U.S. Stocks Rise, Eyeing Fresh Records – Wall Street Journal, 12/30/20
- U.S. stocks headed for fresh records Wednesday as the rollout of coronavirus vaccines and recent signing of a new aid bill bolstered investors’ expectations for the economy.
- The stock indexes ended Tuesday with small declines after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked an effort to hold a vote on sending bigger stimulus checks to many Americans.
- Stocks have largely drifted higher this month, though the momentum that powered markets through November has lost steam as investors weigh conflicting signals about the outlook for the economy.
- The rollout of coronavirus vaccines and the passage of the new $900 billion fiscal stimulus package has helped buoy market sentiment in the final weeks of the year.
- But elevated levels of Covid-19 infections, the emergence of a fast-spreading variant of the virus, economic data showing the rebound is slowing, and the back and forth in Washington over the size of stimulus checks has tempered some of that optimism.
- Colorado on Tuesday reported the first case in the U.S. of a fast-spreading variant of Covid-19 that was first detected in the U.K. and led to a widespread lockdown and travel restrictions there. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it expected there to be additional cases in the coming days, while stressing that it is normal for viruses to change through mutations.
- The U.K. on Wednesday approved the use of a coronavirus vaccine made by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.
- The inoculation is the third Western-developed vaccine to receive emergency-use approval this month, and comes as cases rise sharply in the U.S. and Europe.
Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. Covid-19 Hospitalizations Hit Another Record – Wall Street Journal, 12/30/20
- Newly reported U.S. coronavirus cases topped 200,000 for the third time in a week, while hospitalizations due to Covid-19 hit another all-time high.
- More than 3,700 deaths from the disease were reported for Tuesday, a single-day record, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
- Hospitalizations across the country continued to rise, with a record people 124,686 in hospitals due to Covid-19 as of Tuesday, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
- Nationwide, 22,838 patients were in ICUs, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
- Germany recorded its highest daily death toll since the start of the pandemic as officials across Europe warned the continent was heading for another surge of cases in the wake of holiday gatherings.
- Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases registered 1,129 deaths from Covid-19 on Tuesday, the first time the country has crossed the one-thousand mark.
- New daily cases have dropped markedly in the past week, with the institute registering 22,459 new cases on Tuesday, down from 24,740 a week earlier. But the institute warned this was likely due to the fact that fewer tests were being performed or processed during the holidays and that some local health authorities may not be properly logging new cases.
- The number of new cases reported in the U.K. on Tuesday hit 53,135, a single-day record. Over the past seven days, new daily cases averaged almost 39,000, 2½ times the level recorded a month earlier.
- On Dec. 22, there were 21,286 people in U.K. hospitals with Covid-19, according to the latest nationwide data available, almost matching the 21,683 hospitalized at the peak of the pandemic’s first wave in early April.
- In France, the government is moving to lower its curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 p.m. in parts of the country where the disease is circulating strongly. There were 11,395 cases on Tuesday, which is still down compared with a week ago, but the rate of people testing positive for the virus increased to 2.9%.
- Authorities in Australia’s New South Wales state again tightened restrictions ahead of New Year’s Eve after another cluster of coronaviruses cases was detected in Sydney.
U.S. Reports First Case of New Covid-19 Variant – Wall Street Journal, 12/30/20
- Colorado reported the first case in the U.S. of a fast-spreading variant of Covid-19 that was first detected in the U.K. and led to a widespread lockdown and travel restrictions there.
- Health officials said the case was confirmed by a state lab and found in a man in his 20s in Elbert County, southeast of Denver. The man, who had no history of travel, had been placed into isolation and details of his case were reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- The CDC said in a written statement that the agency was aware of Colorado’s report of the first U.S. case associated with the U.K. variant. The agency said it expected there to be additional cases in the coming days.
California coronavirus lockdowns extended as hospitals teeter on brink of crisis – Reuters, 12/29/20
- Strict stay-at-home orders were renewed indefinitely on Tuesday for much of California, a leading U.S. hot spot of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the state’s top health official said that many hospitals were teetering on the brink of crisis.
- The stay-at-home orders, among the strictest in the United States, are also being renewed in the agricultural heartland of the San Joaquin Valley, whose hospital ICUs have likewise remained for weeks with little or no bed space to spare.
- California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Los Angeles County, the most populous county, has been particularly hard hit by weeks of surging infections and hospitalizations.
- At least 90 percent of the county’s hospitals, he said, have been stretched so thin by the influx of COVID-19 patients that they were forced to divert incoming emergency patients to other facilities for much of the day over the past weekend.
- However, he added, “some hospitals in Southern California have put in place some practices that would be part of crisis care,” such as weighing “the effectiveness of certain treatments for certain patients who are unlikely to survive, or do well.”
U.K. imposes tougher restrictions on millions of people as Covid cases soar – CNBC, 12/30/20
- The U.K. government has introduced stricter coronavirus restrictions for millions of people as cases continue to rise
- Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Wednesday that more regions would be placed into the toughest Tier 4 category.
