A worker makes protective face masks at the L.L. Bean Inc. manufacturing facility in Brunswick, Maine, on Tuesday, April 7, 2020.
Adam Glanzman | Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. equities rallied on Wednesday after Gilead Sciences reported positive results from two studies that showed its therapy remdesivir could be a viable treatment to combat Covid-19. The optimism about a viable coronavirus treatment offset the first U.S. GDP growth decline since 2014; investors remained focused on upcoming comments from the Federal Reserve on the state of the U.S. economy.
This is a live blog. Here’s what’s happening:
11:06 am: More than a third of the population live in states that are partially reopened or will be soon
According to a review of state plans by CNBC, 13 states have already partially reopened and another 7 have announced a date to do so in the next week or so. In all, CNBC’s analysis finds 118 million Americans, or slightly more than a third of the population, are living in states that have partially reopened or will be soon. Georgia with its 10.6 million people is the largest state to partially reopen followed by Tennessee and Indiana. Among those states set to reopen soon, Texas will be the largest with its 28 million residents. While the reopening plans have sparked concern that they are too soon and carry risk of a potential new round of contagion, they also offer the possibility, if successful, of a faster economic rebound than forecast. — Liesman
10:30 am: S&P 500 nearly flat over last 12 months
Wednesday morning’s rally has brought the S&P 500 to nearly the same level it was a year ago, before anyone had ever heard of Covid-19. The index is now down just 0.7% over the past 12 months. The index has rallied more than 30% since late March. — Pound
10:25 am: GE CEO Larry Culp doesn’t see a need for more capital to address liquidity needs
General Electric CEO Larry Culp told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” he does not think the industrial giant will need more capital to address its liquidity needs, noting: “Having an 18-month running start helps a great deal. We were already in the process of improving and changing a good bit about our company.” Culp took over as CEO on October 2018. Those comments came after the company’s latest earnings report showed a cash-flow hit of $1 billion due to the coronavirus pandemic. GE also said it is targeting cost cuts of more than $2 billion and $3 billion in cash preservation. —Imbert
10:10 am: Pending home sales tank nearly 21% in March, but Realtors claim prices will hold up
Home sales took a deep dive in March as the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the economy and homebuyers and sellers pulled out of the normally busy spring market. Signed contracts to buy existing homes, referred to as pending home sales, fell 20.8% compared with February and were 16.3% lower annually, according to the National Association of Realtors. The existing home market had already been suffering from a severe shortage of properties for sale, and that supply hit a record low in March. Not only did potential sellers decide against listing their homes in the current economic environment, but some sellers already on the market delisted their properties. — Olick
10:05 am: Analysts see safety in stocks like Disney and Nike as earnings season continues
- Cowen named Disney a safe haven pick.
- BTIG initiated Nike and Lululemon as buy.
- BMO downgraded UPS to underperform from market perform.
- Piper Sandler downgraded Tyson Foods to neutral from overweight.
- Wells Fargo initiated DuPont as overweight.
- Susquehanna downgraded Kontoor Brands to neutral from positive.
- Benchmark initiated Roku as buy.
- Atlantic Equities upgraded TJX Companies to overweight from neutral. —Bloom
9:50 am: Rally broadening
The S&P 500 opened above the 2,900 level for the first time since March 6, but the big story this week is that the market rally is broadening out. Small cap Russell 2000 and equal weight S&P 500 ETF (RSP) are outperforming the overall market. This week, the S&P 500 is up 1.9%, while the equal-weight S&P 500 is up 6.9%, and the Russell 2000 is up 8%. The former market laggards — banks, industrials, and energy — are now the market leaders. —Pisani
9:31 am: Stocks surge at the open, Dow up 400 points
U.S. equities jumped at the opening bell on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising 430 points or 1.8%. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq also registered gains of 2% and 2.2%, respectively. Fueling the rally was positive news out of Gilead, regarding a possible treatment for the coronavirus. — Fitzgerald
9:14 am: Cramer: Stock market is rallying on positive Gilead results
CNBC’s Jim Cramer said the promising Gilead results are lifting equity markets as more people see the findings as further reason to reopen sections of the U.S. economy.
