Wall Street slips amid worries about worsening pandemic
NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are pulling a bit lower in afternoon trading Friday as worries about the worsening pandemic weigh on rising optimism about a coming coronavirus vaccine. The S&P 500 was 0.3% lower, while Treasury yields were holding steady and stock markets around the world made only modest moves. Wall Street has suddenly begun to teeter-totter after a big November rally swept both the S&P 500 and Dow to record highs. The S&P 500 is on track for a 0.3% dip this week, on the heels of a 7.3% weekly surge followed by a 2.2% climb.
Mnuchin denies trying to hinder incoming administration
WASHINGTON (AP) — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is denying that he is trying to limit the choices President-elect Joe Biden will have to promote an economic recovery by ending several emergency loan programs being run by the Federal Reserve. Mnuchin said Friday that his decision was based on the fact that the programs were not being heavily utilized and the money could be better used to grants for small businesses and extended unemployment assistance. However, critics saw politics at play in Mnuchin’s decision, saying the action would deprive the incoming administration of critical support the Fed might need to prop up the economy at a time when coronavirus cases are surging again.
Pfizer seeking emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine in US
UNDATED (AP) — Pfizer is set to ask U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine, starting a process that could bring first shots as early as next month. Friday’s step comes days after Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech announced its vaccine appears 95% protective in a large but not yet finished study. Over the next few weeks, the Food and Drug Administration and its scientific advisers will have to decide if there’s really enough evidence to allow emergency vaccinations. If so, first supplies will be scarce and rationed. Experts warn it likely will be spring before there’s enough for everyone.
Biden task force member wants coronavirus detail
WASHINGTON (AP) — Dr. Atul Gawande, a member of President-Elect Joe Biden’s coronavirus task force, says Biden’s team needs to know the status of national personal protective equipment and plans for vaccine distribution. Gawande told “CBS This Morning” on Friday the information sharing has been delayed while the Trump administration stalls the White House transition. He says a smooth plan for vaccine coordination and distribution to states can help save lives. Gawande disputed Health Secretary Alex Azar’s claim the CDC keeps things going during any transition and the information the Biden team needs is public. Gawande says the nation will try to “deploy 330 million doses of vaccine to people twice in the next year and trying to accelerate that to happen in months. We need planning and coordination.”
APEC leaders, including Trump, agree on free trade
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Leaders from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, including U.S. President Donald Trump, have pledged to work toward free, open and non-discriminatory trade and investment to revive their coronavirus-battered economies. The leaders cast aside differences to issue their first joint statement since 2017, in which they agreed to further deepen regional integration by working toward a massive free trade agreement involving the 21 APEC economies. Host Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said Friday the U.S.-China trade war that had hampered talks in the past has “been eclipsed” by the COVID-19 pandemic. He said APEC’s focus was on economic recovery and developing an affordable vaccine.
EU gives upbeat assessment of state of Brexit trade talks
BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union has issued one of its most upbeat assessments of the state of post-Brexit trade negotiations. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said “we’ve seen in the last days better progress, more movement on important files.” Her comment came a day after a member of the EU negotiating team tested positive for the coronavirus, which led to the talks being suspended. She said that because work on legal texts had made such progress, further discussions by video over the next days could progress too “since there is now substance where you can go through line by line.”
Universal strikes another deal with a major theater chain
UNDATED (AP) — Another major movie theater chain has struck a deal with Universal Pictures to allow for shorter exclusive theatrical windows. Canada’s Cineplex has agreed on a multiyear “dynamic window” agreement, the film exhibitor and Universal Filmed Entertainment Group said Friday. Like the deal struck with Cinemark earlier this week and AMC Theaters before that, Universal and Focus Features films will have at least three weeks of theatrical exclusivity before hitting premium video on demand services. Titles that have an opening weekend of $50 million or more in North American theaters will be guaranteed at least five weeks in theaters.