Early trading lower…Aid talks…Restaurants battle
UNDATED (AP) – Global stocks and U.S. futures are mostly lower after Wall Street hit a new high on optimism over economic stimulus and coronavirus vaccine development despite a spike in U.S. unemployment claims. Markets in Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Frankfurt declined while London opened higher. The S&P rose 0.6% overnight after the U.S. government reported the highest level of unemployment claims since September. Investors hope legislators will agree on a new economic aid package to replace unemployment benefits that are expiring.
WASHINGTON (AP) – It’s a hurry up and wait moment on Capitol Hill as congressional negotiators on a must-pass, almost $1 trillion COVID-19 economic relief package struggle through a handful of remaining snags. The holdups mean a weekend session appears virtually certain, and a top lawmaker warned that a government shutdown this weekend can’t be ruled out. All sides appear hopeful the wrangling won’t derail the legislation. The central elements of the hard-fought aid compromise appear in place: more than $300 billion in aid to businesses; a $300-per-week bonus federal jobless benefit and renewal of soon-to-expire state benefits; $600 direct payments to individuals; vaccine distribution funds; and money for renters, schools, the Postal Service and people needing food aid.
SAN DIEGO (AP) – A California judge has ruled that all restaurants in San Diego County can resume on-site dining with safety protocols, marking a setback to the governor’s stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the coronavirus. County officials had suspended enforcement of restrictions barring indoor and outdoor dining and live entertainment on Wednesday and requested the hearing to get clarification from the judge about the scope of his ruling. Some eateries will reopen only for outdoor dining while others are reluctant because an appeal may force them to close again after scrambling to buy food and schedule staff a week before Christmas.
PARIS (AP) – Facebook says individuals linked to Russia and the French military used fake accounts to wage a covert disinformation campaign in the Central African Republic ahead of elections there this month. Facebook said it took down hundreds of accounts and groups linked to France and Russia accused of “coordinated inauthentic behavior” in several countries in Africa and the Middle East. Both France and Russia have been jockeying for influence in central and western Africa. The French military said in a statement that it “firmly condemns” such disinformation efforts and is working alongside the U.N. and European partners to bring peace to the Central African Republic.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – A Google executive says a proposed Australian law to make the digital platforms pay for news is unworkable and its proposed arbitration model is biased toward media businesses. Mel Silva made her first public comments on the details of the proposed legislation since it was introduced to the Parliament last week. The law would force Google and Facebook to compensate Australian news media for the journalism that they link to. Silva said the plan would be a “unprecedented intervention that would fundamentally break how search engines work.”