Chief executives and other leaders from many of America’s largest businesses on Monday urged Congress to certify the electoral vote on Wednesday to confirm Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential victory.
“Attempts to thwart or delay this process run counter to the essential tenets of our democracy,” they said in a statement. Included in the list of 170 signers were Laurence D. Fink of BlackRock, Logan Green and John Zimmer of Lyft, Brad Smith of Microsoft, Albert Bourla of Pfizer, and James Zelter of Apollo Global Management.
Members of the president’s party are divided over whether to accept that he lost the election: While top Republicans, such as Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, have pushed back on a futile attempt in Congress to reject the results, about a dozen senators and senators-elect have lined up behind President Trump’s bid to hold on to power.
The urging from business leaders comes on a volatile day for financial markets and just a day before runoff elections in Georgia, which will determine whether Republicans or Democrats control the Senate. Coronavirus cases are surging, and vaccinations are taking more time than hoped.
Business leaders took issue with Washington’s new divide at a moment of grave uncertainty.
“Our duly elected leaders deserve the respect and bipartisan support of all Americans at a moment when we are dealing with the worst health and economic crises in modern history,” the business leaders wrote. “There should be no further delay in the orderly transfer of power.”
The statement, which was organized by Partnership for New York City, a business advocacy organization, came on the same day that Thomas J. Donohue, the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, issued a statement urging certification of the vote.
“Efforts by some members of Congress to disregard certified election results in an effort to change the election outcome or to try a make a long-term political point undermines our democracy and the rule of law and will only result in further division across our nation,” Mr. Donohue wrote.
Wall Street began the year with a tumble on Monday, with the S&P 500 suffering its steepest decline in more than two months as it retreated from record territory.
Analysts pinned the sell-off on a range of factors, from political jitters stemming from Tuesday’s runoff election in Georgia — which will determine control of the U.S. Senate — to the slower-than-expected vaccine rollout, to growing concern that fresh lockdowns being considered in the United Kingdom could come to the United States.
The index fell 1.5 percent, its sharpest drop since late October. Stocks that have been most sensitive to investor sentiment about the coronavirus pandemic led the decline. Shares of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Wynn Resorts, Marriott International and Carnival were all down by 5 percent or more.
After Europe’s markets closed on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a strict new national lockdown as a more contagious variant of the coronavirus threatened to overwhelm the nation’s beleaguered hospitals.
The variant is now present in the United States, where coronavirus cases and deaths have reached records in recent days.
Monday’s retreat also came after the S&P 500 had rallied more than 16 percent in 2020, defying the economic crisis and the human catastrophe of the pandemic, as the Federal Reserve stepped in to support financial markets, Congress spent trillions on unemployment and business support programs, and vaccinations began, showing a sustainable way out of the pandemic.
But investors have always had to contend with the still-spreading coronavirus pandemic, the risk of new lockdowns and political turmoil in the United States. On Tuesday, two runoff Senate elections in Georgia will settle control of the upper house of Congress and determine how hard it will be for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to move forward on his agenda.
Major benchmarks in Europe had held on to their gains, but were also off their highest points of the day by the end of trading. The Stoxx Europe 600 index rose 0.7 percent, and the FTSE 100 index in Britain gained 1.7 percent.
The U.S. oil benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, fell more than 2 percent.
Haven, the joint venture of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase that was formed three years ago to explore new ways to deliver health care to the companies’ employees, is disbanding, according to a statement posted on its website. It will cease its operations at the end of February.
“The Haven team made good progress exploring a wide range of health care solutions, as well as piloting new ways to make primary care easier to access, insurance benefits simpler to understand and easier to use, and prescription drugs more affordable,” Brooke Thurston, Haven’s spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Haven aimed to improve how people gain access to health care by pulling together the know-how and scale of three of the largest employers in America. Its formation sent shock waves through the markets, driving health insurers’ stocks lower as investors wagered that the power of the three behemoths combined would completely upend the country’s health care delivery system by testing new ideas on more than a million employees.
In a note to employees on Monday announcing Haven’s end, Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, said the three companies would continue to share information.
“We’ll collaborate less formally going forward as we each work to design programs tailored to specific needs of our individual employee populations and local markets,” he wrote.
“Haven worked best as an incubator of ideas, a place to pilot, test and learn — and a way to share best practices across our companies,” Mr. Dimon added.
Thanks to a new agreement between ViacomCBS and Hulu, the streaming platform controlled by the Walt Disney Company, there will soon be another way to watch Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants” and MTV’s “Ridiculousness.”
When CBS reunited with the cable and film giant Viacom at the end of 2019, after a decade apart, executives who swung the deal promised that the combined company would become a bigger player in digital media. ViacomCBS took another step toward that goal on Monday with the announcement that it had struck a deal to add 14 cable networks to Hulu Live TV.
The 14 networks — a group that includes Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, BET Her, TeenNick and NickToons — will join Hulu Live alongside corporate siblings like Pop TV and the CW, which were already available on the service under a previous arrangement between CBS and Hulu.
