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S&P 500 Finishes at Record on Vaccine Optimism

This report is a summary of third-party economic research and perspectives to foster communication with business and economic development stakeholders during the COVID-19 crisis.

Fri Nov 13 2020

Key Takeaways

  • Global: Pfizer and BioNTech announced their coronavirus vaccine candidate had an efficacy rate above 90%, at 7 days after the second dose
  • U.S.: Total U.S. sublease office space hit roughly 157M square feet, the highest level since 2005.
  • Ohio: Both Columbus and Cincinnati are listed in the top 50 best places for veterans to live.


Earlier this week drug companies Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech announced their COVID-19 vaccine was 90% effective in trials among those without evidence of prior infection. U.S. stock futures skyrocketed on the news with the Dow Jones Industrial Average at one point having surged 1,646 points. Airline and cruise company stocks jumped in premarket trading as well, with some stocks rising by 20–30%.

Global COVID-19 cases topped 51M this week, with nearly 1.3M people having died from infection. Italy has declared seven “orange zones” with tighter restrictions including closures of bars, restaurants, and nonessential shops. British employers laid off record workers in Q3 2020 and the jobless rate jumped.  Despite this, the UK saw record GDP growth of 15.5% in July to September. The global shipping industry has played a vital role in the global response to the pandemic, and demand for its services has limited the annual decline in maritime trade volumes to around 4.1% in 2020, UNCTAD said.


Initial claims for jobless benefits declined to 709,000 last week from 757,000 a week earlier. While weekly claims have fallen from a peak of near 7M at the end of March, they remain well above levels of about 200,000 seen before the coronavirus hit. The consumer-price index was unchanged in October from September. Federal Reserve Chairman Powell said it was too soon to assess how vaccine progress would influence the U.S. economy, particularly given that increases in infection cases could weaken the recent economic recovery. Several Fed officials have spoken regarding the importance of assessing the financial risks from climate change. The U.S. surpassed 1M new confirmed cases in just the first 10 days of November amid a nationwide surge of infections, as states consider and impose new restrictions.  New York has moved to tighten restrictions on social gatherings. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said the pandemic has resulted in ‘unimaginable’ restrictions on individual liberty and that the, “covid crisis has served as sort of a constitutional stress test.”

Corporate office tenants put a record 42M square feet of space on the office market in Q2 and Q3, which increased the total sublease space in the U.S. to roughly 157M square feet, or 1.7% of the total office inventory. Mall landlords are starting to seek bankruptcy protection or shutting down. Though millions of Americans are still struggling to pay rent and at risk of eviction, big companies that own single-family homes are raising rents at the fastest rate since they emerged from last decade’s foreclosure crisis, capitalizing on a rush for suburban housing. In fact, prices for single-family homes increased 12% in the third quarter, the biggest annual jump in seven years. New FCC data shows growing number of Americans with access to quality broadband.

Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings continue to rise through Q3 2020 and have hit the highest level since 2010. This trend is expected to continue through 2021. The Association of American Railroads shows U.S. weekly rail traffic up 1.3% compared with the same week last year. Grain, chemicals, and farm products (excluding grain) posted the three increases in commodity groups, whereas coal posted the largest commodity decline. U.S. pork exports to China have skyrocketed this year as African Swine Fever (ASF) eroded two-thirds of China’s hog herd and drove its hog prices to record highs. Greater China now accounts for nearly 8% of U.S. pork production, compared to around just 2% in 2018.


Both Columbus and Cincinnati ranked in the Top 50 Places for Veterans to Live by Wallethub. Cleveland’s Health-Tech Corridor is advancing equity through a new kind of anchor institution. Columbus ranked #14 on CompTIA’s Tech Town Index which provides guidance to tech workers on where opportunity intersects with affordability and quality of life. Industrial real estate around Rickenbacker Airport continues to expand significantly. Cincinnati decreased its wage tax rate to 1.8% from 2.1%, effective October 2.

Positive Company-Specific News

  • General Motors has begun hiring for its new EV battery plant in northeast Ohio. The company expects more than 1,000 workers will be at the plant eventually.
  • Amazon is hiring at its new 640,000 square foot fulfillment center in Akron. The company is also donating $25,000 to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.
  • NSG Group’s new glass production facility will add 150 new jobs in Luckey, Ohio.
  • Arlington Valley Farms will launch several food brands at its Hudson, Ohio production facility. The company will invest $4.5 million in capital equipment and create 97 new jobs.
  • Cardinal Health reached an agreement with the CDC to act as a network administrator in Phase 2 of the Federal Pharmacy Partnership Strategy for COVID-19.
  • The AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals Ohio facility is expected to have a substantial amount of new work because the company won a nearly $287M Army contract for the delivery of 200M doses of the AZD1222 vaccine for Covid-19.
  • Cash Flow Solutions of Oxford, Ohio joined forces with Transaction Science, a predictive analytics company, to form RIBBIT.
  • Everstream of Cleveland, the business-only fiber network announced an agreement with Uniti to extend Everstream’s fiber network into Pennsylvania and acquire existing Uniti customers.
  • The Opus Group completed its Winchester Logistics Park, a two-building speculative industrial development in Canal Winchester, Ohio, just 15 miles southeast of Columbus.
  • Welltower Inc. was upgraded by Jefferies Financial Group to hold based on positive vaccine news. The financial group expects a rebound in occupancy to normal levels by 2023.
  • Sinclair Community College approved $2.9M in scholarship funding for FY2022 including $250,000 for students facing hardships from COVID-19.
  • Humana Inc. philanthropic entities are collaborating with communities in Ohio to donate COVID-19 relief and recovery assistance throughout the state. More than $1.6M in grants have already been distributed.

Negative Company-Specific News

  • The State Farm Insurance Newark, Ohio Operations Center will not renew its office lease and will continue to have its ~1,300 employees work from home.
  • More than 36% of the production-related staff at Loveland-based electric vehicle maker Workhorse Group is sidelined from contracting coronavirus or awaiting test results.
  • Ascena Retail Group reached a deal to sell Columbus-based Justice for $90M. All Justice locations would close by early 2021.
  • Cleveland Clinic will postpone nonessential surgeries that require hospital stays this Friday & Monday.
  • Hexion announced results for Q3 2020 which showed a net loss of $102M and net sales from continuing operations totaling $634M.
  • Athersys released its Q3 2020 financials showing revenue increased to $0.1M from negative $0.4M from the prior year, but also showing that net loss increased by $10M.
  • Howmet Aerospace reported revenue of $1.13B for Q3 2020 – a 37% decrease year-over-year from 2019. The decline is primarily driven by COVID-19 and Boeing production cuts.
  • Rockwell Automation’s revenue declined 9.3% year-over-year in their Q4 fiscal year 2020 financials. Gross profit also declined 12% over the same period.


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