Congress Passes Stimulus, COVID-19 Mutation Hits UK, Retailers Slash Prices, Bitcoin Soars

Mandatory Credit: Photo by SHAWN THEW/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (11559659e)Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks to the Senate Floor in the US Capitol in Washington, DC, USA, 16 December 2020.
SHAWN THEW/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock / SHAWN THEW/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Many years, the financial markets coast along until the new year rolls around because no one wants to do anything that might screw up year-end bonuses. But has there been anything typical about 2020? With that in mind, here’s what to look forward to this week:

1. The Stimulus Passed.

Following a contentious process that belied earlier claims of bipartisan cooperation, the U.S. Congress passed a $900 billion stimulus package on Sunday night that includes a $600 check per person and an extension of unemployment benefits.

2. Covid! Covid! Covid!

The announcement of a virulent new strain in the United Kingdom, new European travel restrictions — and ongoing fights about who will receive the vaccine and when — are likely to stomp out some of the enthusiasm that entered the market from last week’s vaccine approvals.

See: Market Rally — Good News on Stimulus Deal, 2nd Vaccine and Forecast from the FedExplore: As Vaccines and 5G Come to Pharmacies Near You, Walgreens and Verizon Are Stocks to Watch

3. Economic Data To be Released.

Monday brings the release of the Chicago Fed’s National Activity Index. Tuesday is the announcement of the third-quarter gross domestic product revision and the Consumer Confidence Index for December. Wednesday brings news about personal income, consumer spending and core inflation. Thursday and Friday are federal holidays.

4. Last-minute retail bargains.

A few years ago on Christmas Eve, I had to fill a prescription for a family member at a 24-hour Walgreens (NASDAQ: WBA), and I was shocked at how many people were there doing last-minute holiday shopping. December 25 is Christmas for most Christian denominations as well as those who celebrate the holiday in secular fashion. Nervousness about this year’s retail sales levels is leading to some deep price cuts for those who are still shopping as well as for bargain hunters who celebrate different holidays. It may lead to further weakness in retail shares.

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See: 7 Consumer Trends That Will Dominate This Year’s Christmas ShoppingExplore: These Are the 46 Stores Open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

5. Crypto Keeps It Up

Last week, bitcoin hit a new high and approached a price of $25,000, while cryptocurrency trading site Coinbase filed for an initial public offering. Will the enthusiasm keep up this week?

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