across our segments and products, and our business has proven to be extremely durable, despite the ongoing economic disruption caused by COVID-19,” said Progress Chief Executive Yogesh Gupta in a statement. “Our confidence in our ability to execute is reflected in our increased full-year guidance for revenue and EPS.”
• Spectrum Brands Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/209008733/composite SPB +1.58% launched a $300 million offering of 10-year bonds on Friday, joining the many companies issuing debt during the pandemic. The company, which owns a portfolio of brands including George Forman, Russell Hobbs and Remington, said the proceeds will be used to repay part of a revolving credit facility.
Coronavirus Update: States Prepare for Virus Surge, Fed’s Stress Test
States take action as the number of coronavirus hospitalizations increases; the Fed’s annual stress test finds U.S. banks are strong enough to withstand the pandemic; India builds a massive facility to treat Covid-19 patients as infections skyrocket in the capital. WSJ’s Jason Bellini has the latest on the pandemic. Photo: Etienne Laurent/Shutterstock