Gilead Sciences' (NASDAQ:GILD) antiviral medication remdesivir set stock markets on fire Friday, sending the S&P 500 hurtling 2.7% higher by close of trading.
Some of the stocks making the biggest gains today included oil majors ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) and Chevron (NYSE:CVX), closing 10.4% and 9% higher, respectively. But energy companies weren't the only ones notching big gains. CarMax (NYSE:KMX) was up 10.4% by the closing bell.
So what's the connection here? Oil prices, after all, are in a tailspin, and the price of WTI crude oil in particular fell nearly 9% in trading today. What could it be that's offsetting this clearly negative news for oil producers -- and boosting the stock of a car dealer at the same time?
Gilead's antiviral, which seems to be demonstrating efficacy in quickly curing patients of the virus, combined with President Trump's announcement last night of his Opening Up America Again plan for business, has investors thinking that the nation's self-imposed quarantine might be nearing an end.
If there's a drug out there to quickly quash the coronavirus, and if the president thinks it might be good enough to begin opening up the economy again, then this implies that stay-at-home orders might soon be lifted, and Americans might soon be permitted to return to their office and factory jobs.
It doesn't take too great a leap in logic to think that workers going back to work will mean they'll be buying cars to get them to work, and that they'll be needing gasoline to fuel those cars. The next logical conclusion: The stocks of car dealers and oil companies will benefit from this development.
But even if Gilead's remdesivir turns out to be the silver bullet that kills the coronavirus (yet to be proven), and even if various state and local governments begin permitting people to go back to work, at this point, would you face the risk of contracting a life-threatening disease in the hope that a barely tested treatment will save you?
I didn't think so.
Although the prospect of a cure for COVID-19 is certainly reassuring, the prospect of contracting it is probably the primary concern for most people. I wonder, therefore, if Americans will be as eager to return to the office or factory (and the close contact with co-workers) quite so quickly as investors seem to be assuming today.
Call me a skeptic, but we may still be quite some time away from the end of our national crisis.