Moderna’s Vaccine News Bolsters Markets: Live Business Updates

Moderna’s Vaccine News Bolsters Markets: Live Business Updates
Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris held a Zoom call on Monday with business executives and labor leaders, including:

  • Richard Trumka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.

  • Mary Barra, chief executive of General Motors

  • Mary Kay Henry, president of Service Employees International Union

  • Satya Nadella, chief executive of Microsoft

  • Rory Gamble, president of United Automobile Workers union

  • Brian Cornell, chief executive and chairman of Target

  • Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union

  • Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union

  • Sonia Syngal, chief executive of Gap Inc.

The call was held at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Del., with Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris seated in chairs across from a large video screen showing the meeting participants.

“Thanks for being here,” Mr. Biden said. “To state the obvious, we seem to be turning a pretty dark corner now.”

Target said in a statement that Mr. Cornell was invited to join Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris to discuss safety and rebuilding the economy. The company said that Mr. Cornell planned to “highlight the essential role that retail plays for American consumers, share that our plans for this year include a $1 billion investment in the health and safety of our team, and ask elected officials to provide companies with clear, consistent guidance around safety, regulations and the future rollout of a coronavirus vaccine.”

Mr. Trumka called for increased worker protections during the meeting, including manufacturing more respirators and personal protective equipment, redesigning schools and workplaces to increase ventilation and to ease social distancing, and ramping up testing to make sure all virus cases are counted and reported to detect outbreaks before they get worse.

He also called on Mr. Biden to reestablish the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s mission of protecting workers. The federal agency, known as OSHA, has been “totally absent” during the pandemic, he said, and “workers across industries have been left to fend for ourselves.” The agency should establish an emergency temporary standard to protect workers from the virus by putting in place uniform requirements for employers across the country, he said.

“If we believe that all work has dignity, then all workplaces need to focus on safety,” Mr. Trumka. “It’s not too late to save tens of thousands of lives.”

Ms. Barra shared G.M.’s best practices for keeping workers safe and factories running during the pandemic, the company said. “We look forward to working with the new administration and incoming Congress on policies that support our customers, dealers and employees, help strengthen our manufacturing presence in the United States and advance our vision of an all-electric, zero-emissions future,” G.M. said in a statement. A G.M. official familiar with the discussion said the company’s collaboration with the United Auto Workers union was a focus of the discussion on Monday. “There’s a lot of interest in how we are working with the U.A.W. to keep the work force safe and keep the plants running,” the official said.

  • Stocks rallied Monday, lifted by results that showed a second coronavirus vaccine was highly effective in preliminary tests.

  • The S&P 500 rose 1.2 percent, after having ended last week at its highest ever close, and is now up more than 10 percent in November. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 1.6 percent, crossing above its Feb. 12 record.

  • The gains came after Moderna, a drugmaker based in Cambridge, Mass., said its vaccine was 94.5 percent effective, based on an early look at the results from its large, continuing study. The vaccine is the second to show such promising results in the past week, following a report from Pfizer that it’s vaccine was about 90 percent effective.

  • Shares of companies that have been severely damaged by the pandemic and its impact on travel, tourism and public gatherings led the gains. Cruise line operators were among the best performing stocks in the S&P 500.

  • Oil prices also rallied, reflecting optimism about global growth, and shares of energy companies followed suit.

  • Stocks outside the United States had already been higher before Moderna’s release, after one of the world’s largest regional free-trade agreements — covering 15 Asian-Pacific nations, led by China — was formally approved on Sunday, signaling an effort by Beijing to curb American influence in the region.

  • The benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 rose 1.2 percent and the FTSE 100 in Britain gained 1.6 percent. The Shanghai Composite in China gained 1.1 percent, while the Kospi index in South Korea ended 2 percent higher.

  • After the close of trading on Monday, S&P Dow Jones Indices said it would add Tesla to the S&P 500 next month. The addition had been expected by investors after Tesla met profitability requirements to be added to the index earlier this year, but the shares still jumped more than 9 percent in after-hours trading on Monday.

Credit…Toby Melville/Reuters

WPP, one of the largest advertising companies in the world, is further condensing its sprawling operations by folding its Geometry agency into its VMLY&R agency.

