1. Trump opposition upends coronavirus-relief plan
Republicans scrambled on Wednesday to salvage the $900 billion coronavirus relief package after President Trump slammed it as a "disgrace" filled with spending unrelated to the pandemic and demanded that lawmakers increase stimulus checks to individuals from $600 to $2,000. Trump's suggestion that he would not sign the legislation without revisions threw its future in doubt as many Americans stand to lose extra pandemic-related unemployment benefits this week. The relief package also is tied to a $1.4 trillion spending deal needed to avert a government shutdown. Congressional Democrats, who tried for months to push through a multi-trillion dollar relief package, are calling Trump's bluff and moving Thursday, Christmas Eve, to propose a stand-alone bill to provide $2,000 stimulus checks.
2. Pfizer agrees to supply U.S. with 100 million more vaccine doses
Pfizer on Wednesday agreed to provide the United States with another 100 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine it developed with German partner BioNTech. The deal, reached after negotiations with the Trump administration, will double the U.S. order, providing enough of the two-dose vaccine for 100 million people. The federal government will pay $1.95 billion for the extra supply. The doses will be delivered by July. The deal won't increase the number of people who will get the Pfizer vaccine in the next few months, but it will help prevent a shortage come summer. Pfizer and Moderna, which also has started shipping its vaccine, will supply the government with a combined 400 million doses, enough for 200 million Americans. So far, 18.3 million people in the U.S. have been infected with the virus, and nearly 324,000 have died.
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3. Consumer, jobs data indicate COVID surge hampering recovery
The federal government released a flurry of fresh economic data on Wednesday that boosted fears that the economic recovery was faltering as coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths surged. Consumers cut spending last month by 0.4 percent, the Commerce Department reported. The drop, the first in seven months, came after a burst of shopping over the summer. Spending dropped on services, including restaurant meals, and on goods, including cars, appliances, and other big-ticket items. Household incomes also fell, losing 1.1 percent in their third decline in four months. New applications for unemployment benefits retreated from a three-month high but remained elevated. The Labor Department reported that 803,000 people filed initial jobless claims last week, down from a revised 892,000 the prior week.
4. Stock futures edge higher ahead of holiday-shortened trading session
U.S. stock index futures rose early Thursday ahead of a shortened Christmas Eve trading session. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq were up by about 0.2 percent several hours before the opening bell. The Dow rose by 0.4 percent on Wednesday. The S&P gained less than 0.1 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq hit a record high during the day but closed down by 0.3 percent. Some stocks gave back earlier gains as investors took end-of-year profits. The Nasdaq is up by 42 percent this year, while the Dow and S&P 500 have gained 5.6 percent and 14.2 percent, respectively. Investors also reacted to uncertainty after President Trump vetoed the annual defense bill, and harshly criticized the $900 billion coronavirus relief package just passed by Congress.
5. U.K., E.U. near post-Brexit trade deal
Britain and the European Union are pushing to seal a narrow trade deal on Thursday just days before the United Kingdom formally leaves the E.U.'s single market and customs union on Dec. 31. The last-minute agreement would avert a costly no-deal Brexit, but is expected to mark a more distant relationship than most expected when Britons voted to leave the trading bloc in 2016. There was no official confirmation that a deal was imminent, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson was expected to hold a press conference after negotiators worked through the night on resolving sticking points, including fisheries. "Certainly the momentum and the expectation is that we will get a Christmas Eve Brexit deal and I can tell you that will be an enormous relief," Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told RTE radio.
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