Business briefing

The daily business briefing: December 28, 2020

Trump signs COVID-19 relief bill, stock futures rise to start last week of 2020, and more

1

Trump signs COVID-19 relief, omnibus spending bill

President Trump on Sunday signed the coronavirus stimulus package and a massive spending measure needed to prevent a government shutdown just ahead of a Monday deadline. The move was unexpected, coming after Trump had called the legislation a "disgrace," suggesting he might veto it. The $900 billion coronavirus package contains $600 stimulus checks to individuals. Trump had called for increasing the checks to $2,000. The coronavirus law also renews extra unemployment benefits that had just expired. Trump also had criticized parts of the spending bill, including foreign aid requests included in his own budget request. He called on Congress to remove "wasteful items" from the bill.

2

Stock futures rise to start last week of 2020

U.S. stock index futures made solid gains early Monday after President Trump signed COVID-19 relief and government funding legislation after holding off for several days. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up by 0.6 percent several hours before the opening bell, while those of the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq rose by 0.7 percent. Trump said he was "signing this bill to restore unemployment benefits, stop evictions, provide rental assistance, add money for PPP, return our airline workers back to work, add substantially more money for vaccine distribution, and much more." Wall Street had a quiet Christmas week but some analysts said the last week of 2020 could bring more profit-taking after a surprisingly strong year in which the Dow gained 5.8 percent, while the S&P 500 rose by 14.6 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq rocketed up by 42.7 percent.

3

U.K. urges companies to brace for end of Brexit transition

The British government on Monday told businesses to prepare for the end of the transitional period toward the country's full departure from the European Union. The U.K. and the E.U. last week sealed a post-Brexit trade deal that preserves zero-tariff and zero-quota access to the trading bloc's single market, but still could result in disruption for British businesses. "The deal is done, but with big change comes challenge and opportunity," cabinet office minister Michael Gove said in a statement. "There are practical and procedural changes that businesses and citizens need to get ready for, and time to make these final preparations is very short." The U.K. exited the E.U. on Jan. 31, but the transition period kept existing trade ties in place through Dec. 31.

4

Margin-debt hits record as Wall Street surges

Investors borrowed a record $722.1 billion against their investment portfolios through November as the stock market soared into record territory, according to the Financial Regulatory Authority. That borrowing is a strong indicator of stock-market euphoria, The Wall Street Journal said in a Sunday report. Previous stock market-margin debt records have fallen before flurries of volatility, like those that hit in 2000 and 2008. "The stock market is euphoric right now,” said James Angel, a Georgetown University finance professor. "A lot of people are extrapolating from the recent past and going, 'Wow, the market's gone up a lot and I think it'll go up more.' We've seen this play out before, and it doesn't end well."

5

Wonder Woman 1984 makes biggest box office debut since March

Wonder Woman 1984 brought in $16.7 million at the box office in the U.S. and Canada over weekend, Warner Bros. announced on Sunday. It was the biggest domestic film debut since the coronavirus crisis hobbled the entertainment industry in March. Warner Bros.-parent AT&T said that nearly half of its more than 3.6 million HBO Max subscribers streamed the film on Christmas. Wonder Woman 1984 was one of the first Hollywood blockbusters to be released in theaters and on streaming platforms simultaneously. "During these very difficult times, it was nice to give families the option of enjoying this uplifting film at home, where theater viewing wasn’t an option," said Andy Forssell, executive vice president and general manager of WarnerMedia’s direct-to-consumer division.

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