Morning Futures Briefing
with Stephanie Lewicky

Biden's "Buy American" Order; Merck Shuts Down COVID-19 Vaccine Program

U.S. equities are starting the week mixed as traders are preparing for the busiest week of earnings season. This week some of the largest tech companies report (AAPL, FB, MSFT, TSLA), as Nasdaq futures climbed nearly 1% to lead gains overnight adding to last week’s 4% advance. Also, on the top of traders’ minds is President Joe Biden’s “Buy American” order, which takes steps toward strengthening domestic manufacturing and imposing tougher rules on government procurement practices to increase purchases of products made in the U.S. The new policies will include tightening the rules to make it harder for federal agencies to purchase imported products, revising the definition of American-made products, and raising local-content requirements. The executive order also ensures that small and midsize businesses will have better access to information needed to bid for government contracts. A senior Biden administration official said a goal of the Buy American policy is to strengthen the U.S. supply chain after the COVID-19 pandemic revealed weakness in the system for distributing critical medical supplies and safety equipment. “We remain very committed to working with partners and allies to modernize international trade rules to make sure that we can use our taxpayer dollars to stir investments in our own countries and strengthen supply chains,” the official said. Avoiding reliance on other countries that don’t share the same interests is also a goal, the official said.

Merck is dropping out of the COVIDd-19 vaccine race announcing that it will stop developing both formulations of a vaccine it was working on after trial participants failed to generate a strong immune response to either. Early-stage studies of the vaccines indicated they produced inferior immune responses in subjects given the shots compared with people who survived COVID-19 or took authorized COVID-19 vaccines, the company said. The results were “disappointing, and a bit of a surprise,” said Nick Kartsonis, senior vice president of clinical research for infectious diseases and vaccines at Merck Research Laboratories. “We didn’t have what we needed to be able to move forward,” Kartsonis said in an interview Sunday. After evaluating the data, Merck’s senior leadership decided to discontinue the programs and divert resources to the company’s efforts to develop COVID-19 treatments. The shares are lower by 1.0% in the premarket. 

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