Is Apple jealous?
According to Reuters,
the world’s most valuable company, is planning to make a battery-powered self-driving car. That sounds a lot like what
the world’s most valuable auto maker, does.
Apple has been toying with the idea of a car since 2014—think of it as an iPhone on wheels—but a finished product hasn’t emerged. This planned version of the iCar is slated to hit the streets by 2024.
Investors might wonder why Apple wants to be a car company at all. Car companies make less money, are more cyclical, and trade at terrible valuation multiples. But that was before Tesla, which trades at more than 13 times estimated 2021 sales. Apple trades for just 6 times that number.
It might not be all about Tesla. Apple might be interested because other tech companies are starting to notice the car business, too. Google parent
has a self-driving car business, Waymo.
the Google of China, is also thought to be planning an EV. Baidu might be looking at the valuation
and other Chinese EV makers and feeling the same way Apple does about Tesla.
For Tesla, that’s one of the perils of success—it breeds competition.
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Congress Passes $900 Billion Stimulus Bill
Congress approved $900 billion in economic relief for Americans and businesses hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. The emergency measure now goes to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it into law.
- The relief package, attached to the $1.4 trillion spending bill that will fund the federal government through September, includes stimulus payments for Americans, federal unemployment benefits, relief for small businesses, among other things.
- Americans who earned $75,000 or less in 2019 will receive $600 checks. Starting Dec. 27, those receiving unemployment benefits will receive an additional $300 a week in federal benefits through March. An eviction moratorium is also extended through January 2021.
- Additional relief includes about $325 billion for small businesses, $55 billion into funding for vaccines, testing and tracing, $82 billion for schools, and $45 billion for transportation. The bill also extends a tax credit for businesses that retain employees.
- The package does not include funding for state and local governments that Democrats sought or a liability shield for businesses, a Republican priority. The measure passed by a vote of 359-53 in the House and 92-6 in the Senate.
- “We will do more, we must do more,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday, noting that the current bill “is a strong shot in the arm to help American families weather the storm.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday on the Senate floor: “The American people have waited long enough.”
What’s Next: Eligible Americans could see direct deposits by Dec. 31, and President-elect Joe Biden has promised more relief. On Twitter, he wrote: “Starting in the new year, Congress will need to immediately get to work on support for our Covid-19 plan. My message to everyone out there struggling right now: help is on the way.’’
Europe Pushes Ahead With Vaccine Rollout as New Coronavirus Variant Closes Borders
The European Union has approved a Covid-19 vaccine, moving to roll out jabs within days as Europe battles a new, more infectious strain of the virus on the continent.
The European Medicines Agency approved the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer and
setting Dec. 27 as the day to begin jabs. BioNTech, a German company, said that 12.5 million doses of the vaccine will be supplied to the bloc of 27 states by the end of the year.
- The vaccine approval comes as Europe battles a strain of coronavirus that is said to be 70% more contagious. Its role in a surge of British cases was first announced on Saturday evening and has prompted many new travel restrictions in Europe. The strain has so far been found in cases in the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, and Gibraltar.
- More than 40 countries have banned arrivals from the U.K., with the French border at Dover—a linchpin of European trade—closed until Wednesday morning, with grocers warning that food shortages could occur if the border remains closed for much longer.
- More than 1,500 trucks bound for France are stuck at Dover, as Toyota said it would close factories ahead of Christmas in the U.K. and France over expected parts shortages.
What’s Next: Clarity on new travel restrictions in Europe will come before vaccinations begin, with a decision from the EU on a coordinated response to the new strain expected later today. Sweden has banned entry from Denmark as the U.K. remains the most cut off nation, with British and French officials now negotiating how to resume trade safely after the border reopens.
Hackers Accessed Treasury Department Emails, Dozens of U.S. Companies
The hackers who infiltrated a variety of U.S. government computer systems through
software also breached at least two dozen major American technology and accounting companies, The Wall Street Journal found.
