July 12, 2024

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Stocks Climb as Democrats Pull Ahead in Georgia: Live Market Updates

10 min read
Stocks Climb as Democrats Pull Ahead in Georgia: Live Market Updates
Stocks Climb as Democrats Pull Ahead in Georgia: Live Market Updates

By: Ella Koeze·Source: Refinitiv

The prospect that Democrats could take control of the Senate pushed investors to bet on a faster growing American economy on Wednesday, a sign that they expect larger government spending with unified Democratic control in Washington.

The Russell 2000 index of small capitalization stocks, which are closely tied to the shorter term outlook for domestic economic growth, surged nearly 3 percent, following the projected victory of Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock over Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler.

Yields on government bonds, heavily influenced by the outlook for economic growth and inflation, rose, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year note climbing to 1.04 percent, territory it has not seen since March. A Democratic agenda underpinned by government spending, both as a response to the pandemic and also to make long-sought upgrades to the nation’s infrastructure, would require more borrowing and increase the amount of Treasury notes and bonds in the market — which would put pressure on bond prices and increase yields.

“Hopes for more proactive fiscal policy, including in support of a faster vaccination campaign” will prompt investors to bet on higher bond yields, analysts at ING wrote in a note.

Democrat Jon Ossoff also held a slight lead over Republican incumbent David Purdue after Tuesday’s runoff election in Georgia, though the race remained too close to call.

If Democrats win both seats, they would effectively retake control of the upper chamber, drastically expanding the legislative possibilities available to the incoming Biden administration as it contends with the economic wreckage of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

“A sweep for the Democrats will likely lead to additional stimulus measures that would likely boost short-term economic growth,” wrote Steve Chiavarone, Portfolio Manager and Equity Strategist with Federated Hermes, a Pittsburgh-based asset management firm.

In the stock market, banks, building materials companies and energy stocks — companies that will benefit from a rebounding economy — led the gains. Zions Bancorp, equipment-rental company United Rentals and Vulcan Materials, which makes construction materials, were among the best performing stocks in the S&P 500 with gains of more than 7 percent.

Energy prices also rose, with West Texas Intermediate futures rising above $50 a barrel after having jumped 5 percent on Tuesday after Saudi Arabia said it would cut production to bolster prices.

The broad S&P 500 index of large capitalization stocks posted modest gains early on, held back by a retreat in shares of large tech companies that fared exceptionally well in recent months, but was about 1 percent higher later in the morning as the technology shares rebounded.

United States › United StatesOn Jan. 5 14-day change
New cases 238,999 +2%
New deaths 3,664 –2%

World › WorldOn Jan. 5 14-day change
New cases 744,044 –2%
New deaths 15,270 –3%

Where cases per capita are

President-elect Biden speaking in November. He is expected to discuss several of his economic priorities on Wednesday.
Credit…Joshua Roberts/Reuters

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is set to deliver a speech on the economy on Wednesday afternoon, remarks that could take on greater significance given the chance that the Senate will soon be controlled by Democrats.

Mr. Biden’s speech is expected to emphasize several of his economic priorities, including reiterating his call for another round of financial aid to help people, businesses and state and local governments weather ongoing economic pain from the virus. Mr. Biden is also expected to touch on his “Build Back Better” agenda, including new government spending on clean energy, infrastructure, health care and education.

His remarks will focus in particular on small businesses, particularly those run by Black, Hispanic, Asian and Native Americans, “who need additional resources to reopen and rebuild,” a transition spokesman said.

Mr. Biden’s speech will take place at a critical moment, as Congress moves ahead to certify the results of the 2020 vote and as a pair of Senate elections in Georgia appear headed for a Democratic win.

The president-elect’s ability to push through many of the programs and polices he campaigned on appeared more likely on Wednesday, as Democrats edged closer to gaining two Senate seats after Tuesday’s runoff election in Georgia. The Rev. Raphael Warnock was declared the winner of one seat, defeating Republican Kelly Loeffler, and Jon Ossoff, another Democrat, was leading the race against David Perdue.

