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Markets get a shot in the arm from U.S.-Pfizer vaccine deal

July 22, 2020, 10:47 PM UTC

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Good evening, Bull Sheeters. This is Fortune finance reporter Rey Mashayekhi, filling in this week for Bernhard Warner with a special PM edition of the newsletter.

Global market performance was mixed on Wednesday, though the U.S. fared better than most on the back of Uncle Sam’s vaccine deal with Pfizer. More corporate earnings gave us further insight into the state of the economy, and tensions reignited between the U.S. and China. Meanwhile, these are heady days for those holding gold.

Markets update

U.S. 🌎

  • The markets in New York rallied late in the afternoon to see all the major indices end the day in positive territory. The Dow gained more than 165 points to finish up 0.6%, while the S&P 500 also climbed 0.6%. The Nasdaq notched up 0.2%.
  • The market undoubtedly got a boost from news that the U.S. government has agreed to pay Pfizer and BioNTech nearly $2 billion to produce 100 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine, one of the more advanced coronavirus vaccines currently being trialed. The U.S. has the option to acquire an additional 500 million doses of the vaccine under the agreement. Pfizer’s stock was up 5% Wednesday, and BioNTech shares were up nearly 14%.
  • Today’s earnings spotlight was on Microsoft and Tesla. Microsoft shrugged off coronavirus concerns to beat analysts’ targets for both earnings and revenue—the latter climbing 13% year-on-year. Tesla also beat expectations and took another step toward joining the S&P 500 by posting four straight quarters of profits for the first time.

Europe 🌍

Asia 🌏

  • Most Asian markets slipped on Wednesday. Tokyo’s Nikkei shed -0.6% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell nearly -2.3%, while South Korea’s KOSPI was virtually flat at -0.01%. Mainland China bucked the trend; Shanghai’s SSE Composite gained 0.4%, and Shenzhen’s SZSE Component was up 0.9%.
  • The big macro angle out of Asia: further heightened U.S.-China tensions, in the wake of the U.S.’s move to order China to close its diplomatic consulate in Houston amid espionage allegations. That development has put Asian investors on edge, especially as Beijing has already pledged to retaliate.
  • Meanwhile, Chinese leaders have promised to boost job growth via an array of subsidies, loans, and tax incentives designed to help spur the nation’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

Elsewhere 📈

  • Gold is on a tear. (More on that in a second.)
  • The dollar continued its decline against the euro.
  • Crude oil fell slightly, with Brent still settling at more than $44 a barrel.

All gold everything

With all the macro uncertainty in the world today, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the price of gold—as safe of a “safe harbor” as there is in global finance—is on the rise.

The precious metal is currently in the midst of a historic run-up. Spot gold and gold futures both settled at around $1,870 per ounce on Wednesday—levels not seen since September 2011.

The recent decline of the U.S. dollar is undoubtedly a factor, given the shaky sentiment around a U.S. economy that is currently heavily dependent on federal stimulus measures and low interest rates. There are also worries over ongoing tensions between the U.S. and China, which have escalated today with the controversy over the Chinese consulate in Houston.

Gold isn’t the only precious metal on the rise. Silver prices are also rallying, with both spot silver and silver futures at around $23 per ounce—their highest levels in nearly seven years.

The run-up in the price of these metals reflects investors’ heightened anxieties over the state of the global economy in the time of COVID-19. It remains to be seen whether things get worse—and gold and silver prices climb even further—before they get better.

***

That’s all for now. Have a pleasant evening and see you tomorrow.

Rey Mashayekhi
@ReyM12
Rey.Mashayekhi@Fortune.com

Today's reads

In the Works. Fortune's Shawn Tully spoke with CardWorks CEO Don Berman to find out what the subprime credit card lender's platform tells us about the state of the American consumer—and, in turn, the U.S. economy at large.

Swoosh swoon? Apparel giant Nike announced job cuts and a shakeup in its senior leadership ranks as the company looks to streamline its business and focus on digital operations. 

On the hunt. Hedge funder Bill Ackman has launched a new special-purpose acquisition firm—also known as a "blank-check company"—that raised $4 billion in its IPO on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday. The publicly traded vehicle is looking to acquire "mature unicorns," or private companies valued at more than $1 billion.

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Market candy

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