When it comes to streaming, ViacomCBS has mainly focused on supplying films and TV series to other companies. That strategy is expected to shift slightly this year, when the company will introduce Paramount+, a platform named after the company’s struggling movie studio. It will be an expanded version of CBS All Access, the streamer best known for “Star Trek: Picard,” Jordan Peele’s reboot of “The Twilight Zone,” and “The Stand,” a limited series based on Stephen King’s 1978 novel of survivors battling it out after a pandemic wipes out most of humanity.
Hulu Live is a $65-a-month streaming alternative for cord-cutters with roughly four million subscribers. YouTube TV, a streaming competitor to Hulu Live, signed a similar distribution deal with ViacomCBS in May 2020.
Bitcoin is surging. Even after a decline of as much as 10 percent on Monday, the price of Bitcoin is up so far this year to about $31,000, adding to a furious rally at the end of 2020 that pushed the cryptocurrency near $30,000 a coin, a level it breached over the weekend. In March, it was trading below $4,000.
The euphoria stands in contrast to regulatory doubts about cryptocurrencies.
Digital money enthusiasts have been submitting comments to the Treasury Department on a proposed new disclosure requirement for certain crypto transactions “aimed at closing money laundering regulatory gaps.” The deadline for comments is Monday, and more than 3,500 submissions are already in.
The Blockchain Association sent Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin a letter requesting more time to consider the rule, arguing that “difficult and momentous” issues were being handled hastily. Eight House lawmakers also wrote to Mr. Mnuchin, asking that the review period be extended by several weeks.
The staggering 2020 rally highlights Bitcoin’s speculative appeal but also expectations of its lasting value to some investors. The run that has lifted Bitcoin to its current price came as some big institutions said they would begin to buy or allow use of Bitcoin.
In May, Paul Tudor Jones, one of Wall Street’s best-known hedge fund managers, said he had put almost 2 percent of his portfolio in Bitcoin. He said the cap on Bitcoin production made it an attractive alternative to the declining value of traditional currencies, which he thought was inevitable as central banks printed more money to encourage an economic recovery.
In July, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, an American regulator, said this summer that banks would be allowed to hold cryptocurrencies for customers.
In August, MicroStrategy, a software company in Virginia, said it bought $250 million of Bitcoin to store some of the cash it had in the corporate treasury.
In October, Square said it was putting $50 million of its corporate cash into Bitcoin. In 2018, Square also began offering the digital currency on the Cash App, its phone app that people use to send money between friends and family.
Soon after Square did, PayPal announced in October that it would allow people to buy and hold Bitcoin and a few other cryptocurrencies.
Of course, none of that offers any indication of how high Bitcoin could go, or when this rally may end. The last time this kind of speculative fever hit the cryptocurrency — in 2017 and 2018 — it doubled in value before halving again in just a few months.
Officials from OPEC, Russia and other major oil-producing countries were unable on Monday to reach agreement on whether to allow further increases in oil output in the face of reduced demand from the pandemic. The videoconference was adjourned and was expected to be continued on Tuesday.
The main issue in the meeting was whether to allow members of the group to raise oil production in February. During a difficult meeting in December, the group, known as OPEC Plus, reached a compromise that permitted production to increase by 500,000 barrels a day starting Jan. 1, instead of a previously agreed two million barrels a day. The group also agreed to meet monthly to consider whether further increases were warranted.
The first of those monthly meetings, on Monday, highlighted differences in the group.
Producers like Russia, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates have their reasons for wanting to lift production. But other members, led by Saudi Arabia, the de facto leader of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, are pushing to proceed cautiously. With the pandemic worsening in Europe and the United States, the Saudi-led bloc figures the demand for oil remains relatively weak, and rising production would probably lead to falling prices.
In a speech opening the meeting, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the Saudi oil minister and chairman of the OPEC Plus meetings, called on officials to “avoid the temptation to slacken” their resolve.
“At the risk of being seen as a killjoy,” he said, “I want to urge caution, even in this generally optimistic environment.”
The members are still keeping about seven million barrels a day, or about 7 percent of global supply in normal times, off the market. The prospect of opening taps could quickly depress oil prices.
On the first working day after Britain left the European Union’s single market and customs union, the traffic trickling through the country’s busiest port was running smoothly. So far, the imposition of customs declarations for British exporters, the first in decades, hasn’t led to the delays some had predicted. But the transition has been made easier by low levels of truck traffic.
The Eurotunnel and ferry operators, which carry trucks across the English Channel, said boats and trains were running on time on Monday. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said on Sunday that 98 percent of the trucks heading to mainland Europe via Dover and nearby terminals had the documents they needed. But traffic numbers were low because of the New Year’s Day holiday and weekend.
The amount of goods flowing between the two countries was also low because companies had stockpiled last year amid uncertainty about whether London and Brussels would sign a trade deal and eliminate potential tariffs by Dec. 31, the end of the Brexit transition period. Much of Britain is also under strict business and social restrictions to curb the pandemic.
DFDS, a ferry operator at the Port of Dover, said that on Jan. 1 and Jan. 2, 1,351 vehicles went through the port, about 40 percent of the volume on those dates last year.