If Democrats win both seats, it would give Mr. Biden’s party control of an evenly divided chamber, greatly affecting his ability to fulfill his agenda.

“Georgia’s voters delivered a resounding message yesterday: they want action on the crises we face and they want it right now,” Mr. Biden said in a written statement on Wednesday morning. “On Covid-19, on economic relief, on climate, on racial justice, on voting rights and so much more. They want us to move, but move together.”

“I have long said that the bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill passed in December was just a down payment. We need urgent action on what comes next, because the COVID-19 crisis hits red states and blue states alike,” he said.

Ford’s sales of F-series trucks — including the F-150 and larger versions — fell 12 percent last year.
Credit…Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Ford Motor Company said on Wednesday that it sold about two million cars and light trucks last year, a decline of 15 percent from 2019, roughly in line with the broader auto industry.

The coronavirus pandemic sharply slowed sales for automakers as people stayed away from dealerships and companies were forced to shut down factories for nearly two months last spring. Ford’s sales were also affected by company’s decision to phase out most sedans, including the Fusion and Fiesta, from its U.S. lineup.

Ford said sales in the fourth quarter fell 10 percent. Cars made up just 7 percent of total sales; the rest were trucks and sport-utility vehicles.

The company said its shift to focus on larger vehicles is paying off. Sales of sport utility vehicles, which generate much more profit for automakers than sedans, rose 4 percent in the fourth quarter.

Also in the fourth quarter, Ford began selling a redesigned version of its F-150 pickup truck, which has long been the top selling vehicle in the United States. The transition to the new model caused a temporary shortage of pickups that slowed sales.

Ford’s sales of F-series trucks — including the F-150 and larger versions — fell 12 percent in 2020.

Construction is among the industries that may be affected by a Labor Department rule on criteria for employee status.
Credit…James Tensuan for The New York Times

The Labor Department on Wednesday released the final version of a rule that could classify millions of workers in industries like construction, cleaning and the gig economy as contractors rather than employees, another step under the Trump administration toward endorsing the business practices of companies like Uber and Lyft.

Companies don’t have to pay contractors a minimum wage or overtime and don’t have to pay a share of contractors’ Social Security taxes or contribute to unemployment insurance on their behalf.

By contrast, companies that hire employees must provide them with those benefits and protections, which can raise labor costs 20 to 30 percent, according to estimates from industry officials.

“This rule brings long-needed clarity for American workers and employers,” the labor secretary, Eugene Scalia, said in a statement, adding that the rule makes it easier to identify legitimate employees “while recognizing and respecting the entrepreneurial spirit of workers who choose to pursue the freedom associated with being an independent contractor.”

The rule is scheduled to take effect on March 8, which will allow the incoming Biden administration to postpone it and perhaps set it aside.

In addition, as a so-called interpretive rule, it does not have the same legal force as a regulation, and it applies only to the laws that the Labor Department enforces, such as the federal minimum wage and overtime.

States and other agencies, like the Internal Revenue Service, may come to different conclusions about who has employee status.

But the rule could still have a substantial impact because employers often base their labor practices on the department’s approach.

Determinations of employee status typically hinge on several factors, but the department’s rule elevates two: how much control an employer exerts over the worker, and the extent to which a worker can increase his or her hourly income through entrepreneurial savvy rather than earning a set wage.

Critics have argued that there is no legal basis for elevating these two factors above others, such as the degree of skill involved in the work or whether the work is indefinite or temporary, and that the approach will deny employee status to many who deserve it.

New Yorkers wait outside a store advertising to cash stimulus checks.
Credit…Sarah Blesener for The New York Times

The federal government has only just begun sending out a second round of stimulus payments, and many people are already waiting a little longer than expected for their money.

Many payments have been sent to inactive or temporary accounts that taxpayers don’t have access to. It’s not clear how many people are affected, but the tax preparation company Jackson Hewitt said the Internal Revenue Service had sent payments to more than 13 million bank accounts that were no longer open or valid.

“Because of the speed at which the law required the I.R.S. to issue the second round of Economic Impact Payments, some payments may have been sent to an account that may be closed or no longer active,” the agency said in a statement on Tuesday.