The arrangement is part of WPP chief executive Mark Read’s attempt to streamline the ad giant into what he has called “fewer, stronger companies,” a strategy that has become particularly important as the industry attempts to recover from a slump in demand during the pandemic. Last week, WPP merged its AKQA and Grey agencies.

The combination between Geometry and VMLY&R, which is expected to be announced publicly on Tuesday, also aims to address a surge of interest in online shopping that has intensified during global lockdowns. The retail industry, a focus for Geometry, is “going through massive amounts of change,” said Beth Ann Kaminkow, Geometry’s current chief executive.

“Every single one of our clients right now is rethinking their commerce strategies, and Covid has just been a massive accelerator of this,” she said.

Geometry’s 3,500 employees will be absorbed into VMLY&R’s 7,000-person work force in January and Geometry will be renamed VMLY&R Commerce. VMLY&R itself was formed in 2018 through the merger of the VML agency with the renowned advertising company formerly known as Young & Rubicam. Its clients include companies such as Ford, PepsiCo and Pfizer.

“The best and most relevant agencies are being asked not just to do advertising, but to handle brand experience and customer experience,” said Jon Cook, the chief executive of VMLY&R. “This is about the ability to incorporate communications with commerce, where the line for the consumer between shopping, being entertained and being communicated to is going to blur.”

Credit…Justin Lane/EPA, via Shutterstock

As the number of coronavirus cases continues to reach record highs in the United States, nervous businesses are reacting by cutting services and tightening rules on mask mandates and purchase limits.

In the past week, an astonishing one million cases were recorded in the country, and states have responded to the growing crisis by enforcing stringent measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus. News of Moderna’s encouraging results on a vaccine on Monday gave some relief to Wall Street investors, but business are bracing for what could be a long winter as strict lockdown orders are put into effect.

  • American Airlines slashed flights between the United States and London in December by about two-thirds as coronavirus cases surge on both sides of the Atlantic, threatening already anemic international travel. The schedule adjustment leaves just one daily American flight to London next month, out of Dallas, after the airline dropped limited service from New York, Chicago and Charlotte, N.C.

  • Kroger, the grocery chain, has started to limit items that were in high demand during earlier surges in the pandemic, including bath tissue, paper towels, disinfecting wipes and hand soap. Customers can purchase only two of each of those products. The policy, enacted earlier this month across all Kroger stores and its website, was put in place “to ensure all customers have access to what they need,’’ the company said in a statement.

  • Wegmans added new items to the list of products with purchase limits. As of this past weekend, customers at the regional grocery chain can buy only one package of facial tissues and two packages of napkins. Since the spring, the company has restricted other items that have been in short supply during the pandemic, including disinfecting wipes and toilet paper. There are also limits on antacids and Wegmans brand peanut butter. To prevent shortages, the company said, it had been working to “build up our own holiday and winter reserves, in our own warehouses as well as at our suppliers.”

  • On Monday, Costco began requiring all members, guests and employees at all locations to wear a face mask or face shield. Previously, members who could not wear a mask because a medical condition were exempt; now, they must wear a face shield if they cannot wear a mask. “This updated policy may seem inconvenient to some, however we believe the added safety is worth any inconvenience,” Craig Jelinek, the company’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Credit…Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

President Trump’s unconventional pick for the Federal Reserve may have a more difficult path to confirmation this week after a key Republican said he would not be in Washington to vote on her nomination, and that he wouldn’t support her if he was there.

Judy Shelton, a former economic adviser on Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign and a longtime proponent of some sort of gold standard, is expected to face a Senate vote on Tuesday or Wednesday after months of delay. Her unorthodox views on money, flip-flops on key policy positions and her loyalty to the president have drawn consistent skepticism from lawmakers.

“I oppose the nomination of Judy Shelton because I am not convinced that she supports the independence of the Federal Reserve Board as much as I believe the Board of Governors should,” Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, said in an emailed statement on Monday, with a spokesman noting that he would not be in town for the vote because of family matters. “I don’t want to turn over management of the money supply to a Congress and a President who can’t balance the federal budget.”

The Washington Post reported Mr. Alexander’s opposition earlier.

Mr. Alexander’s opposition comes alongside that of Senators Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, and Susan Collins, Republican of Maine. With Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, in quarantine and unable to vote, she seems likely to have only 49 “yes” votes. Democrats are expected to uniformly vote against her.