- The restrictions, which include a “stay at home” order, mean people must not leave their homes unless they have a reasonable excuse. Businesses including non-essential shops, gyms and hairdressers must close.
Covid-19 Vaccine Made by AstraZeneca, Oxford Is Authorized by U.K. – Wall Street Journal, 12/30/20
- The U.K. authorized a Covid-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca PLC, opening the door for the rollout of millions of doses in a country where infections have surged amid a more infectious variant of the virus.
- The green light represents the third emergency-use approval of a Western-developed vaccine this month and comes as cases rise sharply in the U.S. and Europe.
- AstraZeneca’s shot—less effective in clinical trials than its rivals’ injections—won’t be available in the U.S. until the Food and Drug Administration reviews large-scale trials still being conducted there and decides to authorize its use.
New Army of Individual Investors Flexes Its Muscle – Wall Street Journal, 12/30/20
- The online brokerage industry might be hard pressed to outdo the record-breaking year it experienced in 2020, but for now, few are betting against it.
- Individual investors opened more than 10 million new brokerage accounts in 2020, JMP Securities estimates, a record.
- Interest isn’t fading, either: App downloads for brokerage firms, while lower than earlier in the year, remain resilient, with the Robinhood Markets app expected to reach 500,000 downloads in December alone, data provided by the investment bank shows.
- On peak trading days in 2020, individual traders are estimated to have accounted for nearly 25% of U.S. trading activity, Citadel Securities estimates. Overall, their share of total trading volume doubled to an average of 20% from 10% in 2019, Citadel said.
FTSE Russell could delete more Chinese firms after U.S. bolsters executive order – Reuters, 12/30/20
- Global index publisher FTSE Russell said it may delete more Chinese companies from its global benchmarks, after the Trump administration on Monday strengthened an executive order barring U.S. investment in firms with alleged Chinese military backing.
- The U.S. Treasury Department on Monday 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.
- FTSE Russell, which has announced the exclusion of nine Chinese companies from its global indexes in response to the executive order, said in a statement late on Monday that it is reviewing the U.S. clarification and will make evaluation for “potential additional exclusions”.
- FTSE Russell reiterated it will publish an announcement on Jan. 4, 2021, with any additional deletions being effective from Jan. 7.
- MSCI has announced the deletion of 10 securities issued by seven Chinese firms while S&P DJI said it would remove securities of 10 Chinese companies following Trump’s executive order.
First U.S. commercial Boeing 737 MAX since 2019 departs Miami – Reuters, 12/30/20
- Boeing’s 737 MAX resumed passenger flights in the United States for the first time on Tuesday after a 20-month safety ban was lifted last month.
- American Airlines Flight 718 departed Miami around 10:40 a.m. bound for New York’s LaGuardia Airport and is scheduled to land around 1:08 p.m., according to several flight tracing websites.
- American and planemaker Boeing have sought to reassure the public over the plane’s safety after it was cleared by U.S. regulators in November to resume flights.
Fox News extends streak, sets cable news records in 2020 – Reuters, 12/30/20
- Ratings for Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel topped all news and basic cable channels for a fifth straight year in 2020, according to Nielsen data released on Tuesday.
- The network averaged 1.9 million viewers per day and 3.6 million in primetime – record levels for cable news channels – during a news-heavy year marked by the coronavirus pandemic, protests for racial justice and a contentious U.S. presidential election.
- While Fox was ahead in key metrics when looking at the year as a whole, AT&T’s CNN beat Fox in total day ratings for 41 straight days after the Nov. 3 presidential contest, CNN said on Dec. 16.
- The channel also recorded its most-watched year in its 40-year history, with an average of 1.1 million viewers per day and 1.8 million in primetime.
- Newsmax’s audience jumped after the election, though its overall audience remained much smaller than Fox’s reach.
- In November, Newsmax primetime ratings peaked at 495,000 on average, slipping to 391,000 in early December.
- OAN pulled in its highest ratings ever in 2020, its president, Charles Herring, said via email, and viewership surged by more than 40% in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter.
US ECONOMY & POLITICS
McConnell Blocks Vote on Bigger Stimulus Checks – Wall Street Journal, 12/30/20
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to derail efforts to quickly pass larger stimulus checks for many Americans, blocking Democrats’ call for a stand-alone vote on the payments sought by President Trump but opposed by most Republicans.
- The Kentucky Republican said the Senate would address Mr. Trump’s demands to boost the size of the checks to $2,000 from $600, but tie them to two other of the president’s concerns that lack bipartisan support: changes to online-speech rules and his complaints about purported election fraud.
- Democrats said Mr. McConnell’s decision to attach the checks to contentious issues was designed to sink the effort for bigger payments.
- Five Republicans have signaled that they back increasing the size of the stimulus checks, including Sens. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) and Deb Fischer (R., Neb.).
