1. Stocks Decline; Treasury Yields Extend Climb
U.S. stocks fell and benchmark Treasury 10-year bond yields rose to a 10-month high as investors mulled the prospects of the economic recovery and vaccine rollout. The S&P 500 edged lower for a second day, with the utilities and communication services sectors leading the declines. Europe’s Stoxx 600 Index traded little changed. The dollar weakened following a three-day rally. While progress on a vaccine gives reason to be hopeful, there are lingering concerns over the speculative excess and froth that’s driven stock markets to all-time highs in the middle of a pandemic.
The S&P 500 Index fell 0.5% as of noon New York time.
The Nasdaq Composite Index eased 0.4%.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index rose 0.2%.
The MSCI All-Country World Index climbed 0.2%..
2. Trump and Pence Signal President Won’t Resign or Be Removed
Vice President Mike Pence signalled he’ll spurn demands to immediately oust Donald Trump over a deadly riot by the president’s supporters as the two met and agreed to work together for the remainder of the term, according to a senior administration official. The discussion adds to indications that Trump has no plans to resign before Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration. The House is set to issue a largely futile ultimatum to Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday, demanding he invokes constitutional authority to remove President Donald Trump from office, as a prelude to an expected vote to impeach the president for the second time in little more than a year.
3. Twitter Bans 70,000 QAnon Accounts in Conspiracy Crackdown
Twitter Inc. has permanently suspended more than 70,000 accounts dedicated to sharing QAnon-associated conspiracy theory content and ratcheted up its enforcement in the wake of the Washington, D.C. riot last week. Many of the affected accounts were run by individuals who were operating several of them at a time, Twitter said in a statement detailing its actions. Any tweets labelled for violations of Twitter’s civic integrity policy — a key reason cited by the company in its initial suspension of departing U.S. President Donald Trump — will now be limited in engagement. Users will only be able to quote-tweet such posts, with likes, replies and retweets disabled.
4. Bitcoin Rebounds While Leaving Everyone in Dark on True Worth
Bitcoin rebounded after Monday’s steep plunge left investors grasping for clues about what lies ahead for the world’s largest cryptocurrency. The digital coin rose 4.9%, following yesterday’s 11% slide. The latest bout of roller-coaster volatility recalls past boom and bust cycles including the 2017 bubble, and has investors debating whether this is a healthy correction or the end of the latest bull run for cryptocurrencies.
5. Merkel Anxious That U.K.’s Mutated Virus Will Hit Germany Hard
Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that Germany may need to prolong its coronavirus lockdown until Easter due to risks posed by a fast-spreading variant from the U.K. Europe’s largest economy has already seen its outbreak intensify in recent days, despite tightening restrictions on movement and contact. Now authorities are looking with concern toward Ireland, where the new strain has contributed to one of the world’s worst contagion rates. During a video call on Tuesday, Merkel said harsh curbs might have to remain in place for the next eight to 10 weeks to combat the mutation.
6. U.K. Businesses Drowning in Red Tape Under Brexit Border Rules
While the mile-long lines of trucks have dissipated at ports, U.K. businesses are waking up to less visible forms of friction at the border with the European Union that may cause more enduring damage. From health certificates to new taxes and additional paperwork, the cost of moving goods across the English Channel is rising due to Britain’s exit from the EU. While each one of the new rules marks a minor shift from the border-free trade Britain enjoyed for four decades as a member of the EU, together they add up to a significant constraint. That’s already starting to upend supply lines and limit shipments for companies of all sizes. Those hit hardest are the U.K.’s 5.9 million small- and medium-sized businesses, which employ about three-in-five of those working in the private sector. All told, Brexit may cost British exporters 25 billion pounds ($34 billion) this year as a result of weak demand and more red tape, shaving 1.1% off Britain’s GDP.
7. China Won Trump’s Trade War and Got Americans to Foot the Bill
U.S. President Donald Trump famously tweeted that “trade wars are good, and easy to win” in 2018 as he began to impose tariffs on about $360 billion of imports from China. Turns out he was wrong on both counts. Even before the coronavirus infected millions of Americans and sparked the steepest economic downturn since the Great Depression, China was withstanding Trump’s tariff salvos, according to the very metrics he used to justify them. Once China got the virus under control, demand for medical equipment and work-from-home gear expanded its trade surplus with the U.S. despite the levies. “China is too big and too important to the world economy to think that you can cut it out like a paper doll,” said Mary Lovely, an economics professor at Syracuse University. “The Trump administration had a wake-up call.
8. Byju’s to Pay $1 Billion for Blackstone-Backed India Tutor
India’s biggest online-education startup Byju’s has signed a deal to acquire brick & mortar test prep leader Aakash Educational Services Ltd. for $1 billion. The deal for what will be one of the largest ed-tech acquisitions in the world should close in the next two or three months. Bangalore-headquartered Byju’s is valued at $12 billion and has been on a fund-raising spree as the pandemic has sent demand for its online lessons soaring. India’s second-most valuable startup is backed by the likes of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Tiger Global Management and Bond Capital, co-founded by Silicon Valley investor Mary Meeker.
9. Asian LNG Cargo Prices Break Records as Cold Makes Traders Scramble
North Asia’s liquefied natural gas benchmark rose above $30 per million British thermal units for the first time, breaking a barrier that few thought possible. Freezing temperatures across North Asia have boosted gas consumption and caught short some end-users, sending the spot rate to new highs. Meanwhile, numerous production issues at export facilities and delays traversing the Panama Canal curbed supplies. This marks a dramatic turnaround for the fuel, which hit an all-time low less than nine months ago amid pandemic lockdowns. Tuesday’s spot price represents an 18-fold rise from that level.
10. Dubai’s Open-City Policy Saw Hotel Bookings Surge in December
Occupancy at Dubai’s hotels surged in December and neared pre-pandemic levels as travellers flocked to the emirate to escape coronavirus lockdowns at home. Hotels were 71% full last month — the highest figure since February. Dubai’s hotel occupancy, for years one of the highest in the world, slumped to 23% in part of 2020 from about 80%. Dubai attracts about 16 million tourists annually and its hotels were initially among the worst-hit by travel restrictions introduced to keep the pandemic in check. The opening up has come at a cost. Infections surged in the United Arab Emirates — of which Dubai is one of seven sheikdoms — from late December.
NOTE TO THE READERS: Due to unavoidable personal reasons, there was a delay in preparing this article today. I apologize for this inconvenience.