1. Stocks Climb Toward Record While Bonds Decline

Stocks rose on speculation that widespread vaccine distribution and government stimulus will reignite economic growth and boost corporate profits. The dollar fell toward an almost three-year low. Markets shrugged off concern over a surge in global coronavirus cases and the threat of more stringent restrictions amid a rally in risk assets on the first trading day of 2021. The S&P 500 advanced toward another record, led by commodity, retail and technology companies.
The S&P 500 Index fell 0.1% as of early morning New York time.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index surged 1.3%.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed 0.8%.

2. Bitcoin’s Rally Comes to a Halt as Prices Fall Most Since March

Bitcoin fizzled in Monday trading as the famously volatile cryptocurrency pulled back after a spectacular new-year rally. Prices fell as much as 17% in the biggest drop since March before recovering. The losses are small in the context of Bitcoin’s broader rally, with a 50% jump in December alone. After a parabolic 2020, the digital currency had started the new year with a bang, surging as high as $34,000 and hitting all-time highs on Sunday. As ever in the world of crypto, it’s hard to pinpoint the proximate cause for the latest bout of volatility.

3. Tesla Poised for Expansion After Just Missing 2020 Target

Tesla came close to meeting its 500,000 vehicle-deliveries goals for 2020, setting the stage for a new year in which it’s expanding in China and poised to open new factories in Texas and Germany. The electric-car maker said on Jan. 2 it handed over 180,570 vehicles in the year’s final three months, the most for any quarter but just 450 vehicles shy of the half-million mark Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk sought for the year. Tesla has been ramping up output of its more mass-market models to meet rising global demand for battery-powered cars, with 2020’s total jumping 36% from the prior year. Musk and Tesla had a remarkable year, with the company joining the S&P 500 Index in December after five consecutive quarters of profit. The shares rallied 743% in 2020, giving the carmaker a $668.9 billion stock-market capitalization. Musk ended the year as the world’s second-richest person.

4. Dollar Stumbles Into 2021 as Bets on Global Recovery Dominate

The U.S. dollar kicked off the new year with a weak start as expectations for a global economic recovery bolstered demand for riskier assets. It lost ground against almost every major currency on Monday, pushing a gauge of its strength to the lowest level in nearly three years, after purchasing managers indexes across Europe and Asia showed factory activity gathering pace. The euro rose as much as 0.7% against the dollar toward a high last seen more than two years ago, while the greenback touched the weakest level against the Chinese yuan since June 2018. 

5. U.K. Mortgage Approvals Surge to 13-Year High

U.K. mortgage approvals reached the highest since 2007 in November as housing continued to boom in spite of a broader economic downturn. The housing market is surging largely because of a tax cut on house purchases that is worth as much as 15,000 pounds ($20,000) to buyers. That’s pushed prices higher in a nation where demand has outstripped supply for decades, while measures to control the pandemic have also led to a change in working habits, boosting interest in larger properties and those outside of city centres. The jump also reflects pent-up demand from the first lockdown, when the market was largely shuttered and mortgage approvals collapsed.

6. Hong Kong Extends School Closures Until Lunar New Year

Hong Kong pushed back the re-opening of classrooms for more than a month as part of government measures to stamp out the spread of the coronavirus. The suspension of in-person classes at kindergartens through high school, a restriction originally scheduled to expire Jan. 10, will be extended until the lunar new year holidays, which begin on Feb. 12. The city reported 53 new cases for the day, 43 of which were local. Hong Kong has been one of the most aggressive places worldwide to close schools despite research from the likes of the United Nations warning about the adverse consequences of doing so.

7. Johnson Faces Third Lockdown as Virus Surges Across U.K.

Boris Johnson’s government is on the brink of another pandemic U-turn with a third national lockdown looking increasingly inevitable. A surge in infections threatens to overwhelm hospitals and throws his plan to get English children back into classrooms into disarray on a day the British prime minister had hoped to celebrate the delivery of the first shots of a Covid-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. Instead, the government is back in crisis mode, with new virus cases exceeding 50,000 a day and hospital admissions soaring past the peak of the first wave in April. Johnson on Monday warned that a “surging epidemic” means stricter rules are coming.

8. Treasuries Inflation Gauge Exceeds 2% for First Time Since 2018

Traders see U.S. inflation averaging at least 2% per year over the coming decade, the first time that expectations have climbed that high since 2018. The 10-year breakeven rate — a measure that draws on pricing for inflation-linked Treasuries — rose as high as 2.0025% Monday, a level last seen more than two years ago. The gauge has gained momentum as traders prepare for an uptick in the world economy in the wake of a deal on Brexit and congressional approval for additional virus-relief aid. The roll-out of vaccinations against the coronavirus has also fueled the move higher. The Federal Reserve is setting the tone for markets, making a renewed push to revive inflation — which has been too low for years. 

9. Oil Fluctuates With OPEC+ Gathering to Decide on Feb Output

Oil swung between gains and losses ahead of an OPEC+ meeting to decide whether the group can keep lifting output as a surging virus threatens the global energy demand recovery. OPEC and its allies are gathering to gauge whether the market has the appetite to absorb another increase in supply after they raised output by 500,000 barrels a day for January. The demand outlook for the first half of this year is mixed and there are still many downside risks to juggle, OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo said on Sunday. There are signs that lockdowns in some countries are set to be extended, potentially curbing oil demand. Germany is poised to prolong stricter lockdown measures beyond Jan. 10, while Japan is considering another state of emergency for the Tokyo area.

10. Israel Sets Pace on Vaccine Rollout; Schools Close: Virus Update

Global coronavirus infections climbed above 85 million, after daily cases in the U.S. soared to a record of nearly 300,000 following the New Year holiday. Germany is set to extend its lockdown, while Hong Kong won’t re-open classrooms for more than a month, as many nations opt to delay reopening schools. Japan’s prime minister is considering another state of emergency for the Tokyo area, with cases at records and a vaccine rollout more than a month away. Israel said it plans to vaccinate 70% to 80% of its population by April or May. The U.K. gave the first shots of AstraZeneca’s vaccine on Monday, in a race against a faster-spreading variant that’s prompted lockdowns across the country.

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