- The suspected hackers accessed the email accounts of dozens of high-ranking Treasury Department officials, Sen. Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, told the Journal.
and Belkin International are all among those compromised, as were California’s state hospital system and Kent State University.
- Overall, the hack could have hit as many as 18,000 clients of software company SolarWinds. Hackers put malicious code into a routine update pushed out by the company, giving them unauthorized access at least as far back as October 2019.
- U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr said Monday that “I think it’s the case that now we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity.” Barr’s comments are in line with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and various national security assessments, but put him out of step with President Donald Trump.
- SolarWinds was warned as early as 2017 about weak security measures, Bloomberg reported, when a former employee created a 23-page cybersecurity presentation that outlined measures he said the company needed to employ to ward off attacks.
What’s Next: The company has said it is working to understand the extent of the hack and cooperating with law enforcement. In the week since the hack was first reported, SolarWinds shares have plummeted 40%. Wall Street analysts, meanwhile, are inundating clients with recommendations for other companies set to benefit from a renewed focus on cybersecurity.
Peloton Looks to Boost U.S. Manufacturing With $420 Million Deal
is beefing up its manufacturing amid a pandemic-driven surge in demand for its at-home exercise equipment.
- Peloton has a deal to buy equipment provider Precor from Amer Sports for $420 million. The acquisition is expected to close in early 2021.
- Precor will produce its connected fitness gear in the U.S. market, helping the company speed up production. Earlier this year, the company said it expected order backlogs to continue into the foreseeable future.
- With gyms closed and Americans investing in at-home fitness, Peloton’s delivery windows swelled to as much as 11 weeks over the summer. Analysts have noted that meeting demand would be crucial to Peloton’s long-term growth prospects.
What’s Next: For now, Peloton gear buyers will have to sit tight. Peloton says its standard bike takes four to eight weeks to arrive. The wait for a Bike+—which includes a rotating screen and better sound, among other features—advertises a delivery window of 10 or more weeks.
Doctors Refine Covid-19 Treatment Protocols in U.S. Hospitals
While hospitalizations remain at record levels, a smaller fraction of seriously ill Covid-19 patients are dying. That’s due to doctors and hospital systems learning how to better treat very sick coronavirus patients by setting aside early-pandemic treatment tactics, The Wall Street Journal reported.
- In the spring, doctors would many times pre-emptively put Covid-19 patients on ventilators that require powerful sedatives. Sedatives can also help overwhelmed doctors by requiring less frequent checks on patients.
- Now, ventilators are used more sparingly, which in turn means powerful sedatives come into play less frequently. Fewer sedatives decreases the length of hospital stays and improves recovery, one study found. And if a ventilator is needed, doctors are likely to try to remove it each day to ensure it is used no longer than necessary.
- Tried and true tactics—keeping patients up and moving around as long as possible and lying chest down to improve breathing—are now widely used. “Let us go back to basics,” Dr. Eduardo Oliveira, the executive medical director for critical-care services for AdventHealth Central Florida, told the Journal.
- New treatments for Covid-19, particularly widely available corticosteroids like dexamethasone, are also making an impact. Dexamethasone helps reduce the out-of-control immune system response in severe Covid-19 cases, but appears to be counterproductive in milder infections, when the body’s disease fighting system is key to recovering from the virus.
President-elect Joe Biden received his first dose of the
vaccine Monday on live television and encouraged Americans to do so as well when it is available. “There’s nothing to worry about,” he said.
What’s Next: As promising as the progress in treating Covid-19 is, the current surge may wipe the gains away because many useful treatments are labor intensive and can’t be as effectively deployed in packed hospitals by overwhelmed health care workers.
Think you’re a master stock picker? Join this month’s Barron’s Daily virtual stock exchange challenge and show us your stuff.
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—Newsletter edited by Anita Hamilton, Stacy Ozol, Mary, Romano, Matt Bemer, Ben Levisohn