Risk sentiment has taken another dive overnight, with Asian markets broadly in the red.  

The stimulus package is finally passed...!

One ticked off the list of 'things to talk about every day'.

Senate Passes Giant Package Wrapping Relief, Funding, Tax Breaks

The Senate Monday night passed a giant year-end spending bill combining $900 billion in Covid-19 relief aid with $1.4 trillion in regular government funding and a bevy of tax breaks for businesses.
The House passed the combined bill earlier, and the legislation now will go to President Donald Trump, who aides said would sign it when it arrives at the White House this week. The House and Senate also cleared a seven-day stopgap funding bill to avert a partial government shutdown while the broader legislation is prepared for the president.
The bill, which totals more than $2.3 trillion, contains the second-largest economic relief measure in U.S. history -- after the $1.8 trillion Cares Act passed in March as the pandemic throttled the world’s biggest economy. Economists say the aid should be enough to avert a double-dip recession next year, though risks remain.
The legislation would provide direct payments of $600 to most Americans and their children. Those with incomes of more than $100,000 would be excluded, as would undocumented immigrants. The payments will go out as soon as next week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday.
For the unemployed, a $300-per-week in enhanced unemployment benefits will be put in effect through March. Unemployment insurance programs for gig workers and the long-term unemployed also would be extended. There’s $284 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program that provides forgivable loans to small businesses. Companies that previously had a PPP loan can qualify for a new one, and their PPP grants would be made tax deductible.
The package includes money for transportation -- including for $15 billion for airlines -- vaccine distribution, schools and universities, farmers and food aid.

What's in the Final COVID Relief Deal of 2020?


MPs told to be ready to vote on possible Brexit trade deal next week

Britain and the EU moved closer to a compromise on fisheries on Monday night as MPs were told to prepare to vote on a potential trade deal on Wednesday next week.
The Government tabled an 11th-hour proposal that would see the bloc slash the value of its fishing catch in UK waters by roughly a third over a transition period of five years, it was claimed, down from an initial demand to cut it by 60 per cent over three years.
EU negotiators have held out for a reduction of just 25 per cent over a seven-year transition, according to reports. The bloc initially tabled a cut of 18 per cent over 10 years.
However, an EU official speaking about the UK's latest offer told The Telegraph: "It's still a no from us."
On Monday night, Boris Johnson played down the prospect of an imminent deal.
The Prime Minister confirmed that he had spoken to Emmanuel Macron, the French president, about France's freight and flight ban on the UK causing chaos at British ports but said their "excellent conversation" did not stretch to the subject of the trade talks.
If an agreement is clinched in coming days, a Bill is expected to be drafted within 48 hours and would be put to the vote in the Commons and the Lords on Wednesday December 30, according to Government sources.
Any secondary legislation required in relation to the agreement could then be passed the next day. The tight timetable would ensure the legislation was passed just before the deadline for the Brexit transition period to end at 11pm on December 31.

Narrator: "It really doesn't. There's no way a few hundred million in fish derails the entire negotiation".

Fingers crossed we can tick this off the list in the coming days too.

Boris Johnson plans mass Covid testing of lorry drivers to reopen ports

Prime Minister orders officials to start preparations after personal appeal to French president over coronavirus border crisis

Boris Johnson is drawing up contingency plans to test all lorry drivers taking goods across the Channel in order to bring an end to the disruption at Britain's ports.
Ministers are understood to be preparing "infrastructure" to allow thousands of truckers to be tested for Covid-19 after France insisted hauliers should be cleared as negative before entering the country.
On Monday night, Mr Johnson made a personal appeal to Emmanuel Macron, the French president, to reopen the French border after ports were closed in response to the news that a newly-discovered mutant coronavirus strain was "out of control" in London and the South-East.
The Prime Minister told a Downing Street press conference he believed the risk of freight drivers passing on the new and highly infectious strain of Covid was very low.
He said: "I want to stress that we in the UK fully understand the anxieties of our friends about Covid, their anxieties about the new variant.
"But it's also true that we believe the risks of transmission by a solitary driver sitting alone in the cab are really very low, and so we hope to make progress as fast as we possibly can."

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Australian Retail Sales - Absolutely smashed it;

Australia Retail Sales Unexpectedly Surge

Retail sales in Australia unexpectedly jumped by 7.0 percent month-over-month in November 2020, easily beating market estimates of a 0.6 percent fall and after a final 1.4 percent gain a month earlier, preliminary data showed.
This was the fastest growth in retail trade since May, boosted by the reopening of retail stores in Victoria following the easing of coronavirus restrictions as well as pre-Christmas shopping.
Household goods retailing (13 percent) led the rises, as Black Friday sales combined with major product releases in the electrical subgroup, led to a spike in turnover across the country.
Also, there were rises in sales of clothing, footwear and personal accessories; other retailing; and in department stores.