“The idea of something that is just given to you in the hospital IV that makes it so that it eliminates the, let’s say, the odds of you dying is something that makes us feel like that maybe this is the Tamiflu for this dreaded disease,” Cramer said. “I think a lot people are going to say open [the economy] up and that’s why the market’s flying.”
Dow futures were last seen up 425 points, suggesting a rally of at least 480 points at the start of trade at 9:30 a.m. ET. — Franck
9:06 am: Remdesivir is ‘active against the virus’ based on results so far, Gottlieb says
Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said that Wednesday’s announcements from Gilead about trials of remdesivir against the coronavirus were “another data point that continues to move the story in the same direction.” He said that the antiviral drug would not be a “home run” or a cure, but that it could possibly be used in earlier stages of the infection to avoid worse outcomes, similar to how Tamiflu is used against the seasonal flu.
“We use it in the emergency room when people come in with the flu and we have it right away for people who might be at risk for the worst outcome,” Gottlieb said. “I think remdesivir could be used in a similar fashion. And so far all the data that we’ve seen accrue does suggest that there’s a treatment effect here.” — Pound
9:03 am: Gilead up 10% after two tests show positive results for its Covid-19 therapy
Gilead Sciences’ stock jumped more than 10% in premarket trading Wednesday after two studies showed that one of its therapies could be a viable treatment for Covid-19.
In addition to upbeat commentary about the government’s study of Gilead’s potential Covid-19 treatment, the company added Wednesday that a separate study of its therapy remdesivir led to symptom improvement in patients with severe cases of the coronavirus. Gilead said the study of 200 patients showed that symptom remedy can be achieved in some with a 5-day regimen.
“These study results complement data from the placebo-controlled study of remdesivir conducted by the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases and help to determine the optimal duration of treatment with remdesivir,” Merdad Parsey, Gilead’s chief medical officer, said in a statement. “The study demonstrates the potential for some patients to be treated with a 5-day regimen, which could significantly expand the number of patients who could be treated with our current supply of remdesivir.” — Franck
8:40 am: First-quarter GDP growth sinks 4.8%, worst print in more than 10 years
Gross domestic product fell 4.8% in the first quarter, according to government numbers released Wednesday. The data provides another crucial look at how, and to what extent, the coronavirus is dragging on U.S. economic activity. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had expected the first estimate of GDP to show a 3.5% contraction.
This marked the first negative GDP reading since the 1.1% decline in the first quarter of 2014 and the lowest level since the 8.4% plunge in Q4 of 2008 during the worst of the financial crisis. Most economists see the U.S. in recession already even though the technical definition is generally two consecutive quarters of negative growth. The fourth quarter of 2019 saw GDP rise 2.1%. — Cox
8:30 am: Dow futures up 400 points after Gilead treatment shows positive results
Equity futures jumped around 8:30 a.m. ET after Gilead Sciences said it’s learned of positive data emerging from the National Institute and Infectious Diseases’ study of its drug remdesivir for treating Covid-19. Gilead said the trial has “met its primary endpoint” and advised investors that government officials will provide further details at an upcoming briefing. — Franck
8:24 am: Energy stocks jump as oil rises
Energy stocks moved higher during Wednesday’s premarket trading following a more than 16% jump in West Texas Intermediate. The Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund, which tracks the sector and trades under the ticker XLE, rose 2.3%. Phillips 66, Diamondback Energy and Marathon Petroleum all gained more than 4%, while Exxon and Chevron each traded more than 1% higher. – Stevens
8:11 am: Fed to hold rates steady, but other tools available
