By Geoffrey Smith
Investing.com -- Joe Biden accepted the Democratic Party's nomination as its presidential candidate with a speech promising to end the 'darkness' of the current time. Europe's economy slowed in August, but the pound rises after better-than-expected business and retail sales surveys. Stocks are set to open mostly flat, and Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and Johnson&Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) get busy on vaccine trials. Here's what you need to know in financial markets on Friday, August 21st.
1. Biden seeks to take American out of 'darkness'
Joe Biden wrapped up the Democratic National Convention with an acceptance speech that promised to lead the U.S. out of ‘darkness’, without mentioning President Donald Trump by name once.
"Character is on the ballot, compassion is on the ballot, decency, science, democracy. They're all on the ballot," Biden said.
Responding via Twitter, Trump said that Biden’s words were at odds with his 47-year record in politics. Opinion polls this week have shown Trump slightly narrowing Biden’s lead to around 8 percentage points.
2. Europe stumbles after new wave of infections
Europe’s economic recovery stuttered this month as renewed restrictions on travel disrupted plans to allow a meaningful summer tourism season.
Activity slowed for the first time in three months, according to a preliminary reading of the composite purchasing managers index compiled by consultancy IHS Markit. The PMI for the euro zone fell to 51.6 from 54.9, due largely to the services sector.
German manufacturing, the traditional engine of regional growth, held up better, the PMI rising to 53.0 from 51.0.
On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said there would be no return to generalized lockdowns due to Covid-19.
3. U.K.'s recovery on track - but borrowing soars
There was better news across the English Channel. In the U.K., the composite PMI recovered to over 60, signifying a more vigorous rebound – albeit from a lockdown that was later and more severe in the euro zone.
July’s retail sales numbers, too, also came in better than expected, rising 3.6% on the month and 1.4% on the year. They’re now ahead of pre-pandemic levels for the first time. The government also borrowed less than analysts expected in July, although the headlines were grabbed by the fact that national debt topped 2 trillion pounds ($2.6 trillion) for the first time.
The pound rose against the euro but inched off seven-month highs against the dollar, shrugging off the predictable end of another inconclusive round of Brexit trade talks with the EU.
4. Stocks set to open mixed; Ride-hailers in focus
U.S. stocks are set to open largely flat, with little on the calendar to push them in either direction.
By 6:40 AM ET (1040 GMT), the Dow futures contract was down 27 points or 0.1%, while the S&P 500 Futures contract was also down 0.1% and the Nasdaq 100 futures contract was down by less than 0.1%.
Stocks likely to be in focus later include Ross Stores (NASDAQ:ROST), which defied gloomy expectations to post a quarterly profit after the bell on Thursday. Farming machinery maker Deere (NYSE:DE) and retailer Foot Locker (NYSE:FL) report before the open.
Lyft (NASDAQ:LYFT) and Uber (NYSE:UBER) may share the spotlight, after winning a stay on the California court ruling that would force them to reclassify drivers as employees.
Baker Hughes' weekly count of oil and gas drilling rigs will round off the week for data later.
5. Pfizer eyes October review for Covid-19 drug
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech said they are on track to submit their experimental Covid-19 treatment for review by regulators as early as October, after publishing fresh data from an early-stage study.
The two companies said their vaccine was administered largely without side effects, although they noted mild to moderate fever in less than 20% of participants in the test.
Elsewhere, Johnson&Johnson said it planned to test its experimental Covid-19 drug on 60,000 people in a phase 3 trial in September.
The Center for Disease Control said the number of new cases in the U.S. rose to 46,500 on Wednesday, the highest in four days. The number of new infections nationwide has, however, been trending down for nearly a whole month now.