Stocks Climb, Extending Record-Setting Rally – Wall Street Journal, 12/29/20
- U.S. stocks notched gains Tuesday, extending a recent rally that has sent major benchmarks to fresh records.
- Stocks have been powering higher in the final days of the year, and the latest leg of the rally has been driven in part by U.S. lawmakers’ efforts to pass a second stimulus package to help the economy.
- The House on Monday approved a bill proposing to increase the size of stimulus checks to $2,000 from $600.
- The measure now heads to the Senate where its fate is uncertain.
- In the U.K., where markets reopened Tuesday, the main FTSE 100 stocks benchmark rose about 2% as investors cheered the post-Brexit deal struck on Christmas Eve.
- British and European Union officials reached an agreement that includes a free-trade accord, bringing to an end over four years of uncertainty.
- In Asia, most major benchmarks climbed. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index rose 2.7%, ending the day at a 30-year high.
- Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index added 1%, while the Shanghai Composite Index edged down 0.5%.
Covid-19 Live Updates: U.S. Hospitalizations Surge to New High – Wall Street Journal, 12/29/20
- Hospitalizations in the U.S. due to Covid-19 hit an all-time high as the country reported more than 168,000 new coronavirus cases.
- The U.S. reported more than 168,000 new coronavirus cases for Monday. The daily tally for Monday was higher than the previous day’s total, but down from levels of more than 200,000 earlier in the month, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
- Reporting and data anomalies are expected during the next few weeks because of the winter holidays, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
- More than 121,000 people are in hospitals across the nation because of the disease, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
- Intensive care units are also under pressure, with 22,592 patients nationwide.
- The country’s death toll rose by more than 1,700 on Monday, with the total nearing 335,000, according to Johns Hopkins data.
- The U.K. reported a record surge in new Covid-19 cases as coronavirus continued to spread around Europe despite extensive lockdowns and other measures to contain infections.
- British authorities reported more than 41,000 new cases as a new, more transmissible variant of the virus continued to spread over the holiday weekend.
- Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases recorded nearly 13,000 new cases on Tuesday, with the death toll rising by over 850 to nearly 31,000.
- Meanwhile, Novavax said it is starting a new clinical trial of up to 30,000 people in the U.S. and Mexico to test whether its experimental Covid-19 vaccine safely protects people from the disease.
- Novavax’s shot will become the fifth Covid-19 vaccine to enter final-stage testing in the U.S., and if results are positive it could receive authorization sometime during 2021.
Renewed COVID lockdowns likely in Southern California as ICUs stay filled – Reuters, 12/29/20
- The United States topped 19 million COVID cases on Monday as hospital intensive care units were full to overflowing across much of California, a major U.S. virus hot spot, portending an extension of strict stay-at-home orders imposed this month.
- California Governor Gavin Newsom said mandatory constraints on social gatherings and business activities would almost certainly be renewed for at least three more weeks in Southern California – encompassing the state’s biggest metropolitan areas – and its agricultural heartland, the San Joaquin Valley.
- The San Francisco Bay area and greater Sacramento are also under stay-at-home orders, with ICU capacities hovering just under 10% and 17%, respectively. They come up for possible renewal of COVID restrictions early next month.
- Newsom said a formal decision on continuing the stay-at-home orders, among the most stringent in the United States, would be announced on Tuesday, based on trends projected by health authorities for the coming weeks.
- California has lost 3,238 lives to COVID during the past 14 days, and averaged 230 deaths daily over the past week, pushing total coronavirus fatalities in the state above 24,000 to date.
Lockheed Martin misses F-35 jet delivery target due to COVID-19 – Reuters, 12/28/20
- Lockheed Martin said on Monday it had missed its target to deliver 141 F-35 fighter jets to the United States and its allies in 2020, as it built 8% fewer jets after the coronavirus pandemic hampered its supply chain and factories.
- The defense contractor delivered 123 aircraft in 2020, underperforming its target established in late 2019.
