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Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

The S&P index of top health care companies finished Monday higher than where it opened the year.

The big picture: A global coronavirus pandemic, social unrest, mass unemployment, and the halting of medical procedures hasn't been enough to derail Wall Street's rosy view of the health care industry.

Where things stand: The coronavirus started to affect the economy toward the tail end of the first quarter, but the health care industry was relatively unscathed.

  • Among the 109 publicly traded health care companies tracked by Axios, first-quarter profits exceeded $50 billion, good for a 7.4% net profit margin.
  • Pharmaceutical companies and health insurers generated the highest returns. Wall Street believes drug companies stand to benefit from potential coronavirus treatments or vaccines.
  • The stock price of Gilead Sciences, for example, is up 18% so far this year, partially on the assumption its coronavirus drug, remdesivir, will produce billions of dollars of revenue — even though the drug has showed only modest benefit for patients.

Between the lines: The second quarter likely will be worse, as the brunt of the coronavirus lockdown was felt in April and May. But normal operations have already started resuming for some health care sectors, regardless of the virus' spread.

The bottom line: Investors can't resist health care's track record for profitability.

Go deeper

Sep 16, 2020 - Health

CDC director suggests face masks offer more COVID-19 protection than vaccine would

CDC director Robert Redfield suggested in a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Wednesday that face masks are "more guaranteed" to protect against the coronavirus than a vaccine, citing the potential for some people to not become immune to the virus after receiving the shot.

What he's saying: "These face masks are the most important, powerful public health tool we have. And I will continue to appeal for all Americans, all individuals in our country, to embrace these face coverings. I've said if we did it for 6, 8, 10, 12 weeks, we'd bring this pandemic under control," he said.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: The good and bad news about antibody therapies — Fauci: Hotspots have materialized across "the entire country."
  2. World: Belgium imposes lockdown, citing "health emergency" due to influx of cases.
  3. Economy: Conference Board predicts economy won’t fully recover until late 2021.
  4. Education: Surge threatens to shut classrooms down again.
  5. Technology: The pandemic isn't slowing tech.
  6. Travel: CDC replaces COVID-19 cruise ban with less restrictive "conditional sailing order."
  7. Sports: High school football's pandemic struggles.
  8. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.
Sep 17, 2020 - Health

The risks of moving too fast on a coronavirus vaccine

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The scientific race for a coronavirus vaccine is moving at record-shattering speed. Making the most of that work — translating a successful clinical product into real-world progress — will require some patience.

Why it matters: If we get a vaccine relatively soon, the next big challenge will be balancing the need to get it into people's hands with the need to keep working on other solutions that might prove more effective.