Here are the most important news, trends and analysis that investors need to start their trading day:
- Wall Street set to pick up where 2020 left off
- Georgia runoffs to determine Senate balance of power
- Trump pressures Georgia top election official to 'find' votes
- Covid numbers remain high as vaccines roll out
- Tesla delivers nearly 500,000 vehicles in 2020
1. Wall Street set to pick up where 2020 left off
U.S. stock futures rose Monday after the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 closed at record highs and the Nasdaq just missed a record close Thursday, the last day of a tumultuous 2020. Wall Street started out strong last year but began to tank in February and bottomed in March as the coronavirus began to take hold in the U.S. Extraordinary Federal Reserve monetary stimulus and congressional Covid-19 fiscal economic relief set the floor for stocks to stage a remarkable recovery. The Dow finished 2020 higher by more than 7.25%, while the S&P 500 surged over 16%. The Nasdaq was the big stock index winner last year, with a gain of more than 43%, as tech stocks benefited from the stay-at-home economy created by coronavirus mitigation restrictions.
Bitcoin, the best performing asset class last year, surged 305% in 2020. While down about 10% early Monday, bitcoin popped above $34,000 for the first time ever a day earlier. The world's biggest cryptocurrency briefly dipped below $30,000 on Monday, just two days after breaching that level for the first time.
2. Georgia runoffs to determine Senate balance of power
Two runoff elections Tuesday in Georgia will determine whether Republicans retain control of the Senate. The races are between Republican Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff, as well as Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock. If Perdue and Loeffler win, the GOP would hold a 52 seat Senate majority that would allow them to block some of President-elect Joe Biden's agenda. Biden and President Donald Trump will be campaigning in Georgia on Monday on behalf of their parties' candidates. More than 3 million Georgians already cast ballots in early voting.
3. Trump pressures Georgia top election official to 'find' votes
Trump, in an extraordinary phone call Saturday, pressured Georgia's GOP secretary of state to overturn Biden's victory in the Peach State, according to audio obtained by NBC News. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger resisted pressure from the president, who made veiled threats and asked Raffensperger "to find 11,780 votes" to change the result in Georgia. The contents of the phone call were first reported by The Washington Post.
On Wednesday, a group of Republican senators led by Texas' Ted Cruz will push to delay the certification of Biden's victory during a joint session of Congress. The effort, the latest among dozens of Republican attempts to overturn Trump's loss, is unlikely to alter the Electoral College tally, which Biden won 306-232. Vice President Mike Pence, who will preside over Wednesday's joint session of Congress, said he supports the Cruz-led move. Last month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., urged his party not to object to the Electoral College results.
4. Covid numbers remain high as vaccines roll out
Total U.S. coronavirus cases as of Monday morning exceeded 20.6 million with at least 351,580 deaths. December was the deadliest month of the pandemic, with over 22% of all U.S. Covid fatalities occurring last month alone. The seven-day daily new U.S. case and death averages, while off their worst ever numbers, were still running at extremely elevated levels. Current hospitalizations, 125,544 as of Sunday, hit another record high.
The U.K. on Monday started rolling out the two-dose coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford. Unlike ones from Moderna and the Pfizer and BioNTech alliance, AstraZeneca's vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions for at least six months. The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine has not been approved in the U.S.
The head of the U.S. government's Covid vaccine program said Sunday that health officials are exploring the idea of giving a major group of Americans half volume doses of Moderna's vaccine to speed up immunizations. Health officials were aiming for 20 million vaccinations by the end of 2020. However, only about 4.2 million shots of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines were administered as of Jan. 2, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
5. Tesla delivered nearly 500,000 vehicles in 2020
Shares of Tesla, which surged more than 740% over the past 12 months, were up about 2% in Monday's premarket, indicating an open above their all-time high of $718.72 per share on New Year's Eve. Tesla said Saturday it delivered 180,570 electric vehicles in the fourth quarter, beating its previous record and expectations. For all of 2020, Tesla delivered 499,550 vehicles, slightly missing its most recent guidance of 500,000 vehicles. CEO Elon Musk has said he wants to increase sales volume to 20 million annually over the next decade, with plans for an electric vehicle that costs $25,000, a Cybertruck, a Semi and a revamped Roadster in the works. Looking ahead to 2021, Tesla is building factories in Austin, Texas, and Brandenburg, Germany.