- Republicans are to meet with president Joe Biden today to vent their displeasure with the size of his $1.9 trillion stimulus bill.
- European markets are up sharply today as tensions over a shortage of vaccines eased over the weekend.
- Economic data revealed UK manufacturing almost stalled in January while EU unemployment held steady.
- In forex, the euro has slumped against both sterling and the dollar.
- In commodities, silver has soared to its highest level in eight years as Reddit-enthused traders find their next target after GameStop, AMC and other US stocks.
US markets to open higher
The S&P 500 is called to open 1.1% higher today at 3748.5 after ending last week at 3707.9.
The Dow Jones is set to open 0.8% higher at 30208.5 from 29957.0 at the end of play on Friday.
Republicans urge for smaller stimulus
Republicans are urging president Joe Biden to scale back his $1.9 trillion stimulus plan if he wants to win the party’s support.
The Democrats, now equipped with control over Congress, have vowed to push ahead with the plan with or without Republican backing but Biden is keen to strike bipartisan support if he can. The president has invited disgruntled Republicans to the White House this week but seems unlikely to cave-in to claims that the bill is too costly. They are expected to have a ‘full exchange of views’ during an initial meeting this afternoon.
‘With the virus posing a grave threat to the country, and economic conditions grim for so many, the need for action is urgent, and the scale of what must be done is large,’ said White House spokesperson Jen Psaki.
The two parties appear far apart on the next round of stimulus, with purse-string watching Republicans reportedly supporting an alternative proposal costing just $600 billion.
EU attempts to overturn tax judgement in Apple case
Antitrust officials in the EU are arguing that legal errors led to Apple being let off paying over EUR13 billion in taxes as they try to overturn a verdict made by the General Court.
The General Court ruled last year that Apple was not liable for the taxes because the EU had not proven Apple had gained an unfair advantage, despite officials claiming it paid as little as 0.005% in tax during some years.
‘The General Court’s failure to properly consider the structure and content of the decision and the explanations in the Commission’s written submissions on the functions performed by the head offices and the Irish branches is a breach of procedure,’ the European Commission said.
A hearing on the case is expected to be conducted in the coming months.
Can Microsoft’s Bing replace Google in Australia?
Australia is standing firm in its dispute with Google after prime minister Scott Morrison said Microsoft’s Bing search engine could act as a replacement if Alphabet follows through with its threat to remove Google.
The government has introduced laws that require Google and social media companies like Facebook to pay domestic media outlets for the news that appears on their sites and platforms. That has ruffled the feathers of Google, who has threatened to pull out of the country because the new laws would make its business ‘unworkable’. Google accounts for 94% of all the country’s web searches.
However, Microsoft has now held talks with the government and is reported to be ready to grow its Bing search engine under the new laws.
European markets up sharply
The Euro STOXX Index traded at 3536.5 at midday, up 1.9% from 3471.5 at the end of play last week.
France’s CAC 40 was up 2% at 5474.0 from 5368.0 at the close on Friday.
Germany’s DAX was up 1.6% at 13621.5 from 13402.0 at the last close.
Meanwhile, over the Channel, the FTSE 100 was up 2% at 6474.5 from 6348.3 at the end of last week.
In today’s Top UK Stocks to Watch, JD Sports buys US outfit DLTR, ASOS buys Topshop and other brands from Arcadia, Ferguson completes its sale of Wolseley, LandSec confirms its latest quarterly dividend, and Hargreaves Lansdown benefits from the volatility caused by the US election and Brexit.
Eurozone unemployment holds steady
The unemployment rate in the eurozone held steady at 8.3% in December, according to the latest figures out of the bloc.
There are around 13.67 million people unemployed in the 19-country bloc, only slightly higher than the 13.61…