Passage by Congress of the nearly $1 trillion COVID-19 economic relief package is expected later today.
On Wall Street Friday, the S&P 500 shed 0.4%, a day after it and other major indexes logged fresh record highs. A resurgence of virus outbreaks around the globe has dented optimism that vaccines can bring a swift end to the pandemic.
Congress seals agreement on COVID relief, government funding
WASHINGTON (AP) — A new COVID-19 relief bill shaping up in Congress includes individual payments reaching $600 for most Americans and an extra $300 a week in unemployment benefits. Votes on the bill in the House and Senate are expected today.
The COVID bill would pump $900 billion into relief efforts. Among those getting help are hard-hit businesses, schools, health care providers and renters facing eviction. Another part of the massive combo measure is a $1.4 trillion government-wide funding plan that would keep the government open through next September. President-elect Joe Biden praised the bipartisan spirit behind the legislation.
The final agreement would be the largest spending measure yet. It combined COVID-19 relief with a $1.4 trillion government-wide funding plan and lots of other unrelated measures on taxes, health, infrastructure and education. The government-wide funding would keep the government open through September.
People over 75, essential workers next in line for vaccine
NEW YORK (AP) — An expert committee has put people 75 and older and essential workers such as firefighters, teachers and grocery store workers next in line for COVID-19 shots as a second vaccine began rolling out to hospitals. The developments come as the nation works to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control.
The U.S. is trying to ramp up a vaccination program that only began in the last week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says initial shots have gone so far to about 556,000 Americans.
Trucks left the Olive Branch, Mississippi, factory, near Memphis, Tennessee, with the vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. and the National Institutes of Health. The much-needed shots are expected to be given starting today.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-TRAVEL BAN
More nations ban travel from UK, fearing virus variant
BERLIN (AP) — A growing list of European Union nations have barred flights from the U.K. and others are considering similar action. The moves were made Sunday to try to block a new strain of coronavirus sweeping across southern England from spreading to the continent.
France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland and Bulgaria all announced restrictions on U.K. travel.
The action came hours after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that Christmas shopping and gatherings in southern England must be canceled. He blamed rapidly spreading infections in the region on the new coronavirus variant, which officials say is 70% more transmissible than existing strains.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has temporarily suspended all international passenger flights for citizens and residents over fears about the fast-spreading new variant of the coronavirus. The kingdom’s interior ministry says the one-week flight ban may be extended “until medical information about the nature of this virus becomes clear.” The country’s land and sea ports will also close for a week.
The Saudi Arabian government ordered anyone who has returned from or passed through a European country over the past three months to get tested for COVID-19 immediately. The ministry added that the travel suspension will not affect the country’s cargo flights and supply chains.
LOCKHEED MARTIN AQUISITION
Lockheed Martin strikes $4.4B deal to buy Aerojet Rocketdyne
BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — Lockheed Martin is buying rocket engine manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings for $4.4 billion in a deal that brings together companies that already had been working together in the aeronautics industry.
The acquisition announced late Sunday is part of Lockheed Martin’s attempt to gird for competition from recent industry entrants, Space X and Blue Origin, which are backed by two of the world’s richest men, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.
Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed is paying $56 per share, 33% above the Friday closing price of Aerojet Rocketdyne’s stock. The final price will be reduced to $51 per share after accounting for a special dividend of $5 per share that will be paid just before the deal closes.
The companies are aiming to have the deal wrapped up during the second half of next year.
High-flying Tesla joins S&P 500; skeptics say buyer beware
DETROIT (AP) — Tesla will join the S&P 500 today after a streak of profitable quarters helped push its stock price up over 700% this year.
The electric vehicle maker has come a long way since the middle of last year when there were doubts about its ability to pay its bills. Fans say sales and income are up, debt has been cut and CEO Elon Musk’s company is the leader in battery technology and software.
But critics say there is a limited number of markets in which to sell high-priced Tesla vehicles, and if it weren’t for the sale of pollution credits the company wouldn’t make money.
‘Wonder Woman 1984’ grabs $38.5 million overseas
UNDATED (AP) — Warner Bros. said Sunday the superhero sequel “Wonder Woman 1984” has earned an estimated $38.5 million in ticket sales from international theaters. The movie starring Gal Gadot started its rollout abroad last week, opening in 32 markets including China and playing on upwards of 30,000 screens. The studio said admissions totaled over 6 million.
Most of the earnings came from Chinese theaters, where it earned an estimated $18.8 million. It wasn’t enough to take first place in China, however — that honor went to a local release.
“Wonder Woman 1984” won’t open in U.S. theaters until Christmas Day, when it will also debut on HBO Max.