But it is still possible that Ms. Shelton will pass the Senate if the chamber votes later this week. If Mr. Scott and Mr. Alexander both missed the vote and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris voted, it is possible that a tie of 49 to 49 would be left to Vice President Mike Pence to break. If Ms. Harris missed the vote, Ms. Shelton could pass with a simple majority.

If Ms. Shelton’s nomination does not clear the Senate soon, her chances of confirmation are slimmer. Mark Kelly, Democrat of Arizona, won John McCain’s former Senate seat in a special election and could be seated as soon as the end of the month, at which point Ms. Shelton would need support from another Republican or a Democrat to pass.

Ms. Shelton’s nomination has looked dead several times in the past: key Republicans voiced concern with her nomination when she was in committee, before changing their minds and passing her. Her nomination languished for months before being brought to the Senate floor.

But if she passes, along with Christopher Waller, a more conventional pick who was nominated alongside her and whose vote is not yet scheduled, Mr. Trump will have tapped six of the seven sitting Fed governors. That could give Republican picks a more solid and lasting grip over the regulatory policies that govern big banks.

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transcript

‘More People May Die, If We Don’t Coordinate,’ Biden Says

On Monday, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. delivered a briefing on his economic agenda, focusing on his plans for unveiling a vaccine and fighting the coronavirus.

We all agreed that we want to get the economy back on track. We need our workers to be back on the job by getting the virus under control. We’re going into a very dark winter. Things are going to get much tougher before they get easier. That requires sparing no effort to fight Covid so that we can open our businesses safely, resume our lives and put this pandemic behind us. It’s going to be difficult, but it can be done. When we build back better we’ll do so with higher wages, including a $15 minimum wage nationwide, better benefits, stronger collective bargaining rights — that you can raise a family. That’s how we build back the middle class better than ever. That’s how we make sure workers are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. More people may die if we don’t coordinate. Look, as my chief of staff Ron Klain would say — who handled Ebola — the vaccine is important. It’s of little use until you’re vaccinated. So how do we get the vaccine? How do we get over 300 million Americans vaccinated? What’s the game plan? It’s a huge, huge, huge undertaking to get it done, prioritize those greatest in need, working our way through it and also cooperate with the World Health Organization and the rest of the world in dealing with this.

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On Monday, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. delivered a briefing on his economic agenda, focusing on his plans for unveiling a vaccine and fighting the coronavirus.CreditCredit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. warned that a “very dark winter” was ahead and called on Congress to pass an economic stimulus package immediately to help workers struggling to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

In his first economic address since winning the election this month, Mr. Biden said he supported a national mask mandate to help curb the rise of the virus and that Congress should provide trillions of dollars in fiscal support to workers, businesses and state and local governments.

“For millions of Americans who’ve lost hours and wages or have lost jobs, we can deliver immediate relief and it need be done quickly,” Mr. Biden said. “Congress should come together and pass a Covid relief package” along the lines of the $3 trillion bill that House Democrats passed earlier this year.

Mr. Biden said that combating the virus remained the most urgent matter, however, and called on President Trump to begin the transition process quickly.

“More people may die, if we don’t coordinate,” he said.

Mr. Biden also said that he wanted to see a mask mandate in the United States, reiterating his request for state and local officials to require citizens to wear face coverings as cases surge during the cold winter months. Aiming fire at the Trump administration, he criticized the president and his advisers for attacking leaders of states like Michigan who have imposed new restrictions on businesses to contain rising case numbers.

“What the hell’s the matter with these guys?” Mr. Biden said. “It’s totally irresponsible.”

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, speaking before Mr. Biden, said they were focused on “opening this economy responsibly and rebuilding it so it works for working people.”

Earlier on Monday, Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris spoke with business and union leaders to discuss the recovery, including Mary Barra, the chief executive of General Motors; Sonia Syngal, the chief executive of Gap; Satya Nadella, the head of Microsoft; Richard Trumka of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and Rory Gamble, president of the United Auto Workers.

“They represent very different perspectives, but I’m convinced we can all come together around the same table to advance areas of common ground,” Mr. Biden said. He underscored the importance of unity between business leaders and unions and said that unions would have more power under his watch.

