5 Things to Know

5 things to know before the stock market opens Wednesday


1. McConnell blocks $2,000 stimulus checks

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks at a news conference with other Senate Republicans at the U.S. Capitol on December 15, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Tom Brenner-Pool/Getty Images

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday blocked an effort by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to unanimously approve a House-passed bill to increase direct payments in the coronavirus relief package to $2,000 from $600.

The Kentucky Republican then introduced a new bill that ties the increase to the repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The bill would meet all of President Donald Trump's recent demands, which are unrelated, but would not get Democratic support and become law.

2. U.S. confirms first case of the new Covid strain discovered in U.K.

An ambulance crew waits with a patient outside the Coast Plaza Hospital emergency room during a surge of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in Los Angeles, California, December 26, 2020.
David Swanson | Reuters

The first case of a new strain of Covid-19 has been confirmed in the United States, Colorado health officials said Tuesday.

The infected individual, a man in his 20s, does not have a history of traveling and is in isolation in Elbert County, about an hour and a half south of Denver, officials said. Preliminary analysis of the mutated strain, first identified in the U.K., suggests it could be as much as 70% more transmissible.

3. Bitcoin surges past $28,000 for the first time

studioEAST | Getty Images

Bitcoin jumped to a new record high of $28,580 on Wednesday, extending a head-turning rally as 2020 winds down. The world's largest cryptocurrency has surged more than 40% in December alone and it has soared more than 290% this year, on pace for its best year since 2017.

4. Stock futures rise as Wall Street tries to build on its strong 2020 gains

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

U.S. stock futures rose on Wednesday morning as the market attempted to recover from a slight dip in the previous session and add to its already strong 2020 performance. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were up by 73 points, or 0.2%. S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures advanced by 0.4% each.

Entering the session, the Dow and S&P 500 were up 6.3% and 15.4% for the year, respectively. The Nasdaq Composite has risen more than 40% year to date.

5. Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine approved for emergency use in the U.K.

Staff at CSL are seen working in the lab on Nov. 8 in Melbourne, Australia. CSL will begin manufacturing AstraZeneca-Oxford University Covid-19 vaccine from Monday.
Darrian Traynor | Getty Images News | Getty Images

A coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca was approved on Wednesday for emergency use in the U.K. The vaccine is expected to be rolled out next week. Unlike vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna, this one does not need to be kept at ultra-low temperatures.

AstraZeneca said in a statement that it "aims to supply millions of doses in the first quarter" as part of its deal with the U.K. government to provide up to 100 million doses in total.

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