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Merck (MRK) Develops Pill to Lessen Covid Symptoms

Results of a trial developed with Cambridge, MA-based Ridgeback Biotherapeutics are positive for an oral antiviral treatment for Covid-19.

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This story originally appeared on Zacks

Friday, October 1, 2021



The big news this morning comes from Merck MRK, which announced it was buying biotech Acceleron XLRN yesterday for $11.5 billion, is up +8.5% in today’s pre-market. But the acquisition of the rare blood disease and respiratory therapeutics company takes a back seat to Merck’s reveal this morning: results of a trial developed with Cambridge, MA-based Ridgeback Biotherapeutics are positive for an oral antiviral treatment for Covid-19.



This is not a vaccine for Covid-19, but Monupilavir, the name of the drug, does drastically reduce symptoms and lessens the ability for a person infected with Covid to spread the disease to others. Upon testing positive for Covid, an individual would take the twice-daily pill for five consecutive days. It has proven to reduce hospitalizations and mortality for Covid-infected patients by 50%. The treatment basically tricks the virus into generating building blocks of immunity against itself.



It’s also not the same as Regeneron’s REGN remdesivir, which is a monoclonal antibody which targets the “spikes” on the coronavirus, and is only administered once Covid patients have grown seriously ill with the disease. This new Merck drug keeps one from growing seriously ill from Covid in the first place. As such, it is seen as a potential “game changer” in the nearly two-year battle against the deadly coronavirus.



Aside from this exciting news, reports documenting levels of inflation in the U.S. economy is how we start the first day of a new month, and the last day of a (so far) down trading week. Personal Income, Consumer Spending and Core Inflation all have released data ahead of the opening bell. PMI and ISM Manufacturing, Construction Spending, Consumer Sentiment, Vehicle Sales and the 5-Year Inflation Rate all await us during the regular trading session.



Nominal Personal Income for August came in-line with estimates at +0.2%, pulling back from July’s unrevised +1.1%. Nominal Consumer Spending, also for August, was slightly hotter than anticipated at +0.8%, and a big swoop upward from July’s downwardly revised -0.1%. “Real” Personal Spending reached +0.4% on the month. Social benefits paid out by the federal government helped bolster income, while consumers have started spending more than they save.



Core Inflation, also for August, was a tad hotter as well, +0.3%, equalling the previous month’s unrevised core inflation headline number. Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE), accounting for month over month inflation (the “deflator” read) reached +0.4% in August. Year over year, the PCE deflator amounts to +4.3% — the highest level in 31 years. Subtracting volatile near-term elements, the PCE “core” was +0.3%, +3.6% year over year — also at a multi-decade high.



Manufacturing prints from both Markit PMI and ISM for September are expected to be in-line to down, month over month, but both well above the breakeven 50, which designates growth. Consumer Sentiment for September is also expected to be in-line at 71.0, and August’s Construction Spending is estimated in-line month over month to +0.3%. Steady growth, not out of control, is what’s expected for these economic reads today. Not one of them is likely to shift markets, but all of them together might.



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