Green on the screen to start the week.

Positive Brexit headlines in the papers;

The two sides edge closer over ‘level playing field’

Brexit deadline extended after progress on tariffs

The Times has been told that after a week of hostility between the two sides there have been positive discussions on how to ensure an economic “level playing field” after Brexit.
The leaders had spoken after late-night and early-morning talks between Lord Frost, Britain’s Brexit negotiator, and Michel Barnier, his opposite number. They agreed to extend the deadline, which had been due to expire yesterday.
Mr Johnson said: “I’m afraid we’re still very far apart on some key things, but where there’s life, there’s hope. We’re going to keep talking to see what we can do. The UK certainly won’t be walking away from the talks.” He added: “If Ursula is optimistic then that’s great. As far as I can see there are some serious and very difficult issues that separate the UK from the EU.
“We’re going to continue to try and we’re going to try with all our hearts and we’ll be as creative as we possibly can. But what we can’t do is compromise on that fundamental nature of what Brexit is all about.”
Mr Johnson and Mrs Von der Leyen did not put a new deadline on the talks, suggesting that they could run until as late as December 31. The sticking points remain fishing, governance and the level playing field.

The Telegraph adds another detail;

The EU is reportedly ready to drop its demand for the right to impose immediate “lightning tariffs” on the UK if it unilaterally decided the terms of a deal had been broken.

If removal of this 'ratchet clause' is further hinted/confirmed, GBP should fly.

Downing Street sources said while Mr Johnson’s visit to Brussels last week had failed to make any headway, the mood had changed over the weekend, with the EU now “engaging” with the problems.
One source said: “There has been minimal movement, there haven’t been any breakthroughs, and no deal is still the most likely outcome.
“But maybe the odds have shifted slightly in the direction of a deal.”
Mr Johnson said businesses should continue preparing to leave the single market without a deal at the end of the month, saying there was “a clarity and a simplicity in that approach”.

No More Deadlines

Government sources have indicated Parliament would only need 24 hours to ratify a deal, meaning December 30 would be the last day for an agreement to be reached by the negotiators.
The European Parliament meets on December 28, but sources in Brussels have said if a deal was struck later than that they would “find a way” for MEPs to ratify it in principle before member states’ parliaments voted to give retrospective approval.
EU sources said the member states were holding a firm line but there had been “genuine progress” at the weekend and “enough had moved to convince both sides” that it was worth continuing talks.
They refused to rule out a last minute extension beyond the deadline.
While it appeared legally impossible, the talks were in “uncharted territory”.
Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, said "everything possible" should be done to get a deal.

Stimulus Update

U.S. lawmakers plan to split $908 billion COVID-19 plan into two parts: source

A $908 billion bipartisan COVID-19 relief plan set to be introduced in the U.S. Congress as early as Monday will be split into two packages in a bid to win approval, a person briefed on the matter said.
One will be a $748 billion measure, which contains money for small businesses, the jobless and COVID-19 vaccine distribution. The other will include some key sticking points: liability protections for business and $160 billion for state and local governments.
The leaders of the House of Representatives and Senate did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
One of the sponsors of the $908 billion plan, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, said earlier on Sunday it would be introduced formally on Monday.
“The plan is alive and well and there’s no way, no way that we are going to leave Washington without taking care of the emergency needs of our people,” Manchin told Fox News.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on Sunday for 30 minutes with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin “to discuss the latest developments on the omnibus and COVID talks,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill wrote on Twitter.
“The speaker reiterated her view that a compromise on the liability issue should be found that does not jeopardize workers’ safety,” Hammill said.

Oil prices edge up on hope vaccines will improve fuel demand

Oil prices rose on Monday, pushing Brent back above $50 a barrel, buoyed by hopes that a rollout of coronavirus vaccines will lift global fuel demand, while an extension of Brexit talks eased jitters on that front for now.
Brent crude futures for February rose 8 cents, or 0.2%, to $50.05 a barrel by 0137 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures for January were up 4 cents, or 0.1%, at $46.61 a barrel.
Oil prices have rallied for six consecutive weeks, their longest stretch of gains since June.
The United States kicked off its vaccination campaign against COVID-19, buoying hopes that pandemic restrictions could end soon and lift demand at the world’s largest oil consumer.
Investors are looking ahead to two meetings between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies including Russia, a grouping known as OPEC+.
The OPEC+ joint ministerial monitoring committee (JMMC) that monitors compliance among members will meet on Dec. 16, while OPEC+ will meet on Jan. 4 to study the market after their last decision to limit production rises to 500,000 barrels per day starting next year.
In the United States, energy firms last week added the most oil and natural gas rigs in a week since January as producers continued to return to the wellpad.
Two separate fires occurred at Nigeria’s Qua Iboe crude oil export terminal and at an oil pipeline in Iran on Sunday but the incidents have mostly been contained.

