Data delayed at least 15 minutes
Financial markets were jolted on Monday by the news that a fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus had led to the suspension of some trade and travel with Britain and another lockdown in London, a new threat that overshadowed progress in Washington toward a long-awaited economic aid package.
But Wall Street’s major benchmarks bounced off their lowest levels of the day, with the Dow Jones industrial average recouping all of its losses and the S&P 500 index down a little more than half a percent by 1 p.m. in New York.
The retreat was sharper in Europe, where the Stoxx Europe 600 index dropped 2.7 percent. The FTSE 100 in Britain fell 1.7 percent, while the FTSE 250, which includes companies that are more oriented to the British economy, declined more than 2 percent.The British pound fell against all other major currencies. It declined as much as 1.8 percent against the dollar. Crude oil prices were nearly 4 percent lower, but also off of their worst levels of the day.
Over the weekend, nearby countries shut their borders to travelers from Britain as London and the surrounding area were put into a lockdown after the government’s health secretary said a new strain of the coronavirus was “out of control.” France also stopped freight imports from Britain, a move that will worsen border disruptions and has raised concerns about the supply of fresh food.
By Monday, some countries outside of Europe also began to close their borders to travelers. Israel said most foreign nationals wouldn’t be allowed to enter, while Saudi Arabia announced a one week ban on all international travel.But concern about the economic impact of such restrictions didn’t weigh on Wall Street quite as heavily as it did in Europe, in part because of the fact that congressional leaders have reached a deal on a $900 billion stimulus package, which is expected to include $600 stimulus payments to millions of Americans and strengthen unemployment benefits.
The congressional spending package is expected to include most of the elements that economists have long said were crucial to avoiding further calamity and aiding a recovery. It extends unemployment benefits for millions at risk of losing them, and adds money to their checks to help pay their bills. It revives the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept many small businesses afloat last spring.
Trading in the U.S. did reflect some concerns about the new restrictions in Europe. Shares of Airlines, cruise lines and casinos — companies that will be hardest hit by travel restrictions — fared poorly. As crude oil prices retreated, reflecting worry about the global economy, energy stocks were also amng the worst performers.
But another factor was also weighing on the S&P 500 on Monday — the addition of Tesla to the index.
With a market cap of more than $600 billion, Tesla is the largest ever addition to the index, requiring roughly $90 billion worth of trading as fund managers who have to try and match their holdings to the index have to sell other stock.
Gainers were concentrated in the financial sector, after the Federal Reserve on Friday said that the country’s largest banks were sturdy enough financially to survive a severe economic shock related to the pandemic. The Fed will allow them to return more money to shareholders in early 2021 as long as the banks show that they are profitable.
Goldman Sachs rose over 7 percent, Morgan Stanley jumped nearly 6 percent and JPMorgan Chase climbed more than 4 percent.
British shoppers were warned Monday of the possibility of a “serious disruption to U.K. Christmas fresh food supplies” stemming from France’s decision to suspend all trucks arriving from Britain.
Consumers were advised by trade groups not to panic shop in the days leading to Friday’s Christmas holiday.
France is trying to stop the spread of a more contagious strain of coronavirus that Britain’s health minister said had grown “out of control” in parts of England. Over the weekend, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced tighter restrictions on people living in London and the surrounding area.
On Sunday night, France suspended the arrival of goods that are transported by truck and cross the English Channel either via ferry or through the Eurotunnel, over fears the drivers could carry the disease. The rules are to last 48 hours.
As a result, the Port of Dover, just 21 miles across the Channel from France and one of Europe’s busiest ferry ports, with just two operators moving 10,000 trucks each day, was closed to outbound traffic on Monday. About 20 miles west, the transport hub at Folkestone, connected to France by the Eurotunnel, was also closed. Truck drivers bound for the continent parked along the roadways leading to Dover, in a procedure known as Operation Stack that was devised to deal with potential disruptions caused by Brexit.
Grant Shapps, Britain’s transport minister, said about 20 percent of the freight moving in and out of England was affected by the closures. Unaccompanied goods — such as those loaded in shipping containers, carried on vessels — will continue to be admitted into France and goods can still be driven to other countries, such as the Netherlands, from smaller ports.
Still, Britain relies on imported fresh fruit and vegetables trucked in from Europe, especially in the winter. Food can still be taken by truck from France into Britain, but there are concerns truck drivers won’t go if they risk getting marooned in Britain.
The travel ban has “the potential to cause serious disruption to U.K. Christmas fresh food supplies — and exports of U.K. food and drink,” Ian Wright, the chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said in a statement.
