Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Proposal Is Already Facing Republican Opposition

Plus, Walmart is preparing to offer COVID-19 vaccinations in seven more states, IBM shares are down after the company reported mixed results, and Apple is reportedly planning a new MacBook Air laptop.

Stocks were lower to start Friday with the Dow falling 200 points, or 0.6%. The S&P 500 slid 0.3%, while the Nasdaq traded just below the flatline.

President Joe Biden is set to sign two executive orders today that are designed to reduce hunger and bolster workers’ rights amid the coronavirus pandemic. The orders will set out multiple tools to offer during the pandemic as Biden tries to push his $1.9 trillion proposal through Congress. But that stimulus package is already facing challenges in Congress after moderate Republicans said this week that they see no reason to rush on another big spending bill after last month’s $900 billion effort. However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may try to avoid confrontation with Republicans on the proposal, telling donors on a call yesterday that she wants to pass Biden’s COVID-19 relief legislation via the budget reconciliation process in two weeks, which would eliminate the need for Republican support in the Senate by lowering the threshold for passage to a simple majority.

On the COVID-19 front, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said that new data shows that the vaccines for the coronavirus currently on the market may not be as effective in guarding against new, more contagious strains of the deadly virus. Fauci said that a dip in the vaccines’ effectiveness is “all the more reason why we should be vaccinating as many people as you possibly can,” and added, “Bottom line: we’re paying very close attention to [the variant strains]. There are alternative plans if we ever have to modify the vaccine. That’s not something that is a very onerous thing, we can do that given the platforms we have.”

Walmart shares are up 1% today as the company prepares to offer COVID-19 vaccinations in seven more states, as well as in Chicago and Puerto Rico, this week and next. The move comes as President Joe Biden races to accelerate a frustratingly slow vaccination campaign that has stranded around half of 38 million shots in freezers. The shots will be available to specific populations decided on by each state and only at a handful of Walmart stores in each state. “We’re supporting states at select stores and clubs as states roll out the vaccine to specific population groups as determined by the state this week and next, including Chicago, New Jersey, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, South Carolina and Texas, as well as Puerto Rico,” Walmart said in a statement. “We have been administering vaccines in select stores and clubs at the request of the states in New Mexico and Arkansas. For more information on eligibility and locations, people should check and the state health department.”

IBM shares are down more than 10% this morning after posting mixed results for the fourth quarter. For the quarter, IBM reported revenue of $20.4 billion, down 6% on an annualized basis and below consensus estimates for $20.6 billion, while the company posted non-GAAP profits of $2.07 per share, beating analysts’ expectations for $1.79 per share. “The challenging environment we have seen since March continued with the shift in clients buying behaviors and priorities,” Jim Kavanaugh, IBM’s CFO, said on a call with analysts. “Giving the level of macroeconomic uncertainty, more clients tended to move toward shorter duration engagements impacting our software revenue.”

And Apple is reportedly planning to release a new, thinner and lighter MacBook Air laptop that will launch in the second half of this year or early next year. The new laptops will include Apple’s MagSafe charging technology, and the higher-end version of the current MacBook Air will also include the company’s new M1 processor chips. Apple’s revamped MacBook Air is expected along with two new MacBook Pro laptops that analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of TFI said earlier this month were coming this year. Bloomberg said Apple is also planning an iMac with Face ID that unlocks when you look at it, a smaller version of the Mac Pro computer, and a new Mac Pro with an Intel processor. 

Stocks We’re Watching

Fastly Inc (NYSE: FSLY): Fastly shares are up nearly 15% this past week after the company announced that it has joined Pledge 1%, a corporate philanthropy movement dedicated to making the community a key stakeholder in every business. “In 2021, we’re working to make sure our corporate giving program is as impactful as possible,” said Doniel Sutton, Chief People Officer of Fastly. “We believe that volunteering is one of the best ways to deliver real impact to communities. There is a powerful multiplier effect that takes place when people are united in service to something greater than themselves, and that’s what this week will ignite. Plus, we know that volunteering will have a positive impact on our Fastly community as well. Although virtual, the social contact aspect of helping and working with others can have a profound effect on our team’s well-being, and relieve stress through meaningful connection with other people. Feeling intentionally engaged in social good is proven to have an appreciable positive impact on employees. This year will build the foundation for us to explore more sustainable employee volunteer programs and activities. Through the ongoing efforts of volunteers, remarkable change can occur.”