July 16, 2024

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Stimulus Talks and Vaccine Progress Bolster Markets: Live Business Updates

A patient receiving the coronavirus vaccine in California on Tuesday. Positive vaccine developments pushed markets higher on Wednesday.
Credit…Sarahbeth Maney for The New York Times
  • Continuing the previous day’s upswing, stocks rose broadly on Wednesday, bolstered by news late Tuesday about progress toward a pandemic stimulus package in Washington, further positive developments on a coronavirus vaccine and some strong economic data. Wall Street was poised for a positive opening when trading starts.

  • The benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 index was 1 percent higher, and the DAX index in Germany gained 1.4 percent. In Asia, nearly all markets finished the day on the upside, with the Nikkei in Japan gaining 0.3 percent, although the Shanghai composite closed unchanged.

  • Some optimism came from the latest Purchasing Managers Index reports, which offered a positive outlook on the European economy. The manufacturing index reached 56.6 points, up from 55.3 in November, and the composite output index hit 49.8 points, from 45.3 last month.

  • “The eurozone economy is faring better than expected in December,” said Chris Williamson, the chief business economist at IHS Markit, which compiles the reports. “The data hint at the economy close to stabilizing after having plunged back into a severe decline in November amid renewed Covid-19 lockdown measures.”

  • In the United States, retail sales are expected to have fallen slightly in November, after months of increases, because of a decline in automobile sales. But economists also anticipate the data, which will be released Wednesday, to reflect robust holiday sales, which have been driven by a surge in online spending. The Commerce Department reported last month that retail sales rose 0.3 percent in October.

  • Further insight on the state of the U.S. economy will come later today when the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, speaks to reporters after the end of the central bank’s final scheduled meeting of the year. The Fed has been offering reassurance that it will continue supporting the economy, but some policymakers are divided over how much needs to be done now.

  • U.S. lawmakers held talks late Tuesday seeking an agreement on a pandemic stimulus bill ahead of a Friday deadline. Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, said afterward that “we’re making significant progress,” and Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered a similar appraisal. On the table is a package of funding to support unemployed workers and troubled businesses, as well as an omnibus spending bill to keep government money flowing.

  • The British pound continued to rise against the dollar as British and European Union negotiators tried to hammer out a trade deal. Their deadline is Dec. 31, the final day of the Brexit transition period. Against the euro, the pound was unchanged.

  • Another coronavirus vaccine, this one made by Moderna, is advancing through regulatory reviews before it is approved for use in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration reported that the vaccine was highly protective and it is expected to authorize its emergency use by the end of the week. That would be the second vaccine, in addition to the one made by Pfizer and BioNTech, to be offered in the United States.

The European Central Bank headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany. Banks can begin paying dividends again in September 2021, the central bank said.
Credit…Daniel Roland/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The European Central Bank said Tuesday that it would allow banks to resume limited payouts to shareholders next year, an indication that regulators are slightly less worried that the pandemic will set off a financial meltdown.

Since March, the central bank has been pressuring commercial banks to stockpile cash to deal with possible losses stemming from the devastating impact on the eurozone economy caused by the pandemic.

Banks can begin paying dividends again after consulting with regulators, the European Central Bank said in a statement on Tuesday, but it set strict limits on how much they can pay out as a percentage of profit and capital. The limits will remain in effect until at least the end of September 2021.

Still, the end of the dividend moratorium, which was technically a recommendation, is a sign that the banking system and the eurozone economy are inching toward normalcy.

“In revising its recommendation, the E.C.B. acknowledges the reduced uncertainty in macroeconomic projections,” the central bank said. An analysis earlier this year “confirmed the resilience of the European banking sector,” it said.

The economic crisis has forced most banks to set aside large sums to cover losses from borrowers who lost their jobs and businesses that suffered severe declines in sales. But there have been no major bank failures as a result of the pandemic, in part because regulators have forced lenders to stockpile capital in recent years and take less risk.

The central bank said that lenders should discuss dividend payments with regulators beforehand, and it cautioned banks to exercise “extreme moderation” in bonuses and other payouts to executives.

The European Central Bank is responsible for supervising banks in the eurozone that are considered big enough or important enough to set off a financial crisis. The bank said Tuesday that national regulators should apply the same standards to the smaller banks under their purview.

Philadelphia is a case study in the simple-but-not-easy task of helping tenants with the rent. Like most places, it isn’t close to satisfying the need.
Credit…Hannah Yoon for The New York Times

Almost from the moment the pandemic spread across the United States, advocacy groups have warned that the economic fallout could cause mass displacement of low-income tenants.

In response, more than 400 state and local governments have used money from the federal CARES Act to set up funds to cover at least $4.3 billion in rental assistance — money that has helped tenants pay their bills and landlords stay current on their mortgages, according to a database set up by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a policy group.

But many jurisdictions are reporting trouble spending it, and with barely two weeks left in the year, they are on pace to have more than $300 million left over, according to the coalition’s database. In a pattern that predated the pandemic, the programs have been complicated by bureaucratic hurdles, competing budget demands and a reluctance among landlords to take part, reports Conor Dougherty for The New York Times.

Philadelphia is a case study in the simple-but-not-easy task of helping tenants with the rent. Social programs are often a partnership in which cities provide funding and lay out rules but delegate the execution to quasi-governmental nonprofit organizations like the one Gregory Heller works at.

Like most places, Philadelphia is not close to satisfying the need for help. But through rounds of rejiggering and three phases of funding — each with its own maze of rules and requirements — Mr. Heller’s group built a team to distribute aid, whittled down the processes that delayed it and concluded that the best way to help was the most straightforward: Give the money directly to renters.

“There’s a societal belief that poor people can’t spend money the right way, and I think it’s important to start questioning that assumption,” Mr. Heller said.

The companies drawing Wall Street’s attention are notable for how niche their products and services are.
Credit…Hannah Yoon for The New York Times

Until recently, the temperature-controlled storage and shipping of pharmaceutical products, known as the “cold chain,” was a relatively sleepy corner of the health care industry.

But the virus, and the temperature-sensitive vaccines that are poised to combat it, have brought new attention to the cold-chain delivery systems in the United States and beyond, Kate Kelly reports for The New York Times. Wall Street, which likes nothing better than a hot trade with the potential for big profits, is rushing to grab a piece of the action.

The companies getting attention from Wall Street are notable for how niche their operations are. Many use an elaborate network of freezers and specialized trucks and aircraft to move temperature-sensitive materials — such as blood, stem cells and tissue — around the world without compromising their efficacy. It’s a delicate process, because a product can go from vital to useless within minutes of being removed from cold storage.

Potential investors are constantly calling Stirling Ultracold, whose freezer equipment is powering UPS’s “freezer farms” in Louisville, Ky., and the Netherlands, where vaccines will be stored. “There’s not a day that goes by” that an inquiry doesn’t come in,” said Dusty Tenney, Stirling’s chief executive, who is running his Athens, Ohio, production lines around the clock.

Demand for Stirling’s freezer engines — the core component of their upright, under-the-counter and portable freezers — has soared, and the estimated waiting time for new orders is six to eight weeks, the company said. On Dec. 8, after multiple prospective investors studied the company’s financial metrics in a due diligence process, Stirling received a capital injection of an undisclosed amount that it planned to use to buy new equipment and expand production.

In October, Blackstone, the private equity giant, invested $275 million in Cryoport, a Nashville company that specializes in shipping sensitive medical materials at freezing temperatures. Investors have also been bullish on Ember, the beverage-heating company that has developed a refrigerated medical shipping box with built-in GPS and already counts two Jonas Brothers and the Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant as shareholders.