Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Most stocks rally, yields rise as market eyes Democratic DC

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street is piling into stocks of smaller companies, banks and other businesses that would be winners if Washington can prop up the economy with another dose of financial support amid rising expectations that Democrats may take control of Washington. Most stocks across Wall Street were higher after Democrats won one of the two runoff elections in Georgia that will determine which party controls the Senate. The second runoff was still too early to call, and the S&P 500 was up 1.4% in afternoon trading. The yield on the 10-year Treasury topped 1% for the first time since March.

STOCK EXCHANGE-CHINESE COMPANIES

In flip-flop, NYSE will delist 3 Chinese companies after all

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Stock Exchange has reinstated plans to delist shares of three Chinese state-owned phone carriers under an order from President Donald Trump. The exchange said initially said on Jan. 1 that it would remove China Telecom Corp. Ltd., China Mobile Ltd. and China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd., only to withdraw the decision Monday. Trump’s order bars Americans from investing in securities issued by companies deemed to be linked to the Chinese military. In a statement today, the NYSE says it reversed course “following new specific guidance.” Trading in the companies will be suspended after markets close Jan. 11.

CHINA-US-APPS BAN

China criticizes US order against dealing with Chinese apps

BEIJING (AP) — China is accusing Washington of misusing national security as an excuse to hurt commercial competitors after President Donald Trump signed an order banning transactions with payment services Alipay and WeChat Pay and six other apps. The order escalates a conflict with Beijing over technology, security and spying accusations that has plunged U.S.-Chinese relations to their lowest level in decades. It followed confusion in financial markets after the New York Stock Exchange announced last week it would remove three Chinese phone companies and then withdrew that plan on Monday. A foreign ministry spokeswoman criticized Trump’s order as “bullying, arbitrary and hegemonic behavior.”

BRITAIN-NVIDIA-ARM

UK watchdog investigates chip maker Nvidia’s takeover of Arm

LONDON (AP) — British regulators are investigating graphics chip maker Nvidia’s $40 billion purchase of chip designer Arm Holdings over concerns about its effect on competition. The Competition and Markets Authority says it will look into the deal’s effect on how Arm treats Nvidia’s rivals. The watchdog says it will examine whether the deal will give Arm “an incentive to withdraw, raise prices or reduce the quality” of its services to Nvidia’s chipmaking competitors. California-based Nvidia said last year it was buying U.K.-based Arm Holdings from Japan’s technology giant Softbank. The deal raised concerns that Arm would abandon its neutral business model of licensing its chip designs to hundreds of tech companies, including many of Nvidia’s rivals.

UNITEDHEALTH-ACQUISITION

UnitedHealth to pay nearly $8B for technology company Change

UNDATED (AP) — UnitedHealth Group will spend nearly $8 billion in cash to add a health care technology company to its growing Optum business. UnitedHealth said Wednesday that it will add Change Healthcare to its OptumInsight segment and boost its ability to provide data analytics and revenue cycle management support, among other offerings. UnitedHealth brings in most of its revenue through a health insurance business that covers about 48 million people. But its Optum segment generates bigger profit margins and provides a growing portion of the company’s operating earnings. UnitedHealth will pay $25.75 in cash for each share of Change.

WALGREENS-AMERISOURCEBERGEN

Walgreens to sell drug wholesale business for $6.5B

UNDATED (AP) — Walgreens Boots Alliance will sell its pharmaceutical wholesale business to AmerisourceBergen in $6.5 billion cash and stock deal. Pharmaceutical wholesalers essentially act as middlemen, purchasing drugs from manufacturers and then distributing them to customers like drugstore chains. Walgreens says it will now have the flexibility to invest in and focus on its retail business which, like others, has been rattled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the deal announced today, AmerisourceBergen will pay nearly $6.3 billion in cash and two million shares of its common stock for Walgreens’ Alliance Healthcare business.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-EUROPE-VACCINES

EU commission greenlights Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine

AMSTERDAM (AP) — The European Union’s executive commission has given the green light to Moderna Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine, providing the 27-nation bloc with a second vaccine to use in the desperate battle to tame the virus rampaging across the continent. The European Commission granted conditional marketing authorization for the vaccine. The decision Wednesday came against a backdrop of high infection rates in many EU countries and strong criticism of the slow pace of vaccinations across the region of some 450 million people. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says the authorization gives the EU a further 160 million vaccine doses. The European Medicines Agency recommended the conditional authorization following a meeting earlier Wednesday.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-US SURGE

Governors scramble to speed vaccine effort after slow start

UNDATED (AP) — New York’s governor is threatening to fine hospitals that don’t use their allotment of COVID-19 vaccine fast enough. His counterpart in South Carolina says hospitals and health care workers have until Jan. 15 to get a shot or move to the back of the line. California’s governor wants to use dentists to dispense shots. With frustration rising over the slow rollout of the vaccine, state leaders and other politicians are turning up the pressure, improvising and seeking to bend the rules to get shots in arms more quickly.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-SUBDUED MARDI GRAS

Pandemic-era Mardi Gras: No big crowds, but plenty of cake

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A subdued Carnival season is starting in New Orleans. This year the coronavirus pandemic has put an end to the crowd-heavy balls and street parades that draw thousands of people to the city every year. Mardi Gras season always starts on Jan. 6 and ends on Fat Tuesday, which this year falls on Feb. 16. The pandemic hasn’t stopped notoriously creative New Orleanians from coming up with socially distant ways to celebrate. On Wednesday, a group that usually parades through the French Quarter to kick off the season has created a series of live scenes that spectators will view while driving by in their cars.

AMAZON-AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Amazon pledges $2B for affordable housing in 3 US cities

SEATTLE (AP) — Amazon has announced $2 billion in loans and grants to secure affordable housing in three U.S. cities where it has major operations, including a Seattle suburb where the online retailer employs at least 5,000 workers. The Seattle Times reported Wednesday that Amazon said it would give $185.5 million to the King County Housing Authority to help buy affordable apartments and keep the rents low. The authority is expected to pair that with bond funding to fund its recent purchase of three Bellevue apartment buildings. Other tech companies, like Microsoft, have invested large sums to boost affordable housing, following years of complaints that they have worsened inequality by pushing housing prices higher.

AUTOMOBILE MILEAGE

For first time in 5 years, US gas mileage down, emissions up

DETROIT (AP) — A new government report says gas mileage for new vehicles dropped and pollution increased in model year 2019 for the first time in five years. The Environmental Protection Agency says the changes show that few automakers could meet strict emissions and mileage standards set by the Obama administration. But environmental groups contend that automakers used loopholes and stopped marketing fuel-efficient vehicles knowing that the Trump administration would roll back mileage and pollution standards. The EPA report released Wednesday says gas mileage fell 0.2 miles per gallon, while greenhouse gas emissions rose by 3 grams per mile traveled, compared with 2018 figures. Mileage fell and pollution increased for the first time since 2014.

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