The daily business briefing: December 1, 2020

Harold Maass
The Moderna hq
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

1.

U.S. stocks fall on final day of blockbuster month

U.S. stock indexes fell on Monday but still finished November with massive gains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by 0.9 percent on Monday, but still gained 12 percent in November, its best month since January 1987. The S&P 500 fell by 0.5 percent to finish the month up by 11 percent. The Nasdaq finished the month up 12 percent. Futures for the Dow and the S&P 500 were up 1 percent several hours before the opening bell on Tuesday, buoyed by positive news on coronavirus vaccine development. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned the outlook for the economy remained "extraordinarily uncertain," and a full recovery "is unlikely until people are confident that it is safe to reengage in a broad range of activities." [The Wall Street Journal, CNBC]

2.

Moderna applies for coronavirus vaccine emergency-use authorization

Moderna announced that its coronavirus vaccine candidate was 94.1 percent effective in a large study, and that it had applied on Monday to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency-use authorization. The drugmaker said that if the vaccine is approved the first Americans could get injections as soon as Dec. 21. The encouraging news came as coronavirus cases are surging and overwhelming hospitals across the country, with public health officials warning that the situation could get even worse due to likely infections among people who traveled or attended large gatherings for Thanksgiving. Pfizer and BioNTech, which applied for U.S. emergency-use authorization for their vaccine on Nov. 20, filed an application with the European Medicines Agency on Tuesday. [The New York Times, CNBC]

3.

Canada launches biggest economic relief effort since World War II

Canada's federal government on Monday unveiled a $77 billion coronavirus spending plan that Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland described as "the largest economic relief package for our country since the Second World War." The spending will cover everything from support for devastated business sectors to investments in long-term care homes. It also will pay for distributing a COVID-19 vaccine. The number of coronavirus cases in Canada more than doubled in November, reaching more than 376,000, according to Johns Hopkins University data. "When the virus is under control and our economy is ready for new growth, we will employ an ambitious stimulus package" to be spent over three years, Freeland told Canadian lawmakers. [BBC News]

4.

Bitcoin price hits record after quadrupling since March

The price of Bitcoin rose to a record high on Monday, three years after it rocketed to its previous peak of $19,783. The cryptocurrency has soared since March, after dropping below $4,000 at the start of the coronavirus crisis. The 2017 spike was driven in part by investors in Asia who were just becoming familiar with cryptocurrencies, but it fell again as people questioned its usefulness. This time, American investors are pushing Bitcoin prices higher as they start treating it as an alternative asset, like gold. Bitcoin allows people to put part of their portfolios in a place safe from the influence of governments and traditional financial systems. [The New York Times]

5.

Home sales, factory activity declines add to economic warning signs

Sales contracts for previously owned U.S. homes dropped in October for the second straight month as a supply shortage pushed prices higher. The declines came despite record low mortgage rates. Other data added to concerns about the economy. Factory data released Monday showed slowing activity in the Midwest and Texas as COVID-19 cases surged across the U.S., disrupting production and reducing new orders. The troubling economic data added to concerns about Congress' failure to reach a deal on a new round of coronavirus relief spending. "Storm clouds are gathering," said George Ratiu, senior economist at Realtor.com. "This winter could pose an unusual challenge for many people across the country, unless Congress takes significant actions."