The daily business briefing: November 27, 2020

Tim O'Donnell
Black Friday shopping.
Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images

1.

Shoppers set out for revamped Black Friday

Black Friday is taking a different shape this year amid the coronavirus pandemic. Several retailers like Saks and Macy's that closed during the spring have since reduced their inventories, which has led them to scale back on the traditional discounts associated with the post-Thanksgiving shopping event. Health and safety measures will also be in place at many stores. Best Buy, for instance, is employing contactless self-checkout and doubled the number of parking spots available for its pick-up service. When all is said and done, though, sales are expected to be made. The National Retail Federation expects November and December sales, excluding autos, gasoline, and restaurants, to rise somewhere between 3.6 and 5.2 percent. Last year, sales jumped 4 percent, and the average year-over-year increase the past five years is 3.5 percent. Online sales are expected to shoot up from 20 percent to 30 percent. [Reuters, The Wall Street Journal]

2.

S&P 500, Nasdaq on pace to eclipse closing highs

The S&P 500 added 0.3 percent after it opened Friday, while the Nasdaq increased 0.7 percent, putting both indexes on pace to eclipse their previous closing highs, which were set earlier this week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was also trading higher, but it fell short of hitting a new milestone. Markets have rallied this week despite a rising number of coronavirus infections in the U.S. as encouraging news about COVID-19 vaccine candidates roll in. President Trump also said he would "certainly" leave the White House if the Electoral College, as expected, votes for President-elect Joe Biden, likely further solidifying Wall Street's belief in a smooth presidential transition. [The Wall Street Journal]

3.

6 American oil executives sentenced after trial in Venezuela

A Venezuelan judge found six American executives guilty Thursday, sentencing them to lengthy prison terms three years after they were arrested on corruption charges. The defendants are all employees of the Houston-based refining company Citgo, which is owned by Venezuela's state oil company, PDVSA. They maintain their innocence. Five of the men, all U.S. citizens —Gustavo Cárdenas, Jorge Toledo, Jose Luis Zambrano and Alirio Zambrano — were sentenced to eight years and 10 months, while Jose Peireira, a permanent resident of the U.S., received 13 years. In November 2017, the so-called Citgo 6 arrived in Caracas for what they told was a business meeting. Once they were in the boardroom, however, Venezuelan military intelligence officers entered, demanded their passports, and arrested them. They were charged with embezzlement tied to a never-executed proposal to refinance $4 billion of Citgo bonds, NPR notes. Appeals will be made for the defendants. [The Associated Press, NPR]

5.

Director of global pharma group anticipates as many as 10 COVID-19 vaccines by 2021

Thomas Cueni, the director-general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations, said that as many as 10 COVID-19 vaccines could be available by the middle of next year, as long as they are granted approval by regulatory agencies. Cueni noted that the vaccine developers that have already released info from late-stage trials — Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna, and the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca — have all showed promising results (although the latter is amending its trial after confusing results), and he expects similar data from Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, Sanofi Pasteur, GSK, and Merck. "But all of them need to be submitted by rigorous scientific scrutiny by the regulators," he said. [Reuters]

5.

India enters recession for 1st time in decades

For the first time in decades, India has entered a recession as the coronavirus pandemic takes a toll on the world's second most populous nation. Official data published Friday showed India's third quarter gross domestic product dropped by 7.5 percent from the same period last year when the economy grew by 4 percent. The downturn is a result of coronavirus restrictions, many of which have been lifted in recent months. Still, the affects of initial shutdown have appeared to carry over. Analysts expect the Indian economy to approve, but the road to recovery will likely be long [CNN, CNBC]