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Stocks fall, Merck drops on COVID-19 pill effectiveness, air travel hits pandemic high, more PPP fraud

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Yahoo Finance's Seana Smith details some headlines that we are watching on Friday.

Video transcript

SEANA SMITH: Welcome back. We're still looking at a pretty massive sell off here this morning. About 45 minutes into the trading day Dow, S&P, and NASDAQ all trading to the downside. The Dow now off 952 points. S&P off just about 2%. The NASDAQ now off more than 1.5%. Take a look at the sector action. 10 of the 11 S&P sectors are in the red. Energy, the XLE, off just over 6%. We're also seeing some significant selling in financials, industrials, consumer discretionary, and materials. Health care is the only sector holding on to gains.

While as we take note of this sell off and gain news of a new COVID variant overseas out of South Africa, we are also watching some additional stories here for you this morning. First up, some disappointing data out of Merck now. Shares are off nearly 5% on news that its experimental COVID-19 pill reduces death and hospitalizations by only 30%. And I say only 30% because that compares to data that was released earlier this fall back in October, showing a 50% reduction in hospitalizations and deaths.

Now, the FDA, the data is going to be discussed next week with the FDA, with regulators, with an outside panel of advisors to the FDA meets and votes on whether or not to clear this drug for use. But, again, Merck shares off just around 5% today. Now, US travel hitting a pandemic high this Thanksgiving holiday. The latest numbers out from TSA showing that more than two million people have been screened on a daily basis over the past seven days.

Now, it hasn't been recorded since before the pandemic. Wednesday was the busiest day for airports since February, 2020, with more than 2.3 million people hitting the skies. And Sunday, so two days from now, is expected to be even busier. And COVID relief money put to improper use. A Montana restaurant owner has admitted to using COVID-19 relief funds, get this, to buy vintage cars.

Now less than two weeks after receiving a loan last year, Michael Eugene Bolte, he owns a Feedlot Steakhouse in Sheppard, Montana. He wrote a check to buy four vintage cars as an investment. Now, Bolte faces a maximum of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine as a result.

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