Pfizer announced Monday morning that its new coronavirus vaccine is 90% effective at preventing COVID-19 infection, stirring investor hopes that the pandemic, and the recession it caused, are nearing an end.
Energy stocks in particular are benefiting from the enthusiasm. As of 11:50 a.m. EST, WTI crude oil prices are up 8.6%, and shares of oil major ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) have surged 13%. Alternatives to oil, too, are benefiting. Hydrogen fuel stocks Plug Power (NASDAQ:PLUG) and Bloom Energy (NYSE:BE) both posted impressive gains in morning trading, up 13.8% and 10.8%, respectively.
Does that make sense? In fact, it does.
As Reuters explained this morning, investors are betting that "a vaccine will help ensure no future lockdowns are needed and will bring people back to the streets, allowing road and air transport to recover." To fuel cars on those roads, and airplanes in the air, will require more oil than the global economy is currently using -- which is why ConocoPhillips stock is flying.
And Plug Power and Bloom Energy? Both of those offer alternative energy solutions -- i.e. alternatives to oil. And whenever oil prices rise, the prices of alternative energy sources face less price competition, and become more economical alternatives as a result -- implying greater profits going forward.
All this is a logical response to Pfizer's announcement of an effective coronavirus vaccine. All of these are logical reasons to be optimistic in the long term. That being said, investors should not expect to see immediate improvement in the economy on Pfizer's news alone.
Consider the caveats: Pfizer still needs to prove its vaccine is effective and safe before it seeks Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration. That may happen by the end of this month -- or it may not. In any case, even after receiving EUA from the FDA, Pfizer needs to manufacture and distribute vaccines. (It could be next year before Pfizer has produced enough doses to inoculate everyone in the U.S., much less everyone around the world). And even then, it apparently takes a month from first dose to full immunity from the coronavirus.
Granted, other vaccines are coming from other vaccine makers. This will accelerate the process. But still, we're probably talking months, if not years -- and certainly not days or weeks -- until the pandemic is behind us. Patience will be a necessary virtue going forward, even for optimistic investors.