Stocks Slide as Virus Disrupts Travel and Trade Between U.K and Europe: Live Updates

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By: Ella Koeze·Source: Refinitiv

  • European stock markets and the British pound tumbled on Monday after some trade and travel ties between Britain and the rest of the continent were cut off in an effort to contain a new fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus

  • The slide was expected to continue on Wall Street. Futures predicted the S&P 500 would fall 2 percent when trading starts.

  • Over the weekend, nearby countries shut their borders to travelers from Britain — and some cases, British freight — as London and the surrounding area were put into a lockdown after the government’s health secretary said a new strain of the coronavirus was “out of control.”

  • The Stoxx Europe 600 index fell 3.2 percent. The FTSE 250, which contains more domestic stocks in Britain than the benchmark FTSE 100, declined 3.6 percent. The CAC in France dropped 3.2 percent and the DAX in Germany was 3.5 percent weaker. Most stock indexes in Asia also ended the day lower. The Nikkei 225 in Japan fell 0.2 percent and the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong was 0.7 percent lower.

  • The British pound fell against all other major currencies. It declined 1.8 percent against the dollar, the sharpest one-day fall in nine months. The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and France were among countries to ban travelers from Britain. France also stopped freight imports from Britain, a move that will worsen border disruptions and has raised concerns about the supply of fresh food.

  • The more contagious variant of the virus is expected to mean social restrictions will last longer in Britain, possibly many months while the vaccine is being rolled out. Analysts at Berenberg, a private bank, cut their forecast for the British economy early next year, saying it was likely to grow only 3 percent in the first quarter, down from 5.5 percent.

  • At the same time, the risk of Britain ending its transition period with the European Union at the end of the year without a trade deal are rising. The two sides missed another Sunday deadline to come to an agreement, but talks are continuing on Monday.

  • In the United States, Congress reached a deal on a $900 billion stimulus package, which is expected to include $600 stimulus payments to millions of Americans and a boost to unemployment benefits.

  • Energy prices fell. Futures of West Texas Intermediate declined 3.4 percent to $47.44 a barrel.

Credit…Andy Rain/EPA, via Shutterstock

British shoppers were warned Monday of the possibility of a “serious disruption to U.K. Christmas fresh food supplies” stemming from France’s decision to suspend all trucks arriving from Britain.

Consumers were advised by trade groups not to panic shop in the days leading to Friday’s Christmas holiday.

France is trying to stop the spread of a more contagious strain of coronavirus that Britain’s health minister said had gotten “out of control” in parts of England. Over the weekend, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced tighter restrictions on people living in London and the surrounding area.

On Sunday night, France suspended the arrival of goods that are transported by truck and cross the English Channel either via ferry or through the Eurotunnel, over fears the drivers could carry the disease. The rules are to last 48 hours.

As a result, the Port of Dover, just 21 miles across the channel from France and one of Europe’s busiest ferry ports, with just two operators moving 10,000 trucks each day, was closed to outbound traffic on Monday. About 20 miles west, the transport hub at Folkestone, connected to France by the Eurotunnel, was also closed. Truck drivers bound for the continent parked along the roadways leading to Dover, in a procedure known as Operation Stack that was devised to deal with potential disruptions caused by Brexit.

Grant Shapps, Britain’s transport minister, said about 20 percent of the freight moving in and out of England was affected by the closures. The rest, considered unaccompanied goods — such as those loaded in shipping containers, carried on vessels — will continue to be admitted into France and other countries.

Still, Britain relies on imported fresh fruit and vegetables trucked in from Europe, especially in the winter. Food can still be taken by truck from France into Britain, but there are concerns truck drivers won’t go if they risk getting marooned in Britain.

The travel ban has “the potential to cause serious disruption to U.K. Christmas fresh food supplies — and exports of U.K. food and drink,” Ian Wright, the chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said in a statement.

The closure of ports is also disrupting parcel deliveries. On Monday, Deutsche Post DHL said deliveries of parcels to Britain would also be stopped as more countries impose travel bans on Britain.

On Monday morning, the French transport minister said Europe was working on a plan to allow the flow of goods to resume.

The BBC reported that Sainsbury’s, one Britain’s largest supermarkets, said food for Christmas was already in hand, but if the travel suspension lasted longer, there would be “gaps over the coming days” in items such as lettuce, salad leaves, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus fruit.

About a quarter of food consumed in Britain is imported from the European Union, Research from the London School of Economics estimated that more than half of the tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, mushrooms, peppers and lettuce Britain consumes are imported. And 75 percent to 100 percent of these were from the European Union last year.

Because Britain is set to end its transition period for leaving the European Union on Dec. 31, importers of many goods, including medicines, had already been stockpiling. London and Brussels haven’t reached a trade deal yet, and so importers have sought to get goods into the country ahead of customs checks and, potentially, new tariffs, actions that have caused delays and congestion at larger container ports.

Tesla shares had a huge rise this year, but the stock is volatile.
Credit…Aly Song/Reuters

On Monday, Tesla became the largest company ever added to the S&P 500, with a market capitalization of $650 billion. The company’s stock, up some 700 percent in 2020, started off Monday 4 percent lower in premarket trading.

Companies worth a fraction of Tesla would have been included in the index long ago, but the approach that has made it such a valuable company has brought challenges.

Despite all its technological innovations, Elon Musk’s celebrity billionaire aura and a high-risk, high-reward approach to business, Tesla for the longest time was unable to meet the most humdrum requirement of corporate America: turning a profit. Criteria for inclusion require the sum of the company’s fully audited profits in the four most recent quarters to be positive. Tesla hit that mark only this year.

