Morning Brief

What to watch today: Dow set to drop after a day of records not seen in nearly 3 years

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BY THE NUMBERS

The Dow was set to open down Monday after the 30-stock average, the broader S&P 500, the tech-heavy Nasdaq and the small-cap Russell 2000 all closed at records Friday for the first time in nearly three years. Those highs, early in the historically strong month of December, came despite Friday's record new Covid-19 cases of 227,995 and a much weaker-than-expected government report on November jobs growth. (CNBC)

However, some traders saw the 245,000 nonfarm payrolls added last month as a positive because it could pressure lawmakers to mover forward with additional fiscal stimulus to help Americans and U.S. businesses during the pandemic. For the week, the Dow was up 1%, the S&P 500 was up 1.7%, the Nasdaq was up 2.1%, and the Russell 2000 was up 2%. (CNBC)

* BlackRock takes equities to overweight for 2021, sees powerful restart to the economy (CNBC)

A proposed $900 billion coronavirus stimulus bill is expected to get backing from President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., according to Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., who's involved in bipartisan talks. The package, set for release Monday, would be attached to a larger year-end spending measure needed to avoid a federal government shutdown this coming weekend. (AP)

JPMorgan (JPM) has a set of policy recommendations for ways President-elect Biden can prevent a coming wave of economic misery and reduce inequality in a post-Covid world, CNBC has learned. The bank's analysis adds another voice to the ongoing negotiations in Washington for another stimulus relief bill after key elements of the March CARES Act lapsed. (CNBC)

IN THE NEWS TODAY

With the seven-day averages of new daily U.S. Covid-19 cases nearing 200,000 and deaths over 2,000, the CDC issued a strong call to action for people to wear masks, stay at home when possible and social distance to help slow the spread of the virus. There are also record U.S. hospitalizations, now more than 100,000 for five straight days as of Sunday. (JHU & Covid Tracking Project)

Two regions in California, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California, have triggered the state's new stay-at-home order after capacity in their intensive care units fell below 15%. The San Francisco Bay Area also went into lockdown on Sunday night, with health officials there saying they didn't want to wait for ICU capacity to get that bad. (CNBC)

* Dr. Scott Gottlieb: ‘I will not eat indoors in a restaurant’ because the Covid risk is too high (CNBC)

In a newly disclosed case among people close to the president, Rudy Giuliani tweeted Sunday night he's getting "great care" and "recovering quickly" from Covid-19. Trump tweeted Sunday afternoon that Giuliani, his personal lawyer, tested positive for coronavirus. (CNBC)

* Attorney General Barr is said to be considering whether leave before Trump's term ends (NY Times)

Biden will select Xavier Becerra, attorney general of California, to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, three sources familiar with the decision told NBC News. If confirmed Becerra, 62, would be the first Latino to lead the department.

Biden also selected a Harvard infectious disease expert, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, as CDC director. On Sunday, Dr. Deborah Birx, the Trump administration's coronavirus response coordinator, warned the winter infection surge could be the "worst event" ever in the U.S. (AP & CNBC)

Trump's coronavirus vaccine czar, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, said he'll meet with Biden this week to discuss the expected vaccine rollouts in the U.S. later this month. The FDA is set to hold hearings this week on the vaccine candidate from Pfizer and BioNTech and next week on the vaccine from Moderna. (CNBC)

The U.K. is preparing to administer Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine to the public Tuesday, making it one of the first countries in the world to roll out a coronavirus inoculation. U.K. health regulators last week cleared the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use. Health workers, care home workers and Britons over 80 years old will be among the first to receive the shots. (CNBC)

* Pfizer applies for emergency approval for Covid-19 vaccine in India (Reuters)
* Ex-U.S. cybersecurity chief says Russia, China, Iran and North Korea are trying to steal coronavirus vaccine IP (CNBC)

Airbnb plans to raise the target price range for its initial public offering to between $56 and $60 per share, underscoring demand for new U.S. stocks, Reuters reported and CNBC has confirmed. The U.S. home rental firm on Tuesday set a price range for its IPO to sell shares at $44 and $50 apiece.

* General Atlantic-backed e-commerce firm Wish looks to raise $1.1 billion in IPO (Reuters)

Goldman Sachs (GS) is weighing plans for a new Florida base to house its asset management arm, Bloomberg News reported on Sunday. Goldman executives have been scouting office locations in South Florida, speaking with local officials and exploring tax advantages, Bloomberg also said.

Universal Music announced Monday it signed a landmark deal to purchase Bob Dylan's entire songwriting catalog, including world-changing classics like "Blowin' in the Wind," "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and "Like a Rolling Stone," in what may be the biggest acquisition ever of music publishing rights of a single act. (NY Times)

STOCKS TO WATCH

Eastman Kodak (KODK): Shares surged 70% in Monday's premarket after a government watchdog agency found no wrongdoing in the company's $765 million loan deal to produce drug ingredients for the U.S. government, a transaction that was halted due to the controversy surrounding it. The deal unraveled after questions about how Kodak disclosed the loan to investors resulted in an SEC investigation. (WSJ)

Ford (F): Ford is delaying the launch of its new Bronco SUV until the summer, due to pandemic-related problems at its suppliers. The vehicle had been scheduled to debut in the spring and Ford said more than 90,000 customers have pre-ordered the new Bronco.

Alphabet (GOOGL): Alphabet's Google unit has removed several Chrome browser extensions of IAC/Interactive (IAC) for what it called "policy violations." Google told CNBC it is reviewing "enforcement options," while IAC said it had collaborated closely with Google on an extensive review and approval of its entire Chrome product line last year.

Cisco Systems (CSCO): The networking equipment maker is buying London-based cloud communications software company IMImobile for $730 million in cash, including assumed debt.

Apple (AAPL): Apple is planning a new series of Mac processors aimed out outperforming Intel's fastest chips, according to a Bloomberg report. The new chips could debut as early as 2021.

JD.com (JD): The China-based e-commerce company said it had become the first online platform to accept China's new digital yuan, a homegrown cryptocurrency.

Walmart (WMT): The retail giant is exploring a U.S. initial public offering for its India-based online retailer Flipkart that would raise about $10 billion, according to Indian financial newspaper Mint.

Tyson Foods (TSN), Pilgrim's Pride (PPC), Sanderson Farms (SAFM): Tyson, Pilgrim's Pride, Sanderson and privately held Perdue Farms were sued by restaurant chain Chick-fil-A, which accused the poultry producers of conspiring to artificially raise chicken prices. Tyson and Perdue both said the claims were without merit.

Exxon Mobil (XOM): Exxon Mobil is facing the threat of a proxy fight from activist investor Engine No. 1, a newly formed investment firm. The firm sent a letter urging Exxon to focus more on clean energy investments while cutting other costs to preserve its dividend.

Lyft (LYFT): The ride-hailing service was upgraded to "overweight" from "neutral" by Piper Sandler, citing a number of factors including valuation and cost cuts. Piper also raised its price target on the stock to $61 per share from $39 a share.

Teladoc Health (TDOC): The telemedicine company was downgraded to "equal weight" from "overweight" at Stephens. The firm notes that Teladoc will likely see a continued increase inpatient visits, but will also face increasing competition.

WATERCOOLER

The co-CEO of Europe's largest online fashion and lifestyle site has announced plans to step down next year, saying he and his wife have agreed that her professional ambitions should take priority. Rubin Ritter, who has worked as co-chief of Zalando since 2010, said Sunday at he intends to leave his role at the next annual general meeting in May 2021. (CNBC)