Retail sales surge to $31.6b, point to stronger GDP

Sales in November hit $31.6 billion. It is the first time in the series that Australians have spent more than $31 billion in just one month and is a further indicator that the tapering of JobKeeper has not held back consumer spending, which improves prospects for strong gross domestic product growth in the December quarter.
The full reopening in Victoria following tough restrictions to stamp out COVID-19 led to a 21 per cent sales surge, while South Australia, which saw a three-day period of restrictions introduced in November, saw a flat result.
The ABS cautioned that the preliminary estimates may be significantly different to the final published estimates because of factors such as the preliminary data only reflecting 80 per cent of total retail turnover, as well as some problems around the seasonality of the data.
NAB economist Tapas Strickland suspected the big jump in Black Friday sales meant December would now probably show a decline in retail sales.
"It is likely that both the timing of Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales – both in late November this year – and increasing popularity of these events is not adequately captured by the seasonal adjustment factors, and we would not be surprised to see a decline in household goods retailing in December," Mr Strickland said.
However he also suspected the big rise in November was further evidence that the tapering of JobKeeper had not dealt a blow to consumption.
"The strong rise in retail in the month also suggests roll-back of government support through reduced JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments does not seem to have materially affected retail sales data," Mr Strickland said.
"As for GDP implications, for the December quarter so far, the average of retail sales is up 2.7 per cent quarter on quarter, while hours worked are likely to have risen 3.25 per cent quarter on quarter.
"Both suggest a strong December quarter GDP print even if there is a decline associated with the unwind of Black Friday/Cyber Monday and from some impact from the Sydney virus cluster."

Google, Facebook Agreed to Team Up Against Possible Antitrust Action, Draft Lawsuit Says

Facebook & Google agreed to “cooperate and assist one another” if they ever faced an investigation into their pact to work together in online advertising, according to an unredacted version of a lawsuit filed by 10 states against Google last week.
The suit, as filed, cites internal company documents that were heavily redacted. The Wall Street Journal reviewed part of a recent draft version of the suit without redactions, which elaborated on findings and allegations in the court documents.
Ten Republican attorneys general, led by Texas, are alleging that the two companies cut a deal in September 2018 in which Facebook agreed not to compete with Google’s online advertising tools in return for special treatment when it used them.
Google used language from “Star Wars” as a code name for the deal, according to the lawsuit, which redacted the actual name. The draft version of the suit says it was known as “Jedi Blue.”
A Google spokesperson said such agreements over antitrust threats are extremely common.
The states’ “claims are inaccurate. We don’t manipulate the auction,” the spokesperson said, adding that the deal wasn’t secret and that Facebook participates in other ad auctions. “There’s nothing exclusive about [Facebook’s] involvement and they don’t receive data that is not similarly made available to other buyers.”
The redacted lawsuit filed last week makes no mention of Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. According to the draft version, Ms. Sandberg signed the deal with Google. The draft version also cites an email where she told CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other executives: “This is a big deal strategically.”
Like Google, Facebook has also disputed the allegations in the lawsuit, saying its agreements for bidding on advertising promote choice and create clear benefits for advertisers, publishers and small businesses.
“Any allegation that this harms competition or any suggestion of misconduct on the part of Facebook is baseless,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

Apple targets car production by 2024 and eyes 'next level' battery technology - sources

Apple Inc is moving forward with self-driving car technology and is targeting 2024 to produce a passenger vehicle that could include its own breakthrough battery technology, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The iPhone maker’s automotive efforts, known as Project Titan, have proceeded unevenly since 2014 when it first started to design its own vehicle from scratch. At one point, Apple drew back the effort to focus on software and reassessed its goals. Doug Field, an Apple veteran who had worked at Tesla Inc, returned to oversee the project in 2018 and laid off 190 people from the team in 2019.
Since then, Apple has progressed enough that it now aims to build a vehicle for consumers, two people familiar with the effort said, asking not to be named because Apple’s plans are not public. Apple’s goal of building a personal vehicle for the mass market contrasts with rivals such as Alphabet Inc’s Waymo, which has built robo-taxis to carry passengers for a driverless ride-hailing service.
Central to Apple’s strategy is a new battery design that could “radically” reduce the cost of batteries and increase the vehicle’s range, according to a third person who has seen Apple’s battery design.
It remains unclear who would assemble an Apple-branded car, but sources have said they expect the company to rely on a manufacturing partner to build vehicles. And there is still a chance Apple will decide to reduce the scope of its efforts to an autonomous driving system that would be integrated with a car made by a traditional automaker, rather than the iPhone maker selling an Apple-branded car, one of the people added.
Two people with knowledge of Apple’s plans warned pandemic-related delays could push the start of production into 2025 or beyond.
Shares of Tesla ended 6.5% lower on Monday after their debut in the S&P 500 on Monday. Apple shares ended 1.24% higher after the news.
Apple has decided to tap outside partners for elements of the system, including lidar sensors, which help self-driving cars get a three-dimensional view of the road, two people familiar with the company’s plans said.
Apple’s car might feature multiple lidar sensors for scanning different distances, another person said. Some sensors could be derived from Apple’s internally developed lidar units, that person said. Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro and iPad Pro models released this year both feature lidar sensors.
Reuters had previously reported that Apple had held talks with potential lidar suppliers, but it was also examining building its own sensor.
As for the car’s battery, Apple plans to use a unique “monocell” design that bulks up the individual cells in the battery and frees up space inside the battery pack by eliminating pouches and modules that hold battery materials, one of the people said.
Apple’s design means that more active material can be packed inside the battery, giving the car a potentially longer range. Apple is also examining a chemistry for the battery called LFP, or lithium iron phosphate, the person said, which is inherently less likely to overheat and is thus safer than other types of lithium-ion batteries.
”It’s next level,” the person said of Apple’s battery technology. “Like the first time you saw the iPhone.”

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