The daily business briefing: October 12, 2020

White House pushes spending of unused payroll loans as COVID-relief talks stall, 2 Stanford economists share Nobel Prize, and more

Nancy Pelosi speaks to the press
(Image credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

1. White House regroups after both parties reject coronavirus relief proposal

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sent a letter Sunday urging Congress to redirect $130 billion in unused Paycheck Protection Program funding while negotiations continue on broader new coronavirus relief. The appeal came after members of both parties rejected the administration's new $1.8 trillion stimulus proposal. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told fellow House Democrats in a letter on Sunday that negotiations with the White House on a new round of coronavirus relief "remain at an impasse." Pelosi said Trump's $1.8 trillion proposal was "grossly inadequate," partly because it did not include the $75 billion and a new national plan for testing, tracing, and virus treatment that Democrats have demanded.

The Wall Street Journal The Washington Post

2. 2 Stanford economists share Nobel Prize

U.S. economists Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson have won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, the Nobel Economics Committee announced Monday. Milgrom and Wilson are receiving the award "for improvements to auction theory and inventions of new auction formats," the committee said. "The auction designs have been implemented all over the world to sell radio spectrum, fishing quotas and airport landing slots," among other things, said Tommy Andersson, a member of the Nobel Economics Committee. Wilson developed a theory explaining why bidders often offer less than they believe something is worth due to the fear of overpaying. Milgrom was recognized for a theory about the differences in private values from bidder to bidder. Milgrom, 72, is a Stanford University professor, and Wilson, 83, is a professor emeritus at Stanford.

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The Wall Street Journal The New York Times

3. Saudi National Commercial Bank announces acquisition of Samba

Saudi Arabia's National Commercial Bank said Sunday that it would buy rival lender Samba Financial Group. The $14.8 billion deal would create Saudi Arabia's largest bank, with control over about $233 billion in assets. The combined company would have a market capitalization of $46 billion. It would control a quarter of the kingdom's banking. First, the merger must win regulatory approval. The proposed acquisition deal calls for National Commercial Bank to pay Samba a 3.5 premium over its stock's Thursday closing price. The banks said their deal is consistent with the Vision 2030 plan pushed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to break the Saudi economy's reliance on oil exports.

The Associated Press

4. U.S. stocks mixed after last week's big gains

U.S. stock index futures were mixed early Monday ahead of a busy week of corporate earnings and ongoing efforts in Washington to reach a deal on a new coronavirus relief package. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were little changed several hours before the opening bell. Those of the S&P 500 were up slightly, and those of the tech-heavy Nasdaq were up by about 1 percent. The Dow posted its biggest weekly gain since August last week, rising 3.3 percent on renewed hopes for a new round of coronavirus stimulus. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite had their best weeks since July, gaining 3.8 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively. Prospects for new pandemic relief spending dimmed a bit over the weekend, however, as members of both parties rejected a new $1.8 trillion proposal from the White House.


5. British Airways chief Alex Cruz steps down

British Airways announced Monday that its chairman and CEO Alex Cruz will step down as the airline faces the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Cruz is being replaced by Aer Lingus leader Sean Doyle, but will stay on as non-executive chairman for a transition period. "We're navigating the worst crisis faced in our industry and I'm confident these internal promotions will ensure IAG is well placed to emerge in a strong position," said Luis Gallego, chief executive of parent company IAG. British Airways is cutting 13,000 workers in response to the sharp drop in air travel caused by the pandemic. Employees and British lawmakers have accused the company of using a "fire and rehire" policy to cut some staffers' pay by up to 50 percent.


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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.