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The daily business briefing: July 27, 2020

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Trump administration officials said Sunday that Senate Republicans’ new coronavirus relief bill, due to be unveiled on Monday, will include another round of $1,200 stimulus checks. GOP leaders had aimed to release the legislation on Thursday, but negotiations were bogged down over the details, including President Trump’s now-abandoned call for a payroll tax cut. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said that in addition to the checks, the legislation would extend but reduce extra unemployment benefits. It is expected to cost $1 trillion. The Democrat-run House approved a $3 trillion proposal in May. The Democrats’ plan includes new stimulus checks, more money for testing and contract tracing, and renewal of the $600 per week in extra unemployment benefits due to expire at the end of the month. [USA Today]


Drug maker Moderna said Sunday that it had received an additional $472 million from the federal government to help it develop its coronavirus vaccine candidate. The money will support the work through a Phase 3 study due to start Monday, and other late-stage work. Moderna received $483 million in April from the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which funds disease-fighting technology, when Moderna’s experimental vaccine was in an early National Institutes of Health trial. BARDA’s total funding for the Moderna vaccine candidate, which was the first in the U.S. to start clinical trials, now has reached $955 million. BARDA also has funded Pfizer, Novavax, and other companies working on coronavirus vaccines. [Reuters]


Gold prices jumped to a record in early trading in Asia on Monday, reaching as high as $1,943.93 per ounce before falling back by about $10. The gains of about $32 per ounce came as investors backed away from risky assets due to concerns about rising coronavirus cases and U.S.-China tensions. “Those seeking both safety and a decent yield, only have one real option at the moment — with Treasury yields rooted near zero, and negative in real terms, and cash earning nothing,” said Michael Brown, senior market analyst at Caxton. “The ‘TINA’ theory — there is no alternative — is the final factor propelling the precious metal skyward.” [MarketWatch, CNBC]


U.S. stock index futures rose early Monday ahead of a week of corporate earnings and negotiations on the Senate’s coronavirus relief proposal. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were up by more than 0.3 percent several hours before the opening bell. Futures for the Nasdaq gained about 0.6 percent. The companies reporting earnings this week include McDonald’s, Pfizer, Google-parent Alphabet, Apple, and AMD. Through Friday, 81 percent of the 128 S&P 50 companies reporting quarterly earnings had beaten expectations, according to Refinitiv. Still, overall S&P 500 earnings were down by more than 40 percent compared to the same period last year. [CNBC]


China took control of the newly-closed U.S. consulate in Chengdu Monday in an escalating conflict between the world’s two largest economies. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Chengdu consulate closed at 10 a.m. Monday, and that “Chinese authorities then entered from the main entrance and took over.” Beijing ordered the facility to close in retaliation for the Trump administration’s order for China to close its Houston consulate over allegations that China was using it to steal data from Texas facilities including the Texas A&M medical system and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. China called the claim “malicious slander.” [USA Today]

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