Companies like TurboTax, H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt sometimes set up temporary accounts for clients when they prepare returns. For example, clients who opts to have preparation fees deducted from their refund may be issued one of these accounts, allowing the tax firm to take its share and then pass on the rest. After that, the accounts are generally inactive — but may still be linked to the taxpayers in I.R.S. records. Payments that are sent to inactive accounts must be returned to the Treasury.

By law, the I.R.S. must issue payments by Jan. 15. People who don’t receive a payment can recover it on their 2020 tax return; the payment will become part of their regular refund, the I.R.S. said. (The Recovery Rebate Credit can be found on line 30 of the 2020 Form 1040 or 1040-SR.)

Taxpayers can check the status of their stimulus payments with the I.R.S.’s Get My Payment tool. If you don’t recognize the account number that received the payment, it may be one of these temporary accounts.

The tax preparation companies said they were working to get payments to customers.

H&R Block said it was already passing along stimulus payments to customers’ bank accounts and via prepaid debit card to certain customers. A spokeswoman for TurboTax said the company was working with the I.R.S. to help taxpayers receive their payments as soon as possible. And Jackson Hewitt suggested on its website that customers consider taking the rebate on their 2020 taxes.

Henry Paulson, the former Treasury secretary, in 2019. He will become the executive chairman of new fund run by the investment firm TPG.
Credit…Tiffany Hagler-Geard/Bloomberg, via Getty Images

Henry M. Paulson Jr., the former Goldman Sachs chief and Treasury secretary during the 2008 financial crisis, is rejoining the finance industry. He will become the executive chairman of TPG Rise Climate, a new fund run by the investment firm TPG.

The move brings Mr. Paulson, 74, back to the industry for the first time since he left Goldman to become Treasury secretary in 2006 under President George W. Bush. It may also signal a turning point for the weight and seriousness given to climate-related investments, already a focus for TPG. The firm’s co-founder, Jim Coulter, is planning to shift much of his focus to the new climate fund.

Mr. Paulson has spent the last 12 years since leaving his post at the Treasury away from the private sector, running his nonprofit institute and working on climate change initiatives. He was recruited to TPG, in part, by Bono, the musician and activist who helped found TPG’s $5 billion Rise funds focused on “impact investing.” He told Mr. Paulson that the investment firm wanted to create an even bigger platform to focus exclusively on combating climate change.

“I wasn’t looking to do this,” Mr. Paulson said. But he was persuaded by the success of TPG’s previous Rise funds — $2 billion of which are in climate-related investments. “At this stage in my career, I’m not looking to do a start-up. I’m in a hurry to make a difference,” he said.

Mr. Paulson and Mr. Coulter are looking to make investments in climate that are as profitable as any other kind of investment. Many other climate funds have a philanthropic stance or are willing to accept lower returns, “but the market will not scale for concessionary or subsidized returns,” Mr. Paulson said.

  • President Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order prohibiting transactions with eight Chinese software applications, including Alipay, the payment platform owned by Ant Group, and WeChat Pay, which is owned by Tencent. The move, two weeks before the end of Mr. Trump’s term, could help lock in his administration’s harsher stance toward China and is likely to further rankle Beijing. But defining the scope of the order and enforcing it would presumably fall to the incoming Biden administration.

  • OPEC, Russia and other oil major producers reached an unusual agreement on production quotas on Tuesday, with Saudi Arabia committing to reducing its oil production by one million barrels a day and Russia and Kazakhstan winning relatively modest production increases. The effect will be an overall reduction in oil production. The news pushed prices up more than 4 percent, reaching levels not seen since February.

  • The global economy faces a subdued recovery in 2021 as countries race to roll out coronavirus vaccines and businesses around the world try to emerge from pandemic lockdowns that have widened income inequality and piled on debt, the World Bank said on Tuesday. The global economy will expand 4 percent in 2021 after contracting 4.3 percent last year, the World Bank projected in its Global Economic Prospects report. The bank described the nascent recovery as “fragile” and said that its trajectory would depend on the success of widespread vaccine distribution.

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