The closure of ports is also disrupting parcel deliveries. Deutsche Post DHL said deliveries of parcels to Britain would also be stopped as more countries impose travel bans on Britain.
Mr. Johnson said on Monday afternoon that “the vast majority of food, medicines and other supplies are coming and going as normal.” In a news conference, Mr. Johnson added that he was in touch with President Emmanuel Macron of France to try to find a way to get goods moving again “as fast as possible.”
The impact is also being felt in France, where shipments of fresh fish and shellfish will not arrive. Britain sends more seafood to the European Union than it imports, especially stocks of salmon, lobster and langoustines. A Scottish salmon trade group warned that more than £1 million of fresh salmon would be caught up in the port closure during this peak season.
The BBC reported that Sainsbury’s, one Britain’s largest supermarkets, said food for Christmas was already in hand, but if the travel suspension lasted longer, there would be “gaps over the coming days” in items such as lettuce, salad leaves, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus fruit.
About a quarter of food consumed in Britain is imported from the European Union, Research from the London School of Economics estimated that more than half of the tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, mushrooms, peppers and lettuce Britain consumes are imported. And 75 percent to 100 percent of these were from the European Union last year.
Because Britain is set to end its transition period for leaving the European Union on Dec. 31, importers of many goods, including medicines, had already been stockpiling. London and Brussels haven’t reached a trade deal yet, and so importers have sought to get goods into the country ahead of customs checks and, potentially, new tariffs, actions that have caused delays and congestion at larger container ports.
The sleek and speedy mode of travel that ties London, Paris, Amsterdam and other cities is a shadow of itself, crippled by the pandemic:
Heightening the crisis, all service from London to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam was suspended on Monday for at least 48 hours as governments on the continent banned travelers from Britain, a precaution as health officials try to control a new variant of coronavirus sweeping across parts of England. Trains will continue operating from Paris to London, the company said.
The company’s woes reflect a struggle for survival playing out across the European train industry, as the pandemic continues to upend the business of transportation. Like Europe’s airlines, the railway sector is facing its worst crisis in modern history, reports Liz Alderman for The New York Times.
Ridership has slumped 70 to 90 percent amid lockdowns and social-distancing requirements, pushing the industry toward a staggering 22 billion euros in losses this year, around the same expected for European airlines, according to CER, a Brussels-based trade group representing passenger and freight train operators. Thousands of trains have been mothballed, and tens of thousands of workers are on government-subsidized furloughs.
“It’s a totally extraordinary situation,” said Libor Lochman, CER’s executive director. “There is no comparison for it, and it can and will lead to the bankruptcy of a number of companies, unless there is the political will to prevent it.”
With more than nine billion passengers and 1.6 billion tons of freight carried on tracks stretching from Spain to Sweden, Europe’s trains are as vital as planes for whisking people and goods across the continent.
But even after the pandemic, analysts say work-from-home practices, online socializing and the rise of internet shopping will have a lasting impact on rail travel of all types, leaving privately owned companies like Eurostar and state railways including DeutscheBahn in Germany and SNCF of France, Eurostar’s biggest shareholder, struggling to survive.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has extend a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures on home mortgages its insures against default, protecting many first-time home buyers.
The moratorium will now run through Feb. 28. It had been set to expire at the end of the month.
The foreclosure moratorium applies to mortgages backed by the Federal Home Administration, a division of the federal housing department. In recent years, F.H.A. guaranteed mortgages have become a major way for first-time buyers to acquire homes. The biggest underwriters of F.H.A. mortgages have been so-called nonbank lenders that are not affiliated with a major bank.
HUD is also similarly extending the deadline for cash-strapped homeowners to seek a reprieve from making full mortgage payments for up to six months.
The HUD extensions are just the latest efforts by government housing officials to help homeowners. Earlier this month, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, extended the foreclosure moratorium for home loans guaranteed against default by those two big mortgage finance firms through the end of January.
The stimulus legislation under negotiation in Congress is expected to contain measures to help renters as well.
The new coronavirus stimulus agreement being finalized by Congress would make a fresh attempt to help Black Americans and other minorities who have been especially affected by the pandemic.
According to summaries of the bill prepared by Democrats in the House of Representatives, $12 billion out of the $900 billion aid package will be set aside for Community Development Financial Institutions, known as C.D.F.I.s, which make loans and grants to people and communities frequently unable to get traditional banks to do business with them.
