Top US stocks to watch before the bell: J&J, Microsoft and GameStop

US regulators push pause on Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine, Microsoft buys Nuance, GameStop starts searching for a new CEO, Novavax warns supply issues are hampering vaccine production, and Grab is set to complete the biggest US SPAC deal in history.

USA (1)

Johnson & Johnson

US federal agencies are set to call for an immediate pause on use of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine after six people developed a rare blood clot disorder after having the jab, according to reports from the New York Times.

The people affected were between the ages of 18 and 48 and the report suggests one patient has died while another has been hospitalised.

Microsoft

Microsoft has announced the purchase of artificial intelligence and speech technology outfit Nuance for $16 billion.

The two companies have been working together since 2019 on automating administrative work, particularly in the healthcare industry. Microsoft said the acquisition ‘brings our technology directly into the physician and patient loop, which is central to all healthcare delivery.’  

Nuance is known for its work on Apple’s virtual assistant Siri.

GameStop

GameStop is thought to be searching for a new chief executive, according to a report from Reuters, as the firm looks to transform itself from a bricks-and-mortar retailer into a business fit for the digital age.

It comes after Ryan Cohen, the CEO of online pet food firm Chewy, joined the board in January and started initiating a plan to revive the business.

Novavax

Novavax has warned it will take longer to ramp-up production of its coronavirus vaccine because of a shortage of supplies.

The company was aiming to produce 150 million doses per month by the middle of 2021 but said this won’t happen until the third quarter because it was struggling to get its hands on the likes of bags used to grow cells and filters.

Continental Resources

Continental Resources warned the winter storm that ravaged Texas earlier this year hit its production during the first-quarter of 2021, causing it to lose around 6,000 barrels of daily output.

The storm impacted the oil industry and other businesses in the state. Continental said it expects production in the second quarter to rise to around 160,000 to 165,000 barrels per day rom around 152,000 barrels in the first. Gas output should remain relatively stable.

Continental also said it expects to cut debt faster than previously expected, aiming to cut $4 billion worth by the end of this year rather than the end of 2022 as originally planned.

Grab

The largest ride-hailing and food delivery company in Southeast Asia, Grab, has agreed to merge with US-based Altimeter Growth Corp in what will be the biggest SPAC-deal in US history.

The deal will give Grab an initial valuation of just under $40 billion and will give the company around $4.5 billion of proceeds. That valuation is up from just $16 billion last year and the proceeds will be used to fuel its expansion into new territories and localise its services.

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