1. Stock Rally Pauses as European Cyclicals Retreat
European stocks dipped and U.S. futures were mixed as sobering economic data deflated a spirited rally in global risk assets. Bitcoin tumbled 8%. Cyclical companies including banks and energy firms that had led the post-vaccine surge retreated while more defensive tech shares gained. That was mirrored by equity futures in the U.S., where contracts on the main gauge were flat while those on the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 rose. Even with three successful vaccines on the table, sentiment turned cautious Thursday as the virus toll continued to rise in Europe and the U.S. The task of vaccinating the world’s population is rife with logistical problems, all while the virus gains ground and economic recoveries wobble.
Futures on the S&P 500 Index were unchanged as of early morning New York time.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index dipped 0.1%.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained 0.7%.
The MSCI Emerging Market Index rose 0.8%.
2. Bitcoin Plunges Along With Other Coins
Bitcoin plunged on Thursday in a sell-off that saw other digital assets fall as much as 27%, a slide likely to stoke speculation about the durability of the latest boom in cryptocurrencies. The largest token slumped as much as 13%, potentially heading for its worst day since the pandemic was declared in March, ending the culmination of a 250% surge in the past nine months. Fears over tighter crypto regulation and profit-taking after a massive rally were among the reasons cited for the sudden drop. The sell-off gathered pace after Coinbase Inc. Chief Executive Officer Brian Armstrong tweeted about speculation the U.S. is considering new rules that would undermine anonymity in digital transactions.
3. Disney Cuts 4,000 More Jobs, Blaming Virus Hit to Theme Parks
Walt Disney Co. announced another 4,000 job cuts after virus lockdowns forced the closure of its theme parks. It takes the number of layoffs in the first half of 2021, mostly at Disney’s parks, experiences and products divisions to 32,000 — more than 10% of its total workforce. The company’s parks in California remain closed due to a standoff with the state over lockdown measures. Results earlier this month revealed how the coronavirus pandemic has hammered Disney’s traditional businesses like studios, parks and cruises while accelerating a pivot to streaming. The theme parks showed a loss of $1.1 billion in quarterly results this month.
4. London Avoids Toughest Covid Curbs After England Lockdown
London will avoid the toughest coronavirus restrictions when England’s partial lockdown ends next week, Boris Johnson’s government announced. The U.K. capital has been placed into tier 2 — which means pubs, restaurants and bars can open for business, but alcohol can only be served as part of a meal. Households will not be allowed to mix indoors. The regional three-tier system is tougher than earlier lockdowns because ministers want to make sure they get a grip of the virus before people are allowed a five-day relaxation of the rules during the Christmas holidays.
5. IBM Planning 10,000 Job Cuts in Europe Ahead of Unit Sale
International Business Machines Corp. is planning to cut about 10,000 jobs in Europe in an attempt to lower costs at its slow-growth services unit and prepare the business for a spinoff. The wide-ranging losses will affect about 20% of staff in the region. The U.K. and Germany are set to be most impacted, with cuts also planned in Poland, Slovakia, Italy and Belgium. IBM announced the job cuts in Europe earlier in November during a meeting with European labour representatives. Hardest hit will be IBM’s legacy IT services business, which handles day-to-day infrastructure operations, such as managing client data centres and traditional IT support for installing, operating and repairing equipment.
6. AstraZeneca Faces More Vaccine Questions After Manufacturing Error
AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, in the quest to deliver a Covid-19 vaccine, face mounting questions about their trial results after acknowledging a manufacturing error. Astra and Oxford said their vaccine was 90% effective when a half-dose was given before a full-dose booster, and that two full doses showed an efficacy of 62%. But the head of the U.S. vaccine program known as Operation Warp Speed said the next day that the dose showing the higher level of effectiveness was tested in a younger population and that the half-dose was given to some people because of an error in the quantity of vaccine put into some vials. None of this was disclosed in Astra’s original statement.
7. UAE Halts New Visas for Citizens of 13 Mostly Muslim Countries
The United Arab Emirates has stopped issuing new employment and tourist visas for citizens of 13 mostly Muslim-majority nations. The broad suspension, which covers visa applications made outside the country, took effect on Nov. 18 and would run until further notice. Reuters reported the step was triggered by security concerns without giving details. Countries included in the ban are Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Lebanon, Kenya, Tunisia, Algeria, Turkey and Iran. The restrictions will be another blow for the country’s aviation industry, which is only beginning to emerge from Covid-induced hibernation that starved airlines of revenue.
8. U.K. to End Lockdown; Merkel’s Skiing Warning
Global coronavirus cases topped 60 million. German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to do more to rein in the pandemic as the nation saw a record daily jump in new cases and virus-related deaths reached a seven-month high. Merkel also called on Europe’s ski resorts to close this winter to halt the spread of the illness. In the U.S., the Supreme Court blocked New York Governor Andrew Cuomo from imposing attendance caps at synagogues and Roman Catholic churches in Covid hotspots. California and Texas broke daily infection records. Meanwhile, the White House is considering lifting entry restrictions on non-U.S. citizens arriving from Europe.
9. Foxconn to Move Some Production of iPads and MacBooks to Vietnam
Foxconn will move the manufacturing of some Apple iPads and MacBooks to Vietnam from China, as the company aims to mitigate the risk that a trade war with the U.S. could continue after the U.S. President Donald Trump leaves the White House. The company is building assembly lines for Apple’s tablet and notebook products at its plant in the northern Vietnamese province of Bac Giang, which will come online in the first half of 2021. During the Trump era, many manufacturers have been shifting production capacity from China to countries including Vietnam, Mexico and India to avoid being slapped with punitive tariffs and to hedge against geopolitical risks.
10. Netanyahu, UAE Leader Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by laureate Lord David Trimble. Under the rules of the Nobel Prize Committee, a nomination made by a recipient must be discussed. Trimble, the former First Minister of Northern Ireland, won the prize in 1998 for his efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland. Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed in September to normalize relations after decades of conflict in the Middle East.