The new aid package would give $3 billion to the Treasury for the C.D.F.I. Fund, a pool of money that C.D.F.I.s can draw from to make loans. Another $9 billion would be set aside for the Treasury to make more targeted investments in C.D.F.I.s and Minority Development Institutions, which also help distribute loans and grants in communities neglected by traditional banks.
These changes should help the kinds of minority-owned businesses that struggled to get help under earlier relief efforts. The Paycheck Protection Program, for example, relied heavily on the banking system to hand out forgivable loans to small businesses. But that put many Black business owners at an immediate disadvantage because they lacked lending relationships with traditional banks.
Research by social scientists in Utah and New Jersey has shown that Black business owners had a harder time getting Paycheck Protection Program aid compared with white business owners, and a survey by community advocates revealed that many minority-owned businesses did not get the help they asked for.
C.D.F.I.s, which are often nonprofits, became the go-to lenders for these business owners as they tried stay afloat during pandemic-induced lockdowns. But the Treasury Department was slow to allow many C.D.F.I.s to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program, and Congress set aside only a tiny portion of the initial aid package specifically for them. Only later, with $10 billion apportioned to C.D.F.I.s in late May, as well as grants from big banks like Goldman Sachs, did many C.D.F.I.s have the capacity needed to help minority communities.
After congressional leaders struck a long-sought agreement on a $900 billion pandemic relief package, lawmakers in both chambers on Monday will race to finalize legislative text and send the measure to President Trump’s desk before government funding lapses.
An agreement in principle was reached late Sunday afternoon, hours before a midnight deadline to avoid a government shutdown. With additional time needed to transform their agreement into legislative text, both chambers had to approve a one-day stopgap spending bill, giving them an additional 24 hours to finalize the deal.
Lawmakers will have just a few hours to review the $2.3 trillion in relief legislation and a catchall omnibus to keep the government funded for the remainder of the fiscal year. But the process of compiling the behemoth package was already running into issues, according to aides familiar with the process, with a corrupt computer file in the education portion of the package delaying attempts to merge and upload the pieces of legislation.
But after months of gridlock and debate, both chambers are expected to approve the spending measures on Monday and send them to the president for his approval.
While the deal needs Mr. Trump’s signature, it bears, in part, the imprint of the man who is about to succeed him. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. was not directly involved in the talks but Democratic aides said they have been in close contact with Mr. Biden’s team — and while the former Delaware senator suggested the package was not nearly enough to address the crisis, he promoted the pact as the sort of bipartisan deal that could become routine on his watch.
“I am optimistic that we can meet this moment, together,” he said in a statement released late Sunday. “My message to everyone out there struggling right now: Help is on the way.”
He is eager to rush billions more in aid to localities and those hit hardest by the pandemic — aligning him with party progressives — but he also needs to gain leverage over Senate Republicans in future negotiations by convincing some Trump supporters he is willing to work with them.
The $900 billion agreement is set to provide $600 stimulus payments to millions of American adults earning up to $75,000. It would revive lapsed supplemental federal unemployment benefits at $300 a week for 11 weeks — setting both at half the amount provided by the first pandemic relief package in March.
The final proposal will also include $69 billion for the distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine and more than $22 billion for states to conduct testing, tracing and coronavirus mitigation programs.
Continue and expand benefits for gig workers and freelancers, and extend federal payments for people whose regular benefits have expired.
Provide more than $284 billion for businesses and revive the Paycheck Protection Program, a popular federal loan program for small businesses that lapsed over the summer.
Expand eligibility under that program for nonprofit organizations, local newspapers and radio and TV broadcasters and allocate $15 billion for performance venues, independent movie theaters and other cultural institutions devastated by the restrictions imposed to stop the spread of the virus.
Provide $82 billion for colleges and schools, $13 billion in increased nutrition assistance, $7 billion for broadband access and $25 billion in rental assistance.
Ban surprise medical bills that come when patients unexpectedly receive care from an out-of-network health provider. Instead of sending those charges to patients, hospitals and doctors will now need to work with health insurers to settle the bills.
Disney on Monday cleared up a lingering question at its movie division: Alan Bergman, 54, was named chairman, succeeding Alan F. Horn, 77, a venerable figure in Hollywood who has led Walt Disney Studios since 2012. Mr. Horn will continue to serve as chief creative officer.
