Stock futures tilt lower; Salesforce buys Slack, Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and more


Stocks set for a breather

U.S. stock futures drifted lower early Wednesday, implying that the major indexes will pause after hitting record highs.

By 6:00 a.m. ET, futures for the blue-chip Dow were indicated 77 points, or 0.26% to 29,727. Those for the S&P 500 futures dropped 3.88 points, or 0.11% to 3,656.62 while the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 futures were little changed.

On Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.6% to close at 29,823.92. The S&P 500 rose 1.1% to end at 3,662.45, with tech and bank stocks playing a huge role in the rally. The Nasdaq edged 1.3% higher to close the session at 12,355.11.

Today, traders will be watching as U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speak again before a house committee as part of mandated updates on CARES Act funding.

The central bank boss described the economic outlook as “extraordinarily uncertain” when he and Mnuchin appeared before lawmakers on Tuesday. Mnuchin, meanwhile, was pressed by the lawmakers over his decision not to extend several emergency loan programs set up with the Fed.

Meanwhile, president-elect Joe Biden has said that he will not immediately end the phase one trade deal that President Donald Trump reached with China or remove punitive tariffs on Chinese products, according to a report on the New York Times.

UK okays Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine

In other news, regulators in the United Kingdom have approved the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and its German partner BioNTech (NASDAQ: BNTX).

The authorization from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) means the UK is the first western nation in the world to approve the public use of a coronavirus vaccine.

Pfizer announced several weeks ago that the vaccine had been shown to be over 90% effective after its final, widespread clinical trials.

The two drugmakers have a deal with the U.K. government to distribute 40 million doses of the mRNA-based vaccine. As per Pfizer, the delivery of the vaccine would be made throughout 2020 and 2021.

Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla called the approval a “historic moment in the fight against COVID-19.”

Shares in Pfizer rose 3.76% to $40.89 each in the pre-market trading session Wednesday, while BioNTech stock was up 7.45% to $122.50 a share.

Salesforce buys Slack for $27.7 billion

Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) has agreed to acquire the workplace software company Slack Technologies (NYSE: WORK) in a cash-and-stock deal worth $27.7 billion.

According to a statement released by Salesforce on Tuesday, Slack shareholders will receive the equivalent of $45.86 per share, including $26.79 in cash. That represents a 55% premium to the trading price of Slack shares before news of the pending deal leaked.

If completed, the acquisition will set up a battle with Microsoft (NYSE: MSFT) for pole position in the soaring cloud software industry. The companies expect to close the deal in mid-2021.

Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff described the deal as “a match made in heaven.”

Shares in Salesforce dropped $9.85, or 4.08% to $231.50 each in the pre-market trading session, while those of Slack were flat.