The Federal Reserve is widely expected to hold its benchmark interest rate at its historically low level Wednesday, when it wraps up its April meeting. The central bank could announce some other policies, such as giving more guidance on how long it expects to hold interest rate steady or new programs to drive down long-term rates. Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group, said in a note to clients that he would like to hear more details about some of the Fed’s already-announced programs, including the Main Street Lending Program that is not yet operational. — Pound, Cox
8:08 am: Wealthy investors waiting for pullback, UBS survey says
The majority of wealthy investors are waiting for stocks to drop by 5% to 20% before buying in, according to a survey from UBS. Globally, 61% said they were waiting for a drop, while 23% said now was a good time to buy. Investors in the U.S. were more pessimistic about the next six months than those in the rest of the world. Just 35% of investors in the U.S. said they were optimistic about stocks in their own region in the next six months, compared with 46% in Europe and 51% in Asia. — Pound
8:03 am: US oil surges 16% as inventories reportedly rise less than expected
Oil prices jumped on Wednesday following a report that showed a smaller-than-expected build in U.S. inventories. West Texas Intermediate for June delivery surged 17.10%, or $2.11, to $14.45 per barrel, while international benchmark Brent crude traded 4.8% higher at $21.49. The surge higher came after data from the American Petroleum Institute showed that U.S. crude inventories jumped by 10 million barrels in the week to April 24, to 510 million barrels. That was lower than analysts’ expectations of a build of 10.6 million barrels, according to estimates from Reuters. — Stevens
7:57 am: GDP for first quarter expected to post first decline since 2014
The first comprehensive look at how much damage the coronavirus did to the U.S. economy will come at 8:30 a.m. ET, when the government reports its initial estimate of gross domestic product for the first quarter of 2020. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expect that GDP in the first quarter fell 3.5%, which would be the first negative reading in six years. But, even that number will underestimate the depth of a recession caused by stay-at-home orders to combat the coronavirus, which are expected to take an even greater toll on the second quarter. Goldman Sachs economists think further revisions could take the number down to 8% or more, rivaling the worst reading since the 8.4% plunge in Q4 of 2008. — Cox
7:52 am: Alphabet jumps 7% following earnings
Shares of Google-parent Alphabet rose more than 7% in premarket trading on Wednesday following the technology giant’s quarterly earnings. The report showed advertising revenue slowed but starting to moderate; despite an increase in usage on YouTube and other apps, advertising revenue suffered. “The decline in our Search and other ads revenue was abrupt in March, and although we’re seeing some early signs at this point that users are returning to more commercial behavior, it’s not clear how durable or monetizable that will be,” Alphabet CFO said. Adjusted earnings came in at $9.87 per share, lower than the $10.33 forecast by analysts, according to Refinivitv. Revenue came in at $41.16 billion, topping estimates of $40.29 billion. — Fitzgerald
7:30 am: Futures rise ahead of Fed decision, GDP data
Stock futures jumped in early trading on Wednesday and pointed to healthy gains at the open ahead of the Federal Reserve’s latest monetary policy decision and key GDP data. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were up 133 points and implied an opening gain of around 182 points. S&P 500 futures rose 1% and Nasdaq 100 futures added 1.4%.
Investors are focused on the Fed’s upcoming interest rate decision and comments on the state of the U.S. economy, due for release at 2 p.m. ET. Wall Street will pore over the central bank’s usual statement and subsequent comments by Chairman Jerome Powell for hints about how long officials think rates will remain near zero as the economy grapples with the coronavirus crisis.
Another potential market mover will be the Commerce Department’s first report on first-quarter gross domestic product. Economists polled by Dow Jones forecast that U.S. GDP growth fell by 3.5% in the first quarter on an annualized basis. Such a slide would represent the first decline in U.S. economic growth in six years. U.S. GDP grew by 2.1% in the fourth quarter of 2019. — Franck
— CNBC’s Jeff Cox and Jesse Pound contributed reporting.
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