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The World

U.S. unemployment claims rose to their highest level since September, while consumer prices moved higher in November. Meanwhile, a Fed report showed the net worth of U.S. households rose to a record in 3Q20 as stock portfolios and real estate surged, highlighting the skewed nature of an economic recovery that has disproportionately benefited wealthier Americans. At UCLA, economists issued an optimistic forecast, predicting the U.S. economy will experience “a gloomy COVID winter and an exuberant vaccine spring,” followed by a roaring ’20s. (Wall Street Journal, Wall Street Journal-2, Los Angeles Times)

  • Stimulus talks have set off lobbying frenzy as businesses angle for last-minute relief. Meanwhile, more Americans are shoplifting food as aid runs out during the pandemic. Retailers, police departments and loss prevention researchers are reporting an uptick in theft of necessities like food and hygiene products. (Finance 202, Washington Post)

An F.D.A. advisory panel green lit Pfizer’s vaccine, meaning the agency will likely OK the vaccine’s use, paving the way for health care workers to begin getting shots next week. CDC Director Redfield said “probably for the next 60-90 days,” the country is likely to see more deaths from the virus each day than from the Sept. 11 attacks or Pearl Harbor. (New York Times, The Hill)

  • In Hong Kong, airlines arriving with even a single Covid-19-positive passenger aboard now face a two-week ban if any other travelers on the flight fail to comply with pandemic control measures under tough new rules aimed at preventing imported cases. (South China Morning Post)

  • Americans’ willingness to get a Covid-19 vaccine ticked up to 63%, while Dr. Fauci told colleges to expect more-centralized Covid-19 policies under the Biden administration. (Gallup, Chronicle of Higher Ed)

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Britain to prepare for the end of the Brexit transition period without a deal as he stepped up the pressure on EU leaders before a summit last night. The prime minister said he had the cabinet’s very strong backing in rejecting the “deal on the table” and warned it was vital that “everyone gets ready” for the no-deal option. (The Times)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel presented and defended the coming year's federal budget in the Bundestag for her 16th and final time this week. Instead, she argued for the strictest measures yet to slow the spread of coronavirus. (Deutsche Welle)

The U.S. is poised to impose sanctions on Turkey over its acquisition last year of Russian S-400 air defense systems, a move likely to worsen already problematic ties between the two NATO allies. Meanwhile, Morocco, Israel are normalizing ties as U.S. recognizes Western Sahara — the prize Morocco values most. (Reuters, Jerusalem Post, Reuters-2)

On the eve of accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, the World Food Programme head notes: “2021 Is Going To Be Catastrophic.” Human rights groups detailed 'war crimes' in Nagorno-Karabakh, as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch release reports showing evidence of beheadings, torture and other abuse. (Time, The Guardian)

Americans' latest assessment of their mental health is worse than it has been at any point in the last two decades. 34% say their mental health is excellent, down from 43% in 2019. Democrats, frequent churchgoers show least mental health change. (Gallup)

President-elect Biden is naming Susan Rice as director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, giving her broad sway over his administration’s approach to immigration, health care and racial inequality and elevating the prominence of the position in the West Wing. It’s a surprising shift for Rice, a foreign policy expert who served national security adviser and U.N. ambassador. Biden is also nominating Denis McDonough, who was Obama’s White House chief of staff, as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. (Associated Press)

  • Beijing may face a more complex challenge in relations with Washington with US president-elect Joe Biden’s top trade appointment set to be an experienced hand in US-China trade disputes. In choosing Katherine Tai, a Mandarin-speaker with years of China experience, as the next top U.S. trade official, President-elect Joe Biden is sending an unmistakable message about his priorities in trade in the post-Trump era. (South China Morning Post, Nikkei Asian Review)

106 Republican House members signed an amicus brief in support of Texas' bid to overturn President-elect Joe Biden's win in the Supreme Court, while in blistering retort, 4 battleground states told Texas to butt out. (The Hill, New York Times)


Economy

Nearly 50 buyout firms and investors — including CD&R, CPP Investments, Teacher Retirement System of Texas, Harbourvest, GCM Grosvenor, and more — have signed a global initiative that aims to improve diversity and inclusion among their rank. Under the ILPA initiative, participating PE firms and investors are required to adopt a public diversity and inclusion statement or strategy, track internal statistics on hiring and promotion by gender and diversity, specify organizational goals to attain more inclusive recruitment and retention, and provide data to investors making new commitments during fundraising. The initiative also calls for providing unconscious bias training for employees, tracking gender and race statistics among portfolio companies, and assigning a senior manager to be accountable for diversity and inclusion. (Reuters, Working Capital Review)

The fastest growing brands of 2020. Top 5 are Zoom, Peacock, TikTok, Instacart, and DoorDash. Key storylines: (Morning Consult)

  • The pandemic greatly shaped consumer behavior in 2020; Zoom is the standout winner this year; Legacy brands made inroads with Gen Z; Video streaming services dominate the rankings; Food delivery apps have another banner year; Peacock finds an audience with older generations.

