1. Stocks Increase as U.S. Stimulus Uncertainty Downplayed

U.S. stocks edged higher with European equities as investors digested the impact of President Donald Trump’s demand for changes to pandemic relief legislation. The S&P 500 opened in the green after three straight days of declines even after Trump attacked the coronavirus relief bill. The president is demanding that lawmakers increase the stimulus checks due to go out to most Americans to $2,000 from $600 in the same week that Congress passed the $900 billion bipartisan package. European stocks rose as trade and transport links between the U.K. and its neighbours reopened and Brexit negotiators worked to forge an 11th-hour deal, lifting the pound. Travel firms and automakers led gains.

The S&P 500 Index gained 0.4% as of early morning New York time.

The Nasdaq Composite Index increased 0.1%, the highest on record.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index jumped 0.9%.

The MSCI All-Country World Index climbed 0.6%.

2. U.S. Gets More Vaccine; U.K. to Widen Lockdown: Virus Update

Pfizer and partner BioNTech agreed to double the supply of their Covid-19 vaccine to the U.S., as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc in many nations. Germany’s coronavirus deaths rose by 986, the most since the start of the pandemic. The U.K. is examining whether to move more areas of England into lockdown to counter a faster-spreading variant of Covid-19. South Korea and the Philippines moved to temporarily suspend U.K. flights, while Japan is strengthening entry regulations for people travelling from Britain. Air travel from Britain to France resumed after a two-day halt, although with eligibility restrictions and a virus testing requirement. Italy uncovered the new Covid-19 strain in an infected person, with no apparent links to the U.K.

3. Brexit Deal in the Balance as Negotiators Push for the Line

Nine months of talks between the U.K. and European Union over a post-Brexit trade accord are hanging in the balance. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen intervened personally Monday and Tuesday, holding several phone conversations in a last-ditch bid to reach an agreement before the U.K. leaves the single market at the end of the month. The discussions are focused on two key disagreements over fish: what access EU boats will have to British waters, and what rights the EU will have to impose retaliatory tariffs should the U.K. limit that access in the future.

4. Netflix’s Reed Hastings Collects $225 Million in Stock Sale

Netflix’s Reed Hastings just pocketed $225 million from a stock sale, the latest in a series of such transactions the billionaire has made this year totalling $616 million.  Hastings, the Los Gatos, California-based firm’s co-chief executive officer, has seen his wealth increase about $2.2 billion this year to $6.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, making him the 120th-richest person in the U.S. The stock has climbed 63% this year as the streaming service has added 28.1 million new subscribers in the first nine months of 2020, fueled by increased demand for at-home entertainment during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

5. Hong Kong Sells Prime Residential Site for $1.5 Billion to Wharf

Hong Kong awarded a premium residential site to Wharf Development Ltd. for a higher-than-expected $1.5 billion, in a sign of early recovery for the city’s real estate market. Wharf unit Novel Bliss Ltd. won the residential land at the Peak, one of Hong Kong’s most exclusive neighbourhoods, according to a statement from the government late Wednesday. The plot can supply about 24,093 square meters of the floor area of homes. The developer is expected to build houses as well as apartments on the site. The luxury residential market is the hardest hit this year as Chinese buyers are scant. Prices for high-end homes fell by 8% in 2020, compared with the 1% drop in the mass market.

6. Allianz Bets on London’s West End With $539 Million Office Deal

Allianz SE’s real estate unit will take a majority stake in a portfolio of buildings owned by British Land Co. in London’s virus-roiled West End district. The insurance giant has agreed to pay 401 million pounds for a 75% interest in the office properties located in Marylebone.  It is the latest sign of global investors willing to bet on the long-term resilience of the world’s biggest business districts even as the coronavirus pandemic has reduced their appeal. Deals for West End buildings have picked up in the second half with investors seeking buildings with long leases, lured by returns that dwarf those available from other safe-haven assets including government bonds.

7. VW CEO Says Apple Can Mount Major Challenge With Auto Push

Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess said cash-rich technology giants invading the auto industry pose a much bigger challenge for the German manufacturer than traditional rivals like Toyota Motor Corp. Diess, 62, received a fresh vote of confidence from the VW supervisory board this month to make the sprawling industrial conglomerate more nimble after internal wrangling had spooked investors. VW faces a critical year in 2021 to escalate its electric-car push with new models. Diess mapped out a plan during an internal meeting last week to pit VW’s huge Wolfsburg plant against Tesla Inc.’s factory that’s under construction outside Berlin.

8. DP World to Invest $1 Billion to Develop New Port in Senegal

DP World signed an accord to invest more than $1 billion to develop a deep-water port in Senegal, making it the Dubai-based firm’s biggest port investment in Africa. DP World Dakar will invest $837 million in the first phase to build the port in Ndayane, followed by another $290 million. “The new port will further reinforce Dakar’s role as a major logistics hub and gateway to West and North-West Africa.” DP World said it’s also planning to develop a special economic zone next to the Ndayane port.

9. U.S. Jobless Claims Fell Last Week; Spending Dropped in November

U.S. filings for unemployment benefits declined for the first time in three weeks but remained elevated, while consumer spending and incomes fell in November by more than forecast, underscoring the coronavirus’s drag on the economy. Initial jobless claims in regular state programs dropped by 89,000 to 803,000 in the week ended Dec. 19, according to the Labor Department Wednesday. A separate Commerce Department report showed consumer spending, which accounts for a majority of the economy, dropped 0.4% last month — the first decline since April — while personal income decreased 1.1%. The data show a U.S. economy limping into year-end and suggest many Americans will struggle in coming months as coronavirus cases surge across the nation, while more businesses face closure or layoffs amid colder weather and less foot traffic.

10. Canada’s Economy Expands More Than Expected Amid Second Wave

Canada’s economy expanded more than forecast in October, Statistics Canada reported, easing worries of a sharp slowdown amid the second wave of coronavirus. The gross domestic product grew 0.4% in October from a month earlier. Canada’s economy rebounded strongly in the third quarter, but a second wave of coronavirus is hampering the near-term outlook, with new cases surpassing 6,600 a day on average — more than triple what was seen during the first wave in April and May. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is pushing to inoculate as many Canadians as possible before the end of the year, securing more than 400,000 early doses of two Covid-19 vaccines.

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