Mr. Biden said he supported a robust stimulus package such as the $3 trillion bill that House Democrats passed earlier this year, and he insisted that funding for states and cities needs to be included in such legislation. The president-elect said that sick leave and money for child care were also priorities, arguing that people should not have to choose between working and caring for others.

His speech came at a perilous moment for the recovery.

Credit card data and other indicators suggest that consumers began to pull back spending this month as infection, hospitalization and death rates from the virus surge nationwide. States have begun to impose new restrictions on economic activity in an effort to tamp down the spread.

But stock markets were rising again on Monday, encouraged by news that Moderna’s vaccine for the virus appears to be highly effective.

Still, widespread distribution of a vaccine that would allow Americans to resume anything close to normal levels of travel, dining out and other types of spending on services that have been crushed by the pandemic is likely months away.

Economists continue to call for a new and immediate round of aid from Congress to help people and businesses weather the difficult time before the rebound is complete.

Universal Pictures and Cinemark, the third-largest cinema chain in North America, reached a deal to bring new movies to homes a mere three weeks after their theater debuts, adding momentum to Universal’s effort to pull Hollywood toward a less antiquated film distribution system.

The agreement, which follows a nearly identical one struck between Universal and AMC in August, guarantees that Universal will give Cinemark at least 17 days (three weekends) to play movies exclusively — down from roughly 90 days, long the industry norm. After that, even as films continue to play in Cinemark theaters (as long as there is demand), Universal has the option of simultaneously making them available on premium video-on-demand.

Unlike the deal between Universal and AMC, this one includes an exception for films that generate $50 million or more in total North American ticket sales in their first weekend. Cinemark will be able to play those films exclusively for five weekends (31 days). Universal said this deal point would also extend to AMC, which is the world’s largest cinema company.

The agreement increases the pressure on Regal, the No. 2 chain, to come to the table. When the AMC deal was announced, Regal said it had no interest and called it “the wrong deal at the wrong time.” No other studio has made a similar arrangement with theaters, although many — Warner Bros., for one — are eager to shorten the exclusive window given to cinemas.

Theater chains have aggressively resisted change, worrying that people will be reluctant to buy tickets if they can see the same film on their living room TV set or iPad screen just a couple of weeks later. But consumers clearly want more flexibility and the coronavirus pandemic has prompted some cinema companies to agree to a new paradigm — especially because Universal has agreed to share a portion of premium on-demand rental revenue, significantly reducing the risk of earlier home availability.

Cinemark said that “a more dynamic theatrical window” was in the “shared best interests of studios, exhibitors and, most importantly, moviegoers.” Universal plans to release five films in theaters by the end of the year, far more than any other major studio.

Credit…-/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

On Monday, it was Moderna’s turn. The drugmaker, based in Cambridge, Mass., said it too had a vaccine candidate that had been surprisingly effective in early-stage clinical trials.

Moderna’s drug appears to 94.5 percent effective, the company said. Its announcement came a week after rival vaccine developers Pfizer and BioNTech said their candidate had efficacy rates of about 90 percent — itself an astonishing result.

The prospect of a vaccine has investors betting on life returning what it looked like before the pandemic. The S&P 500, which climbed to record territory on Friday, rose further on Monday, and companies that have been heavily battered by the pandemic, such as airlines and cruise companies, led the gains.

Moderna’s shares, of course, rose on the news — jumping 9.6 percent. But Pfizer’s shares tumbled more than 3 percent, and BioNTech’s U.S.-listed shares dropped more than 13 percent. Also lower, though not nearly as sharply, were shares of AstraZeneca, which is developing a vaccine of its own.

Johnson & Johnson, which on Monday said it had started a late-stage trial for its vaccine to test the impact of a two-dose version, was slightly higher.

But the decline in shares of other companies is chalked up to the simple fact that as more vaccines prove effective, the potential rise in profits — and share prices — for the companies developing them could be limited.

That has analysts at J.P. Morganadvising against betting on any one winner, in particular because investors are already pricing in high probability of success for companies developing such drugs.

They remained “cautious on the ultimate opportunity on a company-specific level given the potential for many future vaccines and uncertainties around the duration of the pandemic,” the analysts wrote in a note to clients Monday.

In Pfizer and BioNTech’s case in particular, Moderna’s vaccine candidate has a potentially big competitive advantage because it doesn’t have to be stored at the extremely cold temperature.

Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

As if a pandemic accompanied by a global economic downturn were not trouble enough, manufacturers in Britain are now confronting the intensifying possibility that their country may soon crash out of the European Union without a deal governing future commercial relations across the English Channel.

The prospect of a no-deal Brexit has long threatened to trigger job-killing, investment-discouraging mayhem in Britain and in major European economies, impeding the flow of goods through ports and rendering uncertain the rules applying to major industries — from finance to agriculture to manufacturing.

Now, that prospect is growing increasingly real. A transition period during which nothing has changed is set to expire at the end of the year. Barring a trade deal between Britain and the European Union, the transition will end abruptly, with the terms of trade unclear. Given that Britain sends nearly half its exports to the European bloc, a rupture in dealings could bring profound economic damage.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain has long sold Brexit as the beginning of a glorious new era that will bolster his country’s fortunes through expanded trade with the world. But his primary aspiration — a trade deal with the United States — was always more about political optics than economic gains. An agreement looks less likely with the electoral defeat of President Trump, a Johnson ally and Brexit champion. The incoming American president, Joseph R. Biden Jr., has favored multilateral trade blocs, like the one that Britain is abandoning.

British factories are bracing for fresh pain. Already battered by the pandemic, which has played out with especially lethal force in the Britain, and suffering lost sales in the face of the global recession, manufacturers in England are strongly inclined to view Brexit as another wound to manage, and not the spur to commerce portrayed by the government.

Only 3 percent of small and medium-size factories express confidence that Brexit will have a positive impact on their efforts to recover from the pandemic, according to a survey released Monday morning by a pair of trade associations, the South West Manufacturing Advisory Service and the Manufacturing Growth Program.

Small and medium-size manufacturers “have been battered by Covid-19, and now they have the additional challenge of recovering with Brexit looming large on the horizon,” Nick Golding, managing director of the manufacturing advisory service, said in a statement accompanying the release of the Manufacturing Barometer. “It’s like a perfect storm for management teams trying to plan.”

The report draws on surveys with more than 400 companies in England, polling them on their experiences between July and September. It found that 47 percent were confused about how the departure from the European Union would affect their businesses — a worrying finding given that 62 percent overall said their businesses remained below volumes before the pandemic.

One-fourth of respondents anticipated that recovery would take between one and five years, a process not helped by a breach with the nation’s largest trading partner.

Airbnb is expected to file its I.P.O. prospectus on Monday, joining a wave of tech businesses looking to go public this year. It is expected to seek to raise about $3 billion, and will list its shares on the Nasdaq.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey are back (virtually) at a Senate hearing on Tuesday, answering questions from the Judiciary Committee about how their platforms slowed the spread of a New York Post story about Hunter Biden. They last testified three weeks ago, and since then a member of the committee, Kamala Harris, has become the vice president-elect.

Pandemic shopping habits will be a theme of company earnings this week. Home Depot and Walmart on Tuesday, and Lowe’s and Target on Wednesday, are expected to report rising sales as consumers stock up on essentials and embark on lockdown home improvements. Hopes are dimmer for Macy’s on Thursday, as shoppers shy away from malls.

Credit…Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

One of Goldman Sachs’s top deal makers and a co-head of its investment bank, Gregg R. Lemkau, is leaving the firm at year end, the Wall Street bank said on Monday.

He is joining the investment firm MSD Partners, which is affiliated with the family office of the billionaire technology executive Michael S. Dell.

Mr. Lemkau started his career at Goldman Sachs as an analyst in 1992, rising to become one of the bank’s most seasoned mergers advisers, particularly for technology, media and telecommunications companies. Before becoming co-head of the investment bank, he was a co-head of the firm’s global mergers group and a co-head of its tech, media and telecom team.

“Gregg has helped lead our efforts to continue to solidify and grow our pre-eminent investment banking franchise around the world,” David M. Solomon, Goldman’s chief executive, wrote in an internal memorandum, which was reviewed by The New York Times.

Investment banking has been a mainstay of Goldman’s business over the years, even as the firm has sought to diversify its sources of revenue into areas like consumer lending.

Jim Esposito, one of three leaders of the firm’s markets division, will replace Mr. Lemkau at the investment bank and will work alongside the other co-head, Dan Dees, Mr. Solomon said in a separate memo.

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