The traditional IPO "road show" is dead and buried: Bankers are saying that virtual meetings have enabled companies to engage in deeper and more numerous investor meetings, enhancing the process. Consensus is that post-pandemic IPO processes may again include physical stops in Boston and New York City, plus perhaps San Francisco for local companies, but that will be it. Smaller investor markets, like Philly, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Kansas City and Dallas will be done remote. (Axios)

Airbnb skyrocketed 112% in public market debut, giving it a market cap of $86.5 billion. CEO & Co-Founder Brian Chesky’s reaction is worth watching. (CNBC, Bloomberg)

Mortgage originations are on pace for their best year ever, as record-low interest rates and a strong demand for homes is boosting lenders during the pandemic. In the first nine months of the year, lenders extended $2.8 trillion of mortgages, according to industry-research firm Inside Mortgage Finance. The boom has extended into the final quarter of 2020, prompting analysts to predict origination volume will exceed the prior record of $3.7 trillion in 2003. (Wall Street Journal)

What's in Store for European Take-Privates in 2021? For GPs, teaming up with strategic buyers and tapping assets on smaller list indices could lead to an increase in public-to-private deals over the next year. (Private Equity International)

Working Capital Conversations podcast: What steps can business leaders take to integrate the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion as standard operating procedures iso order to compete and win in a next-generation workplace? Dr. Alexandria White, Director of Diversity for ReBoot Accel and as an adjunct faculty in the University of Mississippi’s School of Education, offered insights and practical guidance. (WCR, Apple Podcasts)


Technology

Disney’s flagship streaming service Disney+ continued to add new users at a fast clip to 86.8 million, a level not expected until 2024. Disney intensified focus on its direct-to consumer business; dozens of its films and shows will debut directly on its Disney+ service, de-emphasizing movie theaters. Like Netflix, Disney Plus is increasing its price by $1 — to $8 a month — starting in March. Disney also revealed a new bundle that packages Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and ad-free Hulu for $19 a month. Disney’s stock now trades at its highest point ever, having nearly doubled from a low point it reached during the early pandemic days in the spring. (Wall Street Journal, The Information, Cnet, The Verge)

Apple CEO Tim Cook said it “seems likely” that the majority of teams won’t be back before June 2021, speaking in a virtual town hall meeting with employees. Apple has historically had an office-centric culture, but Cook implied that the company’s success this year during the pandemic lockdown could enable more flexibility to work remotely in the future. (Bloomberg)

  • Mozilla is moving out of Mountain View, CA, as the maker of Firefox is paring down its real estate, even as its virtual ambitions spread. (San Francisco Chronicle)

France’s data privacy watchdog handed out its biggest ever fine of $121 million to Alphabet’s Google for breaching the country’s rules on online advertising trackers (cookies). (Reuters)

In an exclusive interview, ex-Google AI ethics co-lead Timnit Gebru said Google’s “dehumanizing” memo paints her as an angry Black woman. Gebru talked about toxic workplace culture in Big Tech, ethics washing, keeping AI research free from corporate influence, and the two things she wants young women and people of color interested in entering the field of machine learning to know. (VentureBeat)

New York City Council passed a privacy law that prohibits retailers and other businesses from using facial recognition or other biometric tracking without public notice. If signed into law, the bill would also prohibit businesses from being able to see biometric data for third parties. (VentureBeat)


Smart Links

Gary Cohn declines to return pay to Goldman, will give $10M to charity instead. (Financial Times, New York Post)

Podcast: Tim Cook on Health and Fitness. (Outside Magazine)

YouTube adds option to limit alcohol or gambling advertisements. (The Verge)

The golden age of space-sample returns. (Axios)

Survey: Americans think Big Tech isn’t so bad after all. (TechCrunch)

Universal flu vaccine shows early promise. (Science)

How Custom Fonts Became the Ultimate Corporate Flex: Why everyone from Goldman Sachs to Netflix is investing in their very own typeface. (Marker)

World’s largest iceberg nears collision with South Georgia Island; could imperil penguins. (Washington Post)