With a market capitalization of $650 billion, the sudden weight Tesla will throw into the market could have strange consequences.

“This is by far the biggest index inclusion that they’ve ever attempted,” said Steve Sosnick, chief strategist at Interactive Brokers in Greenwich, Conn. “The stock will immediately be a top 10 name in the S&P, which is nuts.”

Chris Mack, a stock portfolio manager at the investment adviser Harding Loevner in Bridgewater, N.J., has plenty of good things to say about Tesla as an innovative company. But he doesn’t own the shares in his funds, which is focused on buying large cap technology companies that have a proven track record of profitability, making them suitable for long-term holdings.

But many investors won’t actually have a choice about buying Tesla’s shares.

The S&P 500 is one of the most widely followed barometers of the American stock market, serving as the benchmark against which investors measure more than $11 trillion worth of investments. Of that, more than $4.5 trillion are in index funds that mirror the stocks in the S&P.

Those funds have been buying up shares of Tesla since mid-November in preparation for Tesla’s admission to the S&P 500, which has sent its shares up more than 60 percent since the announcement that the company would be included.

Dina Srinivasan’s research into Google and Facebook is at the heart of a wave of antitrust lawsuits against Big Tech.
Credit…Gabriela Hasbun for The New York Times

A former tech industry insider is now playing a key role in the wave of antitrust lawsuits against the giant tech companies.

Dina Srinivasan, who once worked as a digital advertising executive at WPP, the world’s largest advertising agency, quit her job three years ago after becoming disillusioned by the immense power large wielded by companies like Facebook and Google, Daisuke Wakabayashi reports in The New York Times.

“It just felt like, OK, Facebook and Google were going to win and everybody else is going to lose and that’s just the way the cards were stacked,” Ms. Srinivasan said. “I don’t think this was widely understood.”

She took up the case against them instead, writing academic papers with an insider’s perspective that reframed the antitrust thinking about the companies. And her timing was perfect.

Federal regulators and state attorneys general had expressed growing unease about Big Tech’s unchecked power. But many had struggled with how to bring a case because of the complexity of the companies and the markets they competed in. Arguing that these companies were harming consumers was also difficult because many of their products are free.

“Her papers are just very clearly on point about the actual conduct of the platforms and its competitive significance,” Marshall Steinbaum, an assistant professor at the University of Utah’s economics department, wrote on Twitter. “They’re helpful to enforcers and come from a perspective of someone who obviously knows the industry and the facts.”

In recent months, mounting concerns about the outsize influence of tech’s most powerful companies have set off a cascade of antitrust lawsuits, with three cases targeting Google and two suits against Facebook.

As the legal arguments take shape, there is evidence of Ms. Srinivasan’s fingerprints.

Cyberpunk 2077, an immersive role-playing game from CD Projekt Red, was released in December after nearly a decade of hype. Here, fans gather at the Tokyo Game Show in 2019.
Credit…Franck Robichon/EPA, via Shutterstock

Since the release of the highly anticipated Cyberpunk 2077 video game on Dec. 10, thousands of gamers have created viral videos featuring a multitude of glitches and bugs — many hilarious — that mar the game and render it virtually unplayable for many users.

So many gamers demanded refunds from distributors last week that they overwhelmed Sony’s customer service representatives and even briefly took down one of its corporate sites. In response, Sony and Microsoft said they would offer full refunds to anyone who bought Cyberpunk 2077 through their online stores; Sony even removed the title, Mike Isaac and Kellen Browning report in The New York Times.

Cyberpunk’s rollout is one of the most visible disasters in the history of video games — a high-profile flameout during the holiday shopping season by a studio widely considered an industry darling. It shows the pitfalls gaming studios can face when building so-called Triple-A games, titles backed by years of development and hundreds of millions of dollars.

“There was so much there, but they just didn’t pay attention to the details,” said Billy Marte, a gamer who bought into the high expectations around Cyberpunk, which was developed by the Polish studio CD Projekt Red. “It’s evident that this game was rushed.”

CD Projekt Red’s stock has dropped 41 percent since early December. Inside the studio, there has been infighting and finger-pointing. In a contentious meeting with board members on Thursday, CD Projekt Red employees pressed executives on the game’s unrealistic deadlines and false promises.

Insiders said they saw the problems coming for months, based on CD Projekt Red’s history of game development and warning signs that Cyberpunk 2077 might not live up to its sky-high expectations.

  • European regulators gave the green light to a merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA, the maker of Peugeot, Citroën and Opel cars, paving the way for shareholders of the two companies to vote on the deal at a special meeting on Jan. 4. The European Commission said the transaction can go ahead, but with conditions. To preserve competition in the market for commercial vehicles, PSA must continue to allow Toyota to build vans and light trucks at its factories in Europe, and PSA and FCA must share specialized tools so that outside firms can do repairs.

  • The Federal Reserve said on Friday that the financial system’s biggest banks had the wherewithal to withstand a severe economic shock from the pandemic, and that they would be able to return more money to shareholders early next year as long as they showed that they were profitable. In June, the Fed put temporary caps on shareholder payouts by the nation’s biggest banks. Minutes after the regulator’s announcement on Friday, JPMorgan Chase said it would buy back $30 billion of its shares during the first three months of 2021.

  • In a novel case, federal prosecutors on Friday brought criminal charges against an executive at Zoom, the videoconferencing company, accusing him of engaging in a conspiracy to disrupt and censor video meetings commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre. He is accused of working with others to log into the video meetings under aliases using profile pictures that related to terrorism or child pornography. Afterward, Mr. Jin would report the meetings for violating terms of service, prosecutors said.

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