Some in the logistics industry are concerned that when stockpiles have been used up and trade increases to more normal levels, the full scale of changes at the border will be revealed. Even a relatively small percentage of unprepared drivers could cause disruption and congestion as drivers and the companies that own the goods on board adjust to all the new paperwork that is needed, from customs forms to safety certificates and driver permits.
“It is a mountain of paperwork that we have never had to do before,” Rod McKenzie, the managing director of the Road Haulage Association, told LBC radio on Monday. Companies are saying that the forms are onerous and complicated, Mr. McKenzie said. He also warned of “invisible queues,” in which trucks never leave the depot because companies haven’t completed paperwork on time or truck drivers haven’t gotten coronavirus tests, hampering supply chains.
“We haven’t really started yet,” he said.
Truck drivers are required to show a negative coronavirus test result, received within 72 hours, before they can cross the border into France. The British government has set up testing centers near the border and at points across the country, but some drivers have been turned away for not having the result.
This testing requirement is in place until at least Jan. 6 but there hasn’t been a decision on whether remove it.
The billionaire financier Carl Icahn has begun to cash out of his nearly decade-long bet on the nutritional food supplements company Herbalife, an investment that survived both regulatory review and a prominent — though unsuccessful — challenge by another activist investor.
Herbalife said late on Sunday that it would buy back about $600 million worth of stock held by Mr. Icahn, who has been the company’s biggest shareholder since 2013. Doing so would also mean that he will give up five board seats held by his designees.
The move, which will reduce Mr. Icahn’s stake to 6 percent from 13 percent, caps an investment success few could have foreseen in late 2012, when the billionaire first poured money into Herbalife.
At the time, Mr. Icahn pushed back against a campaign by William A. Ackman, the manager of the hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management, who had prominently accused the company of being an illegal pyramid scheme on the verge of being shut down. Mr. Ackman shorted Herbalife shares, wagering that their price would fall to zero, eventually pouring $1 billion into his bet.
Herbalife denied the accusations, and Mr. Icahn became one of several hedge fund managers to bet against Mr. Ackman. Such was Mr. Icahn’s conviction that he raised his stake in the company in 2013, becoming its largest shareholder and most vocal defender.
The investment led to a memorable shouting match between Mr. Icahn and Mr. Ackman live on CNBC that devolved into a televised airing of grievances — and transfixed Wall Street traders. (The level of the debate’s eloquence may have been encapsulated by Mr. Icahn likening his rival to “a crybaby in the schoolyard.” The two later buried the hatchet.)
Mr. Ackman was forced to concede defeat in 2018, quietly closing out the last of his short position after a federal review of Herbalife led to an enforcement action that fell far short of shutting down the company.
Mr. Icahn, however, held onto his stake for years, selling his shares over time. It has proved to be profitable as well: The investor said in 2018 that he had collected a $1 billion return on his investment.
In a statement late on Sunday, Mr. Icahn said that “the time for activism has passed” at Herbalife.
Shareholders of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA, the French maker of Peugeot, Citroën and Opel cars, voted on Monday to merge as the companies try to survive a transition to electric vehicles.
The new company, called Stellantis, would be the world’s fourth-largest carmaker based on vehicle sales during the first nine months of 2020 and would employ 400,000 people.
Executives of Fiat Chrysler and PSA agreed to merge at the end of 2019 and have been working out the details and securing regulatory approval since then.
But the new company faces major challenges. Neither Fiat Chrysler nor PSA has a strong presence in China, the world’s largest car market, and they have been slow to introduce electric vehicles.
Both companies have been hard hit by the pandemic. PSA’s vehicle sales were down 30 percent in the 11 months through November, while Fiat Chrysler sold 30 percent fewer cars and trucks in the nine months through September, the most recent reporting period. The pandemic has made the rationale for the merger “even more compelling,” Mr. Elkann said.
Personal income increased
Would have been sharply negative without P.P.P.
Would have been sharply negative without P.P.P.
Note: Data from March to November 2020 compared with the same time period in 2019.·Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis
To understand why the markets were buoyant in 2020 even as 3,000 people a day are dying of coronavirus, The New York Times’s Neil Irwin and Weiyi Cai dig into the data.
Salaries and wages fell less in 2020, in the aggregate, than even a careful observer of the economy might think. Total employee compensation was down only 0.5 percent for those nine months, more akin to a mild recession than an economic catastrophe.
That might seem impossible. How can the number of jobs be down 6 percent but employee compensation be down only 0.5 percent?
It has to do with which jobs have been lost. The millions of people no longer working because of the pandemic were disproportionately in lower-paying service jobs. Higher-paying professional jobs were more likely to be unaffected, and a handful of other sectors have been booming, such as warehousing and grocery stores, leading to higher incomes for those workers.
The arithmetic is as simple as it is disorienting. If a corporate executive gets a $100,000 bonus for steering a company through a difficult year, while four $25,000-per-year restaurant workers lose their jobs entirely, the net effect on total compensation is zero — even though in human terms a great deal of pain has been incurred.
Combine soaring personal income and falling spending, and Americans in the aggregate were building savings at a startling rate. It had to go somewhere.