Covid-19 Relief Bill, AstraZeneca, Alibaba, Bitcoin - 5 Things You Must Know Monday

President Trump signs a combined $2.3 trillion coronavirus relief and government funding package; China orders Ant Group to overhaul its business; bitcoin sets record above $28,000.
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Here are five things you must know for Monday, Dec. 28:

1. -- Stock Futures Rise as Trump Signs Stimulus Bill

Stock futures rose Monday after President Donald Trump signed a combined $2.3 trillion coronavirus relief and government funding package, backing down from demands for larger, $2,000 aid checks and averting a government shutdown.

Contracts linked to the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 153 points, S&P 500 futures rose 26 points and Nasdaq futures were up 107 points.

Trump had delayed signing the bill, suggesting he would block it if stimulus checks weren't raised to $2,000 from the $600 that Congress approved last week, and if spending wasn't scaled back.

But by delaying the signing, as many as 14 million Americans lost one week of expanded unemployment benefits.

The massive bill includes $900 billion in pandemic relief and $1.4 trillion in government spending to fund federal agencies through the end of the fiscal year next September

The stimulus “could be supportive of the market, supportive of the U.S. economy,” Suresh Tantia, strategist at Credit Suisse, told Bloomberg. “Next year all the building blocks are there for markets to continue this rally.”

The S&P 500 has risen nearly 15% in 2020. On Thursday, the last trading session before Christmas, the S&P 500 rose 0.36%, the Dow added 0.23% and the Nasdaq gained 0.26%.

2. -- Coronavirus - The Latest

The number of confirmed global deaths from Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, rose to almost 1.77 million, according to Johns Hopkins University. Confirmed cases of the virus across the world have risen to 80.83 million.

The U.S. death toll is 333,129, the most in the world. The number of infected people in the U.S. was 19,136,158.

There were 226,274 new coronavirus cases in the U.S. as of Sunday and 1,663 deaths, according to data from the university.

California’s hospitalizations rose to a record high after the state added 50,141 cases, one of the highest levels since a record two weeks ago, Bloomberg reported. Total fatalities in California rose to 24,220.

The Covid-19 vaccine made by AstraZeneca  (AZN) - Get Report and the University of Oxford could be approved by the United Kingdom as early as this week, Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

The approval would come about three weeks after the U.K. became the first Western country to begin immunizing its citizens with a Covid-19 vaccine, the shot made by Pfizer PFE and BioNTech BNTX.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said Sunday that researchers believe the shot from the British drugmaker will be effective against a new variant of the virus that has rapidly pushed infection rates higher in Britain.

3. -- China Orders Ant Group to Overhaul Its Business

U.S.-listed shares of Alibaba  (BABA) - Get Report declined more than 1% in premarket trading Monday after Chinese regulators ordered Ant Group to overhaul its lending and other consumer finance operations.

Alibaba owns a 33% stake in Ant Group, the world’s largest financial technology company.

The announcement from the People’s Bank of China came just days after regulators began an anti-monopoly investigation of Alibaba, the e-commerce giant. It also followed the Shanghai Stock Exchange suspension last month of the pending $37 billion listing of Ant Group, which would have been the world's biggest initial public offering.

Regulators said in a statement Sunday they have ordered Ant Group to formulate a rectification plan and implement a timetable for the overhaul of its businesses, including its credit, insurance and wealth management services.

American depositary receipts of Alibaba fell 1.24% in premarket trading to $219.25. The ADRs slumped more than 13% on Thursday following news of the anti-monopoly investigation.

4. -- Bitcoin Smashes Through $28,000

Bitcoin rose to a record above $28,000 early Sunday, and has been propelled higher in recent days as institutional investors and speculators have jumped aboard the world's largest cryptocurrency.

Bitcoin crossed $25,000 on Friday night, and then raced past $26,000 and $27,000 over the weekend, according to CoinDesk. At last check, bitcoin traded at $26,989.

Bloomberg noted that bitcoin's outsized returns over October, November and December so far is its longest such stretch since mid-2019.

Bitcoin crossed $20,000 for the first time on Dec. 16.

Many experts believe that more gains lie ahead for bitcoin - some expect it to trade above $30,000. But if investors and speculators lose faith in the digital currency, it can easily plunge as it did in February and March, and from December 2017 to December 2018.

5. -- Economic Calendar This Week

The U.S. economic calendar Monday is light but data on home sales, jobless claims and trade will be released later in the week.

Very few companies will be issuing earnings reports this week. Those that will be include SINA  (SINA) - Get Report, Weibo  (WB) - Get Report and CSP Inc.  (CSPI) - Get Report.