Merck's Molnupiravir Demonstrated Activity Against Omicron Variant
Topic of the day
Merck & Co Inc. (+0.1%) and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics announced data from six preclinical studies demonstrating that Molnupiravir, an investigational oral antiviral Covid-19 medicine, was active against the SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron (B1.1.529) in vitro. "These findings from multiple independent in vitro studies showing that Molnupiravir has consistent antiviral activity against Omicron, the primary variant circulating globally, provide additional confidence in the potential of Molnupiravir as an important treatment option for certain adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk for progressing to severe disease," said Dr. Dean Y. Li, president, Merck Research Laboratories. The in vitro studies were independently conducted by researchers from institutions in six countries including Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands and the United States. The studies used established cell-based assays to evaluate the antiviral activity of Molnupiravir and other COVID-19 antiviral agents against SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, including Omicron. Merck is developing molnupiravir in collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and it has been authorized for use in more than 10 countries.
The Swiss stock market ended the last day of a turbulent trading week on a lighter note. The SMI lost 0.6 percent to 12,104 points. Among the 20 SMI stocks, there were 14 price losers and six price winners. A total of 40.8 (previously: 41.29) million shares were traded. Meanwhile, the current balance sheet season held disappointments: The figures of Givaudan (-6.5%) were not convincing. ABB depreciated by 4.2 percent without news. Credit Suisse fell by 1.4 percent and UBS by 1.6 percent. Insurers in the SMI lost up to 1.1 percent. Against the negative trend, Lonza (+2.5 percent) and Swisscom (+0.5 percent) were sought after. Better than the market faired Roche (+0.2%) and Nestle (-0.2%). Logitech (+0.7%) continued the surge of recent days. The supplier of computer accessories had presented good figures on Tuesday and gave an encouraging outlook. Among small caps, the shares of Apple supplier Ams (-0.6%) did not benefit from the surprisingly strong figures which the iPhone manufacturer had published late Thursday evening.
European indices closed lower on Friday as investors digested a series of indicators and corporate results. A volatile month has whipsawed investors, who have juggled worries over the pace of Federal Reserve interest rate hikes, a mixed earnings season, the ongoing pandemic fallout and geopolitical worries surrounding a potential Russia invasion of Ukraine. The Stoxx Europe 600 index lost 1% to 465.6 points. In Paris, the CAC 40 and the SBF 120 gave up 0.8% each. In Frankfurt, the DAX 40 dropped 1.3% and in London, the FTSE 100 fell 1.2%. JCDecaux (+13.4%) reported fourth-quarter revenues well above analysts' expectations. LVMH (+3.2%) looks well-placed to face near-term headwinds after second-half earnings beat expectations and sales growth continued to accelerate in the year's final quarter. Orange (+1.4%) appointed Christel Heydemann as CEO at the end of a board meeting held this Friday morning. Alstom fell 8.2% to 29 euros. Exane BNP Paribas lowered its recommendation on the stock from "neutral" to "outperform" and its price target from 40 to 33.5 euros. The Swedish ready-to-wear group Hennes & Mauritz (+5.1% in Stockholm) announced that it would focus again on its growth after publishing a better-than-expected net profit in the fourth quarter. Shares in ITV gained 0.3% to 111.4 pence after Barclays upgrades the U.K. broadcaster to overweight from equal-weight and increases its price target to 160 pence from 140p. European broadcasters are almost universally unloved by investors who believe the trend of people watching more on-demand TV rather than on traditional TV channels will reduce advertising revenues, Barclays said.
Major U.S. stock indexes rallied Friday to finish one of their most tumultuous weeks in memory on a high note, buoyed by strong earnings from Apple and other big companies. The S&P gained 105.34 points on Friday, or 2.4%, to close at 4431.85. The Dow rose 564.69 points, or 1.7%, to 34725.47, after a volatile day in which it swung between gains and losses, then surged in the last hour-and-a-half of trading. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite jumped 417.79, or 3.1%, to 13770.57, erasing its losses for the week. Some upbeat big-name corporate earnings reports cheered investors. Shares of Apple, the world’s largest publicly traded company by market capitalization, on Friday rallied $11.11, or 7%, to $170.33, a day after the iPhone maker posted record revenue and profit. The Fed’s preferred measure of inflation, the core personal-consumption expenditures price index, rose at 4.9% in December over the prior year. Inflation concerns have filtered into this week’s corporate earnings reports. Mondelez International said late Thursday that it would likely raise prices further this year. Its shares fell $1.05, or 1.6%, to $66.42 on Friday after the global food giant said its profitability was being squeezed by rising ingredient and transportation costs. Visa (+11%) reported higher-than-expected fiscal first-quarter results Thursday night as a recovering economy and travel helped drive a jump in transactions using its payment cards. Chevron (-3.5%) reported Friday that it had its most profitable year since 2014 last year, helped by a jump in commodity prices spawned by a recovering global economy. Its fourth-quarter result, however, came in below expectations. Construction and mining equipment maker Caterpillar reported fourth-quarter results Friday that were well above analysts' expectations. However, the share price fell by 5.5% as the group's costs rose more than sales. Citigroup (+0.8%) will sell its retail banking business in Taiwan to DBS Group Holdings. The Singaporean banking group said it would pay Citigroup in cash for the net assets of its retail banking business and pay a premium of S$956 million (US$697 million) in addition.
In Asia, major indexes broadly closed with gains on Monday. However, the celebrations for the Chinese Lunar New Year will take place this week. Thus, in China trading is suspended the whole week, in Hong Kong up to and including Thursday, in South Korea and Singapore up to and including Wednesday. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index gained 1.1 percent. In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index advanced 1.1 percent after a slow start. Dai-ichi Life is down 1.1 percent against the trend and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial falls 2.3 percent.
Yields from two to 30 years out slipped on Friday after data showed U.S. consumer sentiment slumping to a new 10-year low and the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge leaping 5.8% in 2021 to a 40-year high. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note dropped to 1.779% from 1.807% on Thursday. The two-year Treasury yield notched its biggest weekly gain since October 2019, but dropped on the day, as investors focused on the prospects of multiple rate increases from the Federal Reserve this year, starting in March.
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