The daily business briefing: December 30, 2020
Britain approves Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for emergency use, Pierre Cardin dies at 98, and more
U.K. approves Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use
Britain on Wednesday granted emergency approval for a coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and the British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca. The move gave the U.K. a second vaccine to help fight a spike in coronavirus cases fueled by a highly infectious new coronavirus variant first detected in Britain. The U.K. earlier this month granted emergency approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and became the first Western country to launch a vaccination campaign. Researchers from the Oxford-AstraZeneca team earlier published interim results from clinical trials that showed their vaccine to be 90 percent effective for volunteers who got a half dose followed by a full dose, although studies are continuing to determine why two full doses proved less effective.
Fashion trailblazer Pierre Cardin dies at 98
Fashion designer Pierre Cardin, who has been credited with transforming the business of fashion, died in France, the French Academy of Fine Arts confirmed Tuesday. He was 98. Cardin, the son of Italian immigrants, was known for his clean, curved lines, and bold colors. He started out tailoring for designer Christian Dior, but by 1950 had opened his own fashion house. In 1959, Cardin released a mass-produced ready-to-wear collection with the French department store Printemps, resulting in his ejection from the small syndicate of haute couture designers. Licensing and branding deals put his name on everything from clothes to cars, and furniture to frying pans. Critics said he was diluting his brand, but the strategy extended his influence and legacy.
McConnell blocks Senate vote on $2,000 stimulus checks
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday blocked the Senate from considering a House bill seeking to increase coronavirus stimulus checks to individual Americans to $2,000 from $600. President Trump had called for the hike, and the Democrat-controlled House on Monday took him up on his demand and approved the increase. McConnell came under pressure as several Republicans broke ranks and came out in support of $2,000 individual payments. McConnell noted that Trump had also called for repealing liability protections for big social media companies, and investigating the November election. He said the Senate would look into considering all three issues together. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the first $600 checks were going out Tuesday night.
Home prices rise at fastest pace in 6 years
U.S. home prices rose in October by 7.9 percent compared to a year earlier, the fastest pace in more than six years, according to the national Case-Schiller index released Tuesday. Prices got a boost after a pandemic-fueled surge in home purchases outside crowded cities resulted in a shortage of supply. Prices are now 25 percent higher than they were at the peak before the 2008 financial crisis. "The data from the last several months are consistent with the view that COVID-19 has encouraged potential buyers to move from urban apartments to suburban homes," Craig Lazzara, managing director at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said in a statement. All 19 cities that reported saw price increases compared to October. Phoenix reported the biggest annual gain, with prices there up by 12.7 percent.
Stock futures point to opening gains, potential new records
U.S. stock index futures rose early Wednesday after retreating from record highs on Tuesday. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were up by 0.4 percent several hours before the opening bell. Futures for the tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 0.3 percent. All three of the main U.S. indexes on Tuesday pulled back from Monday's record levels after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked a quick vote on a bill approved by the House that would raise coronavirus stimulus checks to individuals to $2,000 from $600. With just two trading days remaining in 2020, the Dow is up by 6.3 percent on the year, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq have gained 15.4 percent and 43 percent, respectively.