- The company in May revised down the target to 117-123 aircraft due to parts shortage.
American Airlines Resumes 737 MAX Passenger Flights – Wall Street Journal, 12/29/20
- American Airlines is putting passengers back on Boeing’s 737 MAX on Tuesday for the first since the aircraft was grounded nearly two years ago following two deadly crashes.
- American Flight 718 was scheduled to depart Miami International Airport at 10:32 a.m. and land at LaGuardia Airport at 1:30 p.m.
- American said the flight was scheduled to be mostly full and that airline President Robert Isom would be among the passengers.
- United Airlines said it plans to reintroduce MAX flights on Feb. 11 out of hubs in Denver and Houston.
- Southwest Airlines, which operates an all-737 fleet, is planning to resume flying passengers on the MAX in March.
- A spokeswoman said Southwest hadn’t yet officially scheduled flights with the aircraft.
FAA to reform new airplane safety approvals after 737 MAX crashes – Reuters, 12/28/20
- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said Monday it would reform how it certifies new airplanes in line with legislation passed by Congress after two fatal Boeing 737 MAX crashes that killed 346 people.
- Lawmakers approved sweeping reforms in legislation signed into law Sunday by U.S. President Donald Trump that boosts FAA oversight of aircraft manufacturers, requires disclosure of critical safety information and provide new whistleblower protections.
- Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican who chairs the Commerce Committee, said in an opinion piece Monday the law “will take steps to protect against manufacturers placing undue pressure on employees during the certification process.”
- An FAA survey released in August found some safety employees reported facing “strong” external pressure from industry and raised alarms the agency does not always prioritize air safety.
FAA Issues Long-Anticipated Rules for Commercial Drones – Wall Street Journal, 12/29/20
- U.S. regulators established industrywide requirements for remote identification of drones, along with new safeguards for flights over populated areas and at night, in a long-awaited effort to expand commercial use of the craft.
- The new approach, replacing stringent protections that currently bar practically all home-delivery options, goes into effect in two months, but some requirements are likely to take years to implement.
- The detailed regulations, which total more than 700 pages and parts of which had been in the works since the Obama administration, also aim to address concerns related to law enforcement, national security and privacy protection.
Tesla to start operations in India next year – report – Reuters, 12/29/20
- Tesla will come to India early next year, country’s transport minister Nitin Gadkari told national daily the Indian Express on Monday.
- The electric-car maker will start with sales and then might look at assembly and manufacturing based on the response, the minister told here the newspaper.
- The first model to be launched will be Model 3, the cheapest among Tesla vehicles, with prices starting at over $74,739 (5.5 million Indian rupees), according to a report in the Economic Times on Saturday.
Trump administration bolsters order barring U.S. investment in Chinese firms – Reuters, 12/29/20
- The Trump administration on Monday strengthened an executive order barring U.S. investors from buying securities of alleged Chinese military-controlled companies, following disagreement among U.S. agencies about how tough to make the directive.
- The Treasury Department published guidance clarifying that the executive order, released in November, would apply to investors in exchange-traded funds and index funds as well as subsidiaries of Chinese companies designated as owned or controlled by the Chinese military.
- The “frequently asked questions” release, posted on the Treasury website on Monday, came after Reuters and other news outlets reported that a debate was raging within the Trump administration over the guidance.
- The State Department and the Department of Defense had pushed back against a bid by Treasury Department to water down the executive order, a source said.
- The guidance released on Monday specifies that the prohibitions apply to “any subsidiary of a Communist Chinese military company, after such subsidiary is publicly listed by Treasury.”
- It added that the agency “intends to list” publicly traded entities that are 50% or more owned by a Chinese military company or controlled by one.
US ECONOMY & POLITICS
U.S. Senate wrangles over $2,000 stimulus checks, defense veto as deadline looms – Reuters, 12/29/20
- The U.S. Senate will grapple on Tuesday with whether to increase payments to Americans reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and override President Donald Trump’s veto of a $740 billion defense bill, two measures set to lapse if lawmakers fail to act before a new Congress takes office on Sunday.