AP also reported that an ‘External source’ caused oil tanker blast off Saudi Arabia

An oil tanker off Saudi Arabia’s port city of Jiddah suffered an explosion early Monday after being hit by “an external source,” a shipping company said, suggesting another vessel has come under attack off the kingdom amid its yearslong war in Yemen.
The Singapore-flagged BW Rhine saw all 22 sailors on board escape without injury, the BW Group said in a statement. The company warned it was possible some oil leaked out from the site of the blast.
Saudi Arabia did not immediately acknowledge the blast, which struck off a crucial port and distribution center for its oil trade. However, it comes after a mine attack last month that damaged a tanker off Saudi Arabia that authorities blamed on Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

China's new home prices slow in November as market-cooling steps take hold

China’s new home prices grew in November at their slowest monthly pace since March, official data showed on Monday, as policymakers wary of financial risk in the highly leveraged sector continued to pursue market-cooling measures.
The average new home price across 70 major cities rose 0.1% in November from the previous month, Reuters calculated from National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data. That compared with 0.2% on-month growth in October.
Prices rose 4.0% in November from the same month a year earlier, the weakest rate since February 2016. That compared with a 4.3% on-year increase in October.
The data also showed the number of those cities reporting monthly new home price increases fell to 36, from 45 in October - the lowest since February during the height of the pandemic in China, said analyst Zhang Dawei at property agency Centaline.
Zhang attributed the softening momentum to stepped-up market tightening policies, as well as increased supply and discounting as developers ramped up sales activity towards year-end.

China's Belt & Road initiative: 'Reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated'

New Zealand agrees on 'travel bubble' with Australia in early 2021

New Zealand agreed on Monday to allow quarantine-free travel with Australia in the first quarter of 2021, nearly a year after it locked down its borders to protect its population from the novel coronavirus.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the cabinet had agreed in principle on a trans-Tasman, quarantine-free travel bubble pending confirmation by Australia’s cabinet and no significant change in circumstances in either country.
“It is our intention to name a date ... in the New Year once remaining details are locked down,” Ardern said at a news conference in the capital, Wellington.

Travel stocks reacted positively to the news.

Falling plane values, e-commerce rise fuels boom in converting passenger planes to freighters

From Air Canada to China’s CDB Aviation, airlines and leasing firms are rushing to permanently convert older passenger jets into freighters, betting on a boom in e-commerce as the value of used planes tumbles amid the pandemic.
“We are all booked out for 2021 for aircraft conversions,” Lam said. “The first slots are well into 2022.”

Never bet against the human capacity to adapt and innovate.

UK ministers plan new state-backed loan scheme for SMEs

The UK government is planning to launch a permanent replacement for the £65bn Covid loans programme with new state-backed guarantees to support lending by banks to a broad range of small to medium-sized business.
Under plans still being finalised by Treasury officials, the new loan scheme could carry a guarantee of up to 80 per cent for loans of up to £10m for businesses that are deemed viable but unable to obtain finance from their lender, according to industry and Whitehall figures. Banks will be allowed to set the interest rate for the new loans, although the rate is likely to be capped at about 15 per cent, with bankers concerned that any artificially low state-mandated rate would in effect wipe out all other small-business lending.
Back in the spring, chancellor Rishi Sunak scrambled to set up several lending programmes for companies hit by the Covid lockdown to prevent a wave of insolvencies as the economy was put into the deep freeze. They were originally designed to end in September but have already been extended until the end of January.
The rules of the new scheme will be more in line with the existing Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), which has supported about £18.5bn in lending during the pandemic to larger SMEs. This will mean more rigorous checks over a borrower’s creditworthiness. One of the more controversial elements will be the possibility of the reinstatement of a partial personal guarantee in the loans.

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Little of note on the calendar today.

Brexit negotiations (Barnier will brief EU ambassadors at 07:30 GMT) and further U.S. stimulus talks will once again be the focus of the day.