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Wall Street Surges on COVID-19 Vaccine Approval

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Pfizer (PFE - Free Report) and BioNTech’s (BNTX - Free Report) Covid-19 vaccine has now made it to U.S. shores. It’s an historic development to counter the worst pandemic in over 100 years. With an OK from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), distribution of the vaccine begins. That it comes at near-peak Covid-19 spread — more than 180K daily reported cases as of yesterday, with more than 109K hospitalizations and nearly 1500 deaths on Sunday alone — makes this vaccine availability not just historic, it’s momentous.

Market indexes are up as a result, and not just Pfizer’s 1% gain thus far in the pre-market. Looks at Restaurant Brands (QSR - Free Report) , which is up 2% in early Monday trading: bringing the American — and global — economy back to pre-pandemic levels will be especially pronounced in companies that have been hit by a wet blanket since the first Covid-related death on U.S. soil roughly 10 months ago. We saw this with oil & gas names when positive news in phase-3 trials came out; ConocoPhillips (COP - Free Report) is up 52% from October 30th, for instance.

For $60 per share in cash and 2+ in American Depositary Shares (ADS), AstraZeneca (AZN - Free Report) has agreed to purchase rare-disease treatment manufacturer Alexion (ALXN - Free Report) . The total sum of the agreement comes to $39 billion, which some market participants may feel is a bit steep: AstraZeneca shares are down 7% in early-morning trading. The blockbuster drug from Alexion is called Soliris, which treats a spectrum of rare diseases, and the company stock is up 30% this morning on the news.

Alexion had previously been considered an acquisition target, but ran into some entanglements that took some changes in the front office to correct. As far as AstraZeneca, it had been in the running for a first-to-market Covid-19 vaccine, but some irregularities in its phase-3 testing caused many to push pause. Its candidate, developed in tandem with Oxford University, follows a more historic path to immunization than the mRNA vaccines of Pfizer and Moderna (MRNA - Free Report) .

We won’t see any major economic reports hitting the tape this morning, but this changes significantly as the week moves along: Import Prices, the Empire State index, Industrial Production/Capacity Utilization,  Retail Sales, Housing Starts/Building Permits, and, of course, Weekly Jobless Claims are all on deck a week before Christmas, as well as the fifth day of Hanukkah. Until then, markets are performing well after taking a breather last week; the Covid-19 vaccinations in the U.S. will remain the big story throughout the day.

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