“It has been an honor to lead the Walt Disney Studios over the past eight-plus years,” Mr. Horn said in a statement. “The time feels right to shift my focus solely to our enormous creative slate.” This month, Disney said the movie division would dramatically increase its output to supply Disney+, the company’s year-old streaming service, which has soared in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr. Bergman joined Walt Disney Studios in 1996 and rose through the business affairs ranks, overseeing finance, technology, legal affairs and human resources. Most recently he served as co-chairman of the division, which includes Pixar, 20th Century Studios, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Blue Sky Studios, Searchlight Pictures, Walt Disney Animation, Disney live-action movies and Disney’s live stage shows. The heads of those units will report jointly to Mr. Bergman and Mr. Horn, Disney said. Mr. Bergman and Mr. Horn will report to Bob Chapek, Disney’s chief executive.
“With this new structure, we are ensuring a vital continuity of leadership,” Mr. Chapek said in a statement. Mr. Bergman said he was “grateful to take on the role” and thanked Mr. Chapek for “his continued support, especially during this challenging year.”
A spokesman declined to say how long Mr. Horn would serve in his role. The structure is reminiscent of how Disney recently handled succession at its highest level, announcing in February that Robert A. Iger would step down as chief executive to become executive chairman and focus on the company’s creative endeavors. Mr. Iger said he would exit entirely in late 2021, when his contract expires.
Under Mr. Horn’s leadership, Disney became Hollywood’s dominant movie company, by far. Last year, Disney controlled roughly 40 percent of the domestic box office, and seven of its releases took in more than $1 billion worldwide. Mr. Horn was formerly the top film executive at Warner Bros., where he oversaw the eight-film “Harry Potter” series and Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy. Before that, he co-founded Castle Rock Entertainment, where movies included “When Harry Met Sally” and “A Few Good Men.”
European regulators gave the green light to a merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA, the maker of Peugeot, Citroën and Opel cars, paving the way for shareholders of the two companies to vote on the deal at a special meeting on Jan. 4. The European Commission said the transaction can go ahead, but with conditions. To preserve competition in the market for commercial vehicles, PSA must continue to allow Toyota to build vans and light trucks at its factories in Europe, and PSA and FCA must share specialized tools so that outside firms can do repairs.
The Federal Reserve said on Friday that the financial system’s biggest banks had the wherewithal to withstand a severe economic shock from the pandemic, and that they would be able to return more money to shareholders early next year as long as they showed that they were profitable. In June, the Fed put temporary caps on shareholder payouts by the nation’s biggest banks. Minutes after the regulator’s announcement on Friday, JPMorgan Chase said it would buy back $30 billion of its shares during the first three months of 2021.
In a novel case, federal prosecutors on Friday brought criminal charges against an executive at Zoom, the videoconferencing company, accusing him of engaging in a conspiracy to disrupt and censor video meetings commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre. He is accused of working with others to log into the video meetings under aliases using profile pictures that related to terrorism or child pornography. Afterward, Mr. Jin would report the meetings for violating terms of service, prosecutors said.
On Monday, Tesla became the largest company ever added to the S&P 500, with a market capitalization of $650 billion. The company’s stock, up some 700 percent in 2020, was about 4 percent lower on Monday.
Companies worth a fraction of Tesla would have been included in the index long ago, but the approach that has made it such a valuable company has brought challenges.
Despite all its technological innovations, Elon Musk’s celebrity billionaire aura and a high-risk, high-reward approach to business, Tesla for the longest time was unable to meet the most humdrum requirement of corporate America: turning a profit. Criteria for inclusion require the sum of the company’s fully audited profits in the four most recent quarters to be positive. Tesla hit that mark only this year.
With a market capitalization of $650 billion, the sudden weight Tesla will throw into the market could have strange consequences.
“This is by far the biggest index inclusion that they’ve ever attempted,” said Steve Sosnick, chief strategist at Interactive Brokers in Greenwich, Conn. “The stock will immediately be a top 10 name in the S&P, which is nuts.”
Chris Mack, a stock portfolio manager at the investment adviser Harding Loevner in Bridgewater, N.J., has plenty of good things to say about Tesla as an innovative company. But he doesn’t own the shares in his funds, which is focused on buying large cap technology companies that have a proven track record of profitability, making them suitable for long-term holdings.
The S&P 500 is one of the most widely followed barometers of the American stock market, serving as the benchmark against which investors measure more than $11 trillion worth of investments. Of that, more than $4.5 trillion are in index funds that mirror the stocks in the S&P.
Those funds have been buying up shares of Tesla since mid-November in preparation for Tesla’s admission to the S&P 500, which has sent its shares up more than 60 percent since the announcement that the company would be included.
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