The daily business briefing: November 30, 2020

Harold Maass
The Best Buy site
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

1.

Cyber Monday hits after record Black Friday online sales

Retailers are bracing for what they expect to be record Cyber Monday sales. Americans spent an estimated $9 billion online on Black Friday, smashing the previous record of $7.4 billion set in 2019. The ongoing shift to retailers' websites quickened as shoppers snapped up deals from the safety of home to avoid the risk of coronavirus exposure, rather than going to brick-and-mortar stores that would normally be jammed on the day after Thanksgiving. It was not immediately clear whether the surge in online sales would be enough to offset declining in-person sales during the pandemic. About half as many Americans visited stores on Black Friday this year as did in 2019. [Daily Mail, The Wall Street Journal]

2.

China factory activity increases at fastest pace in 3 years

China on Monday reported that factory activity in the country expanded in November at the fastest monthly pace in more than three years as the world's second largest economy continued to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. China's official manufacturing Purchasing Manager's Index (PMI) jumped to 52.1 in November from 51.4 in October, the country's National Bureau of Statistics said. The November figure exceeded the average 51.5 reading expected by analysts polled by Reuters. Anything above 50 indicates expansion. The PMI increase suggests "the recovery momentum in the industrial sector has become more certain," said Zhang Liqun, analyst at China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing. "But the results also showed inadequate demand is still a common issue facing firms." [Reuters]

3.

Biden picks diverse economic advisers

President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate a diverse team of economic advisers, including Center for American Progress CEO Neera Tanden as director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Princeton University labor economist Cecilia Rouse as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing people familiar with Biden's decisions. Biden also reportedly plans to name Adewale "Wally" Adeyemo, who was a top international economic adviser in the Obama administration, to be a top deputy to his Treasury secretary, former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen. Biden has settled on veteran Democratic spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki as his White House press secretary. She will be one of seven women who will occupy every top spot on Biden's communications staff. [The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post]

4.

U.S. stock futures fall as blockbuster month ends

U.S. stock index futures fell early Monday as some investors cashed in on some of the big November gains. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down by about 0.5 percent several hours before the opening bell. Those of the S&P 500 fell by about 0.2 percent, while those of the tech-heavy Nasdaq were flat. The Dow was up by 12.9 percent for the month heading into the last day of November, its best monthly performance since January 1987. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq are up this month by 11.3 percent and 11.9 percent, respectively. The gains came after several drug makers reported encouraging news about the effectiveness of their coronavirus vaccine candidates in late-phase trials. [CNBC]

5.

U.K., EU enter 'last leg' of talks on post-Brexit deal

Britain and the European Union are entering the "last leg of negotiations" ahead of a deadline for a post-Brexit trade agreement, the U.K.'s foreign minister, Dominic Raab, said Sunday. "I do think this is a very significant week, the last real major week," Dominic Raab, told the BBC on Sunday. The U.K. officially ended its membership in the trading bloc in January, but agreed to stick to EU trade rules through the end of the year while the two sides hammered out a new agreement. But negotiations have been stuck on several issues, including fishing, competition policy, and governance of the new trade arrangements. A no-deal Brexit would leave exporters on both sides facing higher costs and tariffs. [CNBC]