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Jobless Claims Dip, Philly Fed Swings, Biogen (BIIB) Plummets

Mark Vickery

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Like most Thursdays, today’s pre-market brings us fresh Initial Jobless Claims data, with results close to where they’ve been for most of 2019 thus far: 221K last week amounts to a drop of 9000 claims from the previous week’s slightly upwardly revised 230K. Still toward the upper end of our long-term 200-225K range, but consistent with the robust labor market we’ve going back several years.

Continuing Claims fell just a tad, from 1.77 million the previous week to 1.75 million — again, up from the 50-year lows we’d seen 6 months ago, but historically very sound. For all the challenges our domestic economy currently faces, employment is not one of them.

The Philly Fed survey for March has also come out this morning, with a surprise read to the upside: 13.7, more than double what analysts had been expecting. This was also a healthy swing to the positive from February’s -4.1, which was the first time Philly Fed manufacturing had gone negative since the first half of 2016.

These reads are better taken in context with other municipal and state-wide production reads, as they necessarily give regional statistics. And Philadelphia, for many years a city dropping in overall population and national status, has seen a gradual resurgence more recently. The Philly Fed Index records more volatility within these numbers, but the trajectory looks better for the former U.S. Capital (1790-1800; look it up) overall.

One company that’s not looking better this morning is biopharma major Biogen BIIB, which is down more than 26% at this hour in early trading. Research on the company’s latest treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, which had been in phase 3 testing, has been halted. Alzheimer’s disease affects at least 50 million people the world over.

Some analysts had issued warnings on the lack of data in phase 3 on the drug, called aducanumab, which was being developed with Tokyo-based Eisai Company. Now, the entire hypothesis of the treatment — targeting protein deposits in the brain believed to bring on Alzheimer’s disease — may be finished for addressing this malady.

Finally, Levi Strauss & Co. (LEVI) begins trading this morning, after 34 years as a private company. The IPO price has been set at $17 per share, above the range of $14-16 originally reported. The IPO is expected to raise $620 million for a company currently valued at $6.6 billion.

Mark Vickery
Senior Editor

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