Update on the latest in business:


Stocks fall amid concerns about new virus strain

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are falling as a new, potentially more infectious strain of the coronavirus has countries around the world restricting travel from the United Kingdom, raising worries that the economy is about to take even worse punishment.

The S&P 500 was 0.7% lower in afternoon trading, on pace for a second straight drop after setting its record on Thursday. But the index pared its loss as the day progressed, recovering from an earlier 2% drop.

The vast majority of stocks on Wall Street were falling, but gains for Nike and Goldman Sachs helped prop up the Dow Jones Industrial Average.


EU greenlights COVID-19 vaccine after agency gives safety OK

AMSTERDAM (AP) — The European Union has given official approval for the coronavirus vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer to be put onto the market across the 27-nation bloc.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the commission “took the decision to make available for European citizens the first COVID-19 vaccine. We granted conditional market authorization.”

The commission, the EU’s executive arm, gave the greenlight Monday just hours after the European Medicines Agency said the shot meets safety and quality standards. Brussels had been expected to require two or three days to endorse the market authorization move.

Deliveries of the vaccine had been penciled in to start Saturday, with inoculations beginning across the EU Dec. 27-29.


Johnson says Britain and France working to unblock trade

LONDON (AP) — Prime Minister Boris Johnson says British and French officials are working “to unblock the flow of trade as fast as possible” after France barred U.K. trucks over concerns about a new variant of the coronavirus.

Dozens of countries have barred flights from the U.K. because of the new variant, which scientists believe is more easily transmitted. Southern England, where the new strain is most widespread, has been placed under strict lockdown measures.

France announced Sunday it was closing its borders to trucks from Britain for at least 48 hours from Sunday night. That left hundreds of vehicles stranded outside the Channel Tunnel port of Dover.

Johnson said he had spoken to French President Emmanuel Macron, and Macron “stressed he was keen to sort it out in the next few hours if we can.”

He stressed that the ban did not apply to freight moving in unaccompanied containers, and “the vast majority of food, medicines and other supplies are coming and going as normal.”

In other action in response to the new strain of coronavirus:

— French President Emmanuel Macron held a cabinet meeting Monday via video, in which he indicated the French could enforce “systematic tests” as a condition for French nationals returning from Britain to France for the holidays. Macron, in stable condition, has been working from home at the Elysee Palace as he recovers from his COVID-19 infection.

— The Spanish government says Spain will suspend flights from Britain as of Tuesday except for those carrying Spanish citizens or people with Spanish residence.

— Sweden says it is banning all incoming travel from Britain and Denmark effective midnight Monday to curb any risk of the new COVID-19 virus variant from entering the country.

— Iran has suspended flights to the United Kingdom for two weeks over fears of a fast-spreading new variant of the coronavirus.

— Pakistani authorities have imposed a temporary ban on travelers arriving from the U.K. to avoid the spread of new coronavirus.

— Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the country has further tightened restrictions on incoming air travel in response to the new strain of the coronavirus.

— New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he has asked airlines flying into his state from the United Kingdom to make all passengers take a coronavirus test before they get on the plane.


CVS Health expands vaccination program

WOONSOCKET, R.I. (AP) — CVS Health has expanded its COVID-19 vaccination program for residents and staff of long-term care facilities into 12 states.

The drugstore chain said Monday it will add another 36 states on Dec. 28 and start vaccinations in Puerto Rico on Jan. 4.

Vaccinations began around the country last week, mostly for health care workers. CVS Health and rival Walgreens also started providing shots at some long-term care locations in Connecticut and Ohio.

Both companies said they would expand their programs in 12 states starting this week. CVS Health said Monday that those states include Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon and Vermont.

Woonsocket, Rhode Island-based CVS Health plans to make three visits to each site in order to give residents and staff their initial shoot and then a booster. The company said it expects that most residents will be fully vaccinated three to four weeks after the initial visit, and it will complete its program in about three months.


High-flying Tesla joins S&P 500; skeptics say buyer beware

DETROIT (AP) — Tesla joined the S&P 500 on Monday after a streak of profitable quarters helped push its stock price up about 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.

Late Monday morning, Tesla shares recorded the biggest losses in the index, falling 5.8%


China criticizes US corporate auditing penalties

BEIJING (AP) — China’s government has called on Washington not to enforce a measure that might expel Chinese companies from U.S. stock exchanges if they fail American government audits.

The law, signed Friday by President Donald Trump, is a response to complaints Chinese companies were failing to comply with stricter U.S. government oversight imposed following the 2008 global financial crisis. It applies to companies from any country but sponsors cited complaints Beijing was blocking American regulators from reviewing the work of auditors for U.S.-traded Chinese companies.

The Foreign Ministry complained U.S. authorities disregarded efforts by Chinese regulators to supervise corporate audits.

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