US stock markets rally overnight following encouraging progress of coronavirus remdesivir drug trials and Trump’s blueprint to exit shutdown

  • Blue-chip futures indexes saw upward spikes following flurry of positive signals 
  • The Dow Jones was up 3.08 per cent, the S&P was up 2.57 per cent at 4am
  • Gilead Sciences Inc’s shares surged 16 per cent in after hours trading Thursday 
  • Followed company’s experimental drug remdesivir in severe Covid-19 patients 
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

American stock markets rallied overnight in response to encouraging coronavirus treatment trials and the President’s three-step blueprint to exit the shutdown.

Blue-chip futures indexes saw big upward spikes following a flurry of positive signals, setting the stage for a decent day of trading when Wall Street opens for business on Friday.  

The Dow Jones was up 2.96 per cent, the S&P was up 2.76 per cent and Nasdaq was up 1.97 per cent as of 4.30am ET. 

Gilead Sciences Inc’s shares surged 16 per cent in after hours trading on Thursday on the back of a report detailing data from trials of the company’s experimental drug remdesivir in severe Covid-19 patients.

A University of Chicago hospital participating in the study of the antiviral medication said it is seeing rapid recoveries in fever and respiratory symptoms, with nearly all patients discharged in less than a week, according to medical news website STAT. 

Investor confidence was also buoyed by Donald Trump unveiling the White House’s guidance to state governors for easing restrictions and restarting the economy.

At the daily evening press briefing, the President outlined his plan ‘to preserve the health of our citizens we must also preserve the health and functioning of our economy.’

And Boeing, which floats shares on the Dow, helped drag up the index after it rose 8 per cent overnight after announcing intentions to resume airplane production at its Washington State plant. 

The Dow Jones was up 3.08 per cent as of 4am ET

The Nasdaq was up 1.79 per cent as of 4.45am

The S&P was up 2.50 per cent as of 4.45am

President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. Trump said the country was ‘in the process of winning’ the war against the coronavirus

But the rises made by the airline were on half that of Gilead, which benefited from a media publications dispatch from the trial laboratory. 

Gilead, in an emailed statement, said ‘the totality of the data need to be analyzed in order to draw any conclusions from the trial.’

UChicago Medicine, also in an email, said ‘partial data from an ongoing clinical trial is by definition incomplete and should never be used to draw conclusions.’

The university said information from an internal forum for research colleagues concerning work in progress was released without authorization.

Gilead expects results from its Phase 3 study in patients with severe COVID-19 at the end of this month, and additional data from other studies to become available in May.

A vial of the investigational drug remdesivir is visually inspected at a Gilead manufacturing site in the United State

The three phases to reopening the U.S.

PHASE ONE

– All vulnerable people should shelter in place

– Social distancing should still be observed in public, and people should avoid socializing in groups of more than 10

– Non-essential travel should be minimized

– Workers should still telework, where possible

– Schools and youth activities should remain closed 

– Large venues, such as movie theaters, sit-down dining, sporting venues and places of worship can operate under strict social distancing rules

– Elective surgeries can resume

– Gyms can reopen if they stick to strict social distancing and sanititation 

PHASE TWO

– All vulnerable people should continue to shelter in place, and gatherings of more than 50 people should be avoided

– Non-essential travel can resume 

– People are encouraged to telework

– Schools and youth activities can reopen 

– Large venues can operate under moderate social distancing rules

– Bars may operate with diminished standing room occupancy

PHASE THREE 

– Vulnerable people can resume public interactions, but should practice social distancing

– Low risk populations should consider minimizing time spent in crowded places  

– Employers can resume unrestricted staffing at work sites

– Visits to senior care facilities and hospitals can resume

– Large venues can operate under limited social distancing rules

– Bars may operate with increased standing room 

The University of Chicago is one of 152 locations participating in Gilead’s trial involving severe COVID-19 patients, which is ‘single arm’ meaning it does not measure the drug against a matched group of patients treated with a placebo. A trial of patients with moderate COVID-19 symptoms has 169 study locations.

There are currently no approved treatments for COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus that has infected over 2 million people worldwide.

STAT reported that UChicago Medicine recruited 113 people with severe COVID-19 into Gilead’s trial. It said most of them have been discharged and two patients died.

The ‘anecdotal data … looks promising on the surface and continues to support some potential for the drug to be active in certain COVID-19 patients,’ RBC Capital Markets analyst Brian Abrahams said in a research note. 

‘Nonetheless, there are major limitations to contextualizing and interpreting this data.’

Interest in Gilead’s drug amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has been high. The New England Journal of Medicine last week published an analysis showing that two-thirds of a small group of severely ill COVID-19 patients saw their condition improve after treatment with remdesivir.

The paper’s author called the findings ‘hopeful,’ but cautioned it is difficult to interpret the results since they do not include comparison to a control group, the patient numbers were small, the details being disclosed were limited, and the follow-up time was relatively short.

The U.S National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease in February began an 800-patient trial that randomly assigns patients to treatment with either remdesivir or a placebo. Those results are not expected until after Gilead’s trial reads out.

Shares of Gilead, which closed at $76.54 in regular trading, were up 16 per cent at $89.10 after hours.

Investors trading on the overnight futures markets were also encouraged by Trump’s press briefing, which took place after normal markets closed.

Although conceding control of when the lockdown is lifted to individual state governors, he unveiled a three-phase guidline.  

In phase one, schools and organized youth activities are to remain closed, but large venues, including sit-down dining, movie theaters, places of worship and sporting venues can reopen under social distancing protocols. 

Businesses are also encouraged to allow workers to work from home where possible. 

In phase two, telework is encouraged, but where workers return to the office, it’s suggested common areas are closed. 

In this phase, non-essential travel can also resume, bars can reopen and gyms will be allowed to operate.

In phase three, schools and youth activities can reopen, visits to senior care facilities and hospitals can resume. Worksites can also resume unrestricted staffing of worksites. 

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