Stock Market Today

Stock Market Today: Good News on Pfizer Vaccine Keeps Investors Feeling Rosy

Early data showed a three-shot regimen for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine neutralized the omicron strain.

Wednesday brought with it yet another positive development concerning the COVID omicron strain, but while it wasn't enough to drive a third day of aggressive gains, it was enough to keep many patches of the market in positive territory yet again.

This morning, Pfizer (PFE, -0.6%) and BioNTech (BNTX, -3.6%) said early data showed that a three-shot regimen (the original two shots and a booster) of their co-developed vaccine significantly neutralized the omicron strain, as compared to two shots alone.

Another good sign came from the bond market, which we said Monday in our free A Step Ahead newsletter was worth a close watch this week.

"The development that I think is the most positive today is that the fixed income markets are finally starting to confirm the equity market bounce as the yield curve is starting to steepen," says Michael Reinking, senior market strategist for the New York Stock Exchange.

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The two-year Treasury yield turned a bit lower after hitting recent highs earlier, he said, while the 10-year and 30-year yields each headed higher. (Reminder: A flat yield curve is sometimes considered a recessionary omen.)

Gains in Apple (AAPL, +2.3%) and Meta Platforms (FB, +2.4%) led the Nasdaq Composite 0.6% higher to 15,786, while the S&P 500 Index (+0.3% to 4,701) and Dow Jones Industrial Average (+0.1% to 35,754) also finished modestly in the green.

stock price chart 120821

YCharts

Other news in the stock market today:

  • The small-cap Russell 2000 tacked on 0.8% to end at 2,271.
  • U.S. crude oil futures rose 0.4% to settle at $72.36 per barrel.
  • Gold futures eked out a marginal gain to finish at $1,785.50 an ounce.
  • Bitcoin tiptoed higher too, adding 0.5% to $50,748.90. (Bitcoin trades 24 hours a day; prices reported here are as of 4 p.m.)
  • Stitch Fix (SFIX, -23.9%) was one of the biggest losers on Wall Street today after the online shopping company reported earnings. In its fiscal first quarter, SFIX reported a loss of 2 cents per share on $581 million in revenue, besting analysts' expectations for a per-share loss of 14 cents on $571 million in sales. However, the company's current-quarter revenue guidance of $505 million to $520 million fell short of the $585 million analysts are anticipating. Wedbush analyst Tom Nikic maintained a Neutral rating on SFIX in the wake of earnings. The only silver linings he sees are that the stock is cheap and expectations are low. Outside of that he calls the company's core "Fix" business "underwhelming" and the transition of the new "Freestyle" business as messy. "Until we see evidence/visibility of fundamental stabilization, we're comfortable avoiding this one," Nikic wrote in a note. 
  • Roku (ROKU) surged 18.2% after the streaming giant inked a multi-year deal with Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL) to keep the YouTube and YouTube TV apps on its platform. A previous agreement between the two companies expired in April and arguments over terms for a new deal had Google threatening to remove its apps from the Roku app store on Dec. 9. "This was not a typical carriage dispute around economics," says Susquehanna Financial Group analyst Shyam Patil. "ROKU said [in October] that GOOGL wanted ROKU to prioritize YouTube over other apps in search results, and demanded search, voice and data features that they do not ask for from other platforms." The fact that a deal was reached tells Patil that "ROKU's positioning in CTV [connected TV] is incredibly strong, and a place on the ROKU platform is a must-have for any content provider – even GOOGL." He has a Positive rating on ROKU, which is the equivalent of a Buy.

It's Always Better to Be Prepared

Today's good news may not last, and is a reminder that you should always know where the safety levers are for your investing strategy.

There's always a "next thing" – whether it's another strain of COVID, geopolitical tumult or some other bearish driver. And for those who like to actively manage their portfolios against such shocks, it's good to have a handy list of protective plays at the ready.

As we've looked ahead to 2022, we've already explored one of the major defensive sectors of the market – consumer staples – and today we've examined another: utility stocks.

To be fair, Wall Street strategists are largely bearish on utilities as we head into the new year, believing that investors will have much more luck in the market's riskier sectors as the economy continues to recover.

But utility stocks are always handy in a pinch (they outperformed all their peers during the worst of the omicron-inspired selling) given the mostly regulated nature of their business and the stability that comes with distributing life's most absolute basics: power, gas and water.

Here, we look at 12 of the most attractive-looking utilities, several of which also offer up sizable yields, for those looking to enhance their long-term dividend holdings.

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