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What to Watch Today: Wall Street Under Pressure on Concerns About New Covid Strain



The Dow was tracking for a sharp decline at Monday's open as airlines, cruise lines and hotel stocks were getting slammed on concerns about a highly contagious new strain of coronavirus in the U.K., which triggered more severe lockdowns and travel restrictions across Europe. While the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq dropped Friday from record highs, they all turned in gains for the week. (CNBC)

Enthusiasm over Sunday's long-awaited new stimulus deal on Capitol Hill and the start of shipments of Moderna's (MRNA) vaccine were not enough to turn the tide on Wall Street early Monday. Even shares of red hot Tesla (TSLA) dropped 4% ahead of the electric auto maker officially joining the S&P 500 at Monday's open. Bitcoin wasn't able to hold on to gains after topping $24,000 for the first time ever overnight. (CNBC)

One bright spot was Nike (NKE). The company reported quarterly profit of 78 cents per share, 16 cents a share above estimates. Revenue beat estimates as well. The athletic apparel and footwear maker late Friday also raised its full-year sales forecast, saying the pandemic continues to drive demand for outdoor sportswear. Nike, one of the 30 Dow stocks, gained more than 5% in the premarket. (CNBC)


As the U.K. government holds a crisis meeting Monday to talk about the fallout from international travel bans, experts said it appears the existing vaccines will be effective in fighting off infection from new strains of the coronavirus. "Dr. Vivek Murthy, selected by President-elect Joe Biden to be surgeon general, made similar comments Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Lawmakers plan to vote Monday on a combined $900 billion compromise Covid-19 relief package and a $1.4 trillion plan to fund the government through September. The coronavirus aid deal, which saw fits and starts for months in Washington, includes a $300 per week federal boost to state unemployment benefits and, a $600 direct payment to most Americans. (AP)

* Airlines would get $15 billion in federal aid, must call back furloughed workers (CNBC)

Moderna this weekend began distributing its Covid vaccine, the second approved for emergency use by the FDA, with trucks going to more than 3,700 locations across the U.S. The rollout of the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech, the one first cleared in the U.S., began last week as health-care workers and residents and staff at nursing homes started to get the initial shots. (CNBC)

* Vaccine shortfalls for U.S. states stemmed from confusion over FDA requirements (CNBC)

The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on Sunday recommended that 30 million frontline workers — including first responders, teachers, postal workers and grocery store workers — get next priority. In all, that move would make 51 million people eligible to get inoculated in the next round, though the timetable was unclear. (Reuters)

* Apple temporarily closes California stores as coronavirus cases mount (CNBC)
* Zoom confident it can meet Covid-fueled Christmas Day demand (CNBC)
* Amazon closes New Jersey warehouse after workers test positive for coronavirus (CNBC)

Biden plans to get his first dose of coronavirus vaccine on live television Monday. Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other lawmakers were given shots Friday. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is expected to receive her first shot next week. It's not clear when outgoing President Donald Trump, who recovered from Covid-19 this fall, would be vaccinated. (AP)

Trump's reelection campaign made a long shot bid at the Supreme Court on Sunday to challenge President-elect Joe Biden's victory in Pennsylvania in a petition that asked the justices to effectively reverse the outcome of the race. The case, filed nearly seven weeks after Election Day and just a month before Biden is set to be inaugurated, will almost certainly be turned aside by the justices. (CNBC)


JPMorgan Chase (JPM): JPMorgan announced a $30 billion stock buyback, shortly after the Federal Reserve said it would allow banks to restart buybacks during the first quarter of 2021.

Walmart (WMT): The retailer was upgraded to "outperform" from "sector perform" at RBC Capital Markets, which feels Walmart is well-positioned to handle a range of different economic scenarios in 2021.

QEP Resources (QEP): Diamondback Energy (FANG) is buying rival shale producer QEP in an all-stock deal worth about $2.2 billion.

Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A): The energy producer said it would write down the value of oil and gas assets by up to $4.5 billion. That follows a write-down of its liquid natural gas portfolio in October by just under $1 billion.

Rent-A-Center (RCII): Rent-A-Center is buying lease-to-own company Acima Holdings for $1.65 billion in cash and stock. The deal is expected to close during the first half of 2021.

Lockheed Martin (LMT): The defense contractor is buying Aerojet Rocketdyne (AJRD) for $56 per share, 33% above the rocket engine maker's Friday closing price. Lockheed Martin already uses Aerojet propulsion systems in a number of its products.

RealPage (RP): RealPage agreed to be bought by private-equity firm Thoma Bravo in a $9.6 billion cash deal. Thom Bravo will pay $88.75 per share for the provider of property management software, 31% over RealPage's Friday closing price. RealPage shares jumped 30% in premarket trading.

Fidelity National Information Services (FIS), Global Payments (GPN): Fidelity National and Global Payments held unsuccessful merger talks that might have resulted in a $70 billion deal, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke to The Wall Street Journal. Both companies specialize in merchant payment and banking systems.

Wells Fargo (WFC): The bank agreed to sell its $10 billion student loan portfolio to a group that includes private-equity firms Blackstone (BX) and Apollo Global (APO), according to a Bloomberg report. Wells Fargo confirmed the sale in a statement late Friday, but did not identify the buyers or the financial terms.

Monmouth Real Estate (MNR): Blackwells Capital offered to buy the real estate management firm for $18 per share in cash, or $3.8 billion including assumed debt.

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