Business briefing

The daily business briefing: December 22, 2020

Congress approves coronavirus relief and massive spending bill, USPS crunch delays millions of Christmas packages, and more

1

Congress approves coronavirus relief and spending bill

Congress on Monday passed the $900 billion coronavirus relief package and a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill. The legislation passed with overwhelming bipartisan support as COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths surge and previous coronavirus relief benefits expire. Americans could start receiving $600 per person checks under the relief bill as soon as next week. President-elect Joe Biden had urged fellow Democrats to accept a compromise with top Republicans that provided less aid than Democrats wanted. "Yes, there is more work to do, and it will cost some money, but it will protect jobs and, most importantly, it will meet the needs of the American people," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said.

2

Christmas deliveries delayed by package volume, illness

Millions of gifts are expected to arrive after Christmas as the U.S. Postal Service struggles to contend with several crises at once, The Washington Post reported Monday. The Postal Service has been swamped by unprecedented e-commerce traffic as Americans have shifted more of their holiday shopping online due to the coronavirus pandemic. USPS parcel volume was up by 14 percent as of Dec. 12, compared to last year. At the same time, many postal facilities are shorthanded because nearly 19,000 of the agency's 644,000 workers are sick or in isolation due to the coronavirus, the American Postal Workers Union said. The Postal Service also has faced confusion over a cost-cutting program launched by the postmaster general over the summer, then paused due to court challenges.

3

Senator: Russian hackers email system used by Treasury leaders

The Russian hackers who targeted several U.S. government agencies accessed the email system used by the highest-ranking Treasury Department leaders, a Democratic senator said Monday after being briefed on the matter. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said after IRS and Treasury Department staff briefed him and other members of the Senate Finance Committee that the hack "appears to be significant" and compromised dozens of email accounts. Wyden's statement provided the first details on the severity of the cyberattack, but the full scope of the breach remains unclear. "Treasury still does not know all of the actions taken by hackers, or precisely what information was stolen," Wyden said in a statement.

4

Lawsuit draft: Facebook, Google agreed to jointly fight antitrust action

Facebook and Google agreed to join forces if they faced an investigation over their deal to collaborate in online advertising, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, citing an unredacted version of a lawsuit 10 states filed against Google last week. Ten Republican attorneys general, led by Texas, accused the internet giants of striking a deal in September 2018 calling for Facebook to avoid competing with Google's online ad tools in exchange for special treatment when it used the tools. The lawsuit says the companies knew the deal could spark antitrust inquiries, and explored ways to respond. A Google spokesperson said there was nothing unusual about two companies reaching agreements over antitrust threats. Both companies dispute the allegations in the lawsuit.

5

Stocks futures mixed after Congress passes relief package

U.S. stock index futures were mixed early Tuesday after Congress approved a new coronavirus relief package and spending legislation that will keep federal agencies from shutting down. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down slightly, while those of the S&P 500 were up by about 0.2 percent several hours before the opening bell. Nasdaq Composite futures gained 0.4 percent. The three main U.S. indexes closed mixed on Monday after a day of volatile trading as the relief bill loomed but concerns mounted about a new, fast-spreading variant of COVID-19 that has prompted strict lockdown restrictions in parts of the United Kingdom. Tesla stocks were among those that dropped Monday, falling by 6.5 percent from a record high after it made its Monday debut as part of the S&P 500.

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