- The Democratic-led House of Representatives on Monday approved the increase in direct payments to $2000.
- The bill faces a tough path in the Republican-led Senate, with many Republicans pointing to hundreds of billions of dollars in added costs of COVID-19 relief.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to speak on the chamber floor at Noon (1700 GMT).
- Final passage of the COVID aid increase in the Senate would require 60 votes and the backing of a dozen Republicans.
- Republican Senator Marco Rubio voiced early support for the increase. “I agree with the president that millions of working class families are in dire need of additional relief, which is why I support $2,000 in direct payments,” he said in a statement late on Monday.
- Separately, the House on Monday voted to override the president’s veto of the defense policy bill by 322-87.
- If the Senate seconds the House action, the bill becomes law.
- Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders, who has championed higher direct payments to Americans, threatened late on Monday to block the Senate from moving quickly to override Trump’s veto of defense bill until McConnell agrees to allow a vote on the $2,000 checks.
U.S. Home-Price Growth Accelerated in October – Wall Street Journal, 12/29/20
- The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index, which measures average home prices in major metropolitan areas across the nation, rose 8.4% in the year that ended in October, up from a 7% annual rate the prior month.
- The Case-Shiller 10-city index gained 7.5% over the year ended in October, compared with a 6.2% increase in September. The 20-city index rose 7.9%, after an annual gain of 6.6% in September.
- Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected the 20-city index to gain 6.9%.
U.S. judge orders two Georgia counties to halt voter purge ahead of Senate runoff – Reuters, 12/29/20
- A federal judge on Monday ordered two Georgia counties to reverse a decision removing thousands of voters from the rolls ahead of Jan. 5 runoff elections that will determine which political party controls the U.S. Senate.
- The counties seemed to have improperly relied on unverified change-of-address data to invalidate registrations, the judge, Leslie Abrams Gardner, said in her order filed late on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.
- The bulk of the registrations that the counties sought to rescind, more than 4,000 of them, were in Muscogee County, which U.S. President-elect Joe Biden won handily in November, Politico reported.
- “Defendants are enjoined from removing any challenged voters in Ben Hill and Muscogee Counties from the registration lists on the basis of National Change of Address data”, Gardner wrote in the order.
- The judge is the sister of Democratic activist Stacey Abrams, who lost a race for Georgia governor in 2018.
EUROPE & WORLD
Spain’s GDP contraction likely wider than 10%, PM says – Reuters, 12/29/20
- Spain’s gross domestic product has likely to contract by more than 10% this year as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions imposed on economic activity to curb it, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Tuesday.
- “We are now 10% poorer than a year ago,” he told a news conference. The government has previously forecast an 11.2% contraction for this year.
- He added that the government had decided to keep the country’s minimum wage at the same level in 2021 after a strong increase in the previous year.
Ant weighs financial holding company to placate regulators, sources say – Reuters, 12/29/20
- Ant Group is considering folding most of its online financial businesses, including consumer lending, into a holding company that would be regulated like traditional financial firms, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said.
- The regulators, mainly the central bank, want Ant to fold its wealth management and insurance distribution businesses as well as minority-owned MYbank online lender into a financial holding company, one of the sources told Reuters.
- It was not clear if Ant’s payments business Alipay, which was launched in 2004 and is second-biggest revenue generator for the group after consumer lending, would also come under the holding company structure.
- The People’s Bank of China (PBOC), the central bank, said in a statement to Reuters that Ant is drafting a plan to set up a financial holding firm, and that the company should ensure that all its financial operations are placed under regulatory supervision.
- The last major battle of the Indian Wars, at Wounded Knee Creek, took place with hundreds of Indian men, women, and children massacred. (1890)
- During World War II, Germany began dropping incendiary bombs on London. (1940)