- Notably, Georgia Republican incumbent Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who are engaged in the Jan. 5 runoff races, said Tuesday that they support the president’s call to increase the stimulus checks.
- Mr. McConnell also moved to schedule a vote to override Mr. Trump’s veto of the bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act, after the House voted Monday to override the veto. This would be the first veto override in the Trump presidency.
- Mr. Trump rejected the defense bill over provisions that remove base names honoring Confederate officers and that limit troop withdrawals from Germany and Afghanistan. He also wanted lawmakers to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which regulates online speech, as part of the bill.
Some Americans to Receive $600 Stimulus Payments Tonight, Mnuchin Says – Wall Street Journal, 12/30/20
- Americans will start seeing $600 stimulus payments from the latest Covid-19 relief legislation land in their bank accounts as soon as Tuesday night, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
- The Treasury Department sent a so-called payment file of eligible recipients to the Federal Reserve on Tuesday, Mr. Mnuchin said via Twitter, opening the door for banks to begin receiving and distributing the funds.
- Banks have until Jan. 4, when the payments officially settle, to deposit them into customer accounts.
- Paper checks, which are sent to taxpayers who didn’t provide their bank-account information to the Internal Revenue Service in recent tax returns, will begin to be mailed out on Wednesday, Mr. Mnuchin said.
- In all, the government will spend $164 billion on the second round.
Global Digital-Tax Detente Ends, as U.S. and France Exchange Blows – Wall Street Journal, 12/30/20
- Earlier this year, France agreed to suspend collection of a tax on digital revenue from large technology companies such as Facebook, Amazon.com and Alphabet’s Google.
- Meanwhile, the U.S. delayed the application of tariffs it was putting on French goods in retaliation for the tax.
- But now France has resumed collecting what is known as its digital-services tax, a French official said. Other countries, including Italy and the U.K., whose similar taxes went into effect this year, are also set to begin collection in coming months.
- The U.S., meanwhile, is set on Jan. 6 to impose tariffs on $1.3 billion of French imports, including cosmetics and handbags.
- Washington also has pending investigations that could lead to similar tariffs on 10 other countries, including the U.K., Italy, India and Spain.
EUROPE & WORLD
U.K. Delays Second Covid-19 Vaccine Dose as Europe Ponders How to Speed Up Immunization – Wall Street Journal, 12/30/20
- The U.K. will focus on giving as many people as possible a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, even if this delays administering a second one, the government said Tuesday, despite a lack of data about the extent of the immunity conferred by a single dose.
- The news comes as scientists in Europe are debating whether recipients should be given one dose instead of two given the scarcity of the vaccine, the difficulties in fending off a winter surge in infections, and a rapidly mounting death toll.
- The problem: While scientists say a single dose may well confer sufficient immunity to stop the spread of the virus, there isn’t sufficient data confirming this because the clinical trials for available vaccines and those nearing authorizations were all designed around a two-dose regimen.
- While the trial data shows that the vaccine conferred immunity to over 50% of the participants after the first dose, marketing only one shot would require a new study in which only one dose would be administered to another set of volunteers, said BioNTech Chief Executive Uğur Şahin.
Chinese Covid-19 Vaccine Is 79% Effective, Interim Phase 3 Results Show – Wall Street Journal, 12/30/20
- A Chinese vaccine candidate was found to be 79% effective in protecting against Covid-19 in interim Phase 3 results and was seeking conditional approval from Chinese regulators, a unit of the shot’s state-owned maker said.
- Wednesday’s rate was lower than the interim result on the same vaccine released earlier this month by the United Arab Emirates, where vaccine maker Sinopharm is conducting the majority of its final-stage trials.
- The website statement from Beijing Biological Products Institute Co., a drug research and development subsidiary of Sinopharm, was based on an interim analysis from Sinopharm’s Phase 3 clinical trials and didn’t say which countries the results were based on.
- It also didn’t offer details of how the efficacy rate was determined, such as how many participants received a placebo or vaccine.
EU, China Agree on Terms of Investment Pact Despite U.S. Wariness – Wall Street Journal, 12/30/20
- The European Union and China agreed in principle on an investment accord after seven years of negotiations that promises to open new Chinese markets for European companies but has sowed concern in Washington.
- The agreement addresses—at least on paper—longstanding European calls for fairer competition with Chinese companies and improved access to Chinese markets.
- It commits Beijing to end forced technology transfers and increase transparency over how it subsidizes firms.
- European officials say they are gaining more than they are giving in the deal, which has won backing from leaders of all 27 EU countries but still needs their governments’ formal approval and will face a vote in the European Parliament.
- The Europeans also say the pact provides similar advantages to those the U.S. gained when it signed its “phase-one” trade agreement with China, which took effect early this year.
- The United States bought some 45,000 sq mi of land from Mexico in the Gadsden Purchase. (1853)
- Sun Yat-sen was elected the first president of the Republic of China. (1911)
- California’s first freeway opened. (1940)