Jerome Powell: Wear a mask. It'll help the economy

By CNN Business

Updated 8:53 p.m. ET, December 16, 2020
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10:34 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

Tilray and Aphria merge to create world's largest cannabis company

From CNN Business' Paul R. La Monica

Is this the beginning of reefer merger madness? Canadian cannabis companies Tilray (TLRY) and Aphria (APHA) announced plans to combine Wednesday in a nearly $4 billion deal that will create the world's largest marijuana company. The two firms reported a combined $685 million in sales in the past twelve months.

The news comes as cannabis stocks have surged in the past month after several more US states voted to legalize cannabis for recreational use and investors hope for further federal decriminalization efforts now that Joe Biden has been elected as the 46th president.

Shares of Tilray soared nearly 25% on the news Wednesday and Aphria was up 3%.

Aphria chairman and CEO Irwin Simon, who will lead the combined company after the merger, said in a press release that the two firms hope to "create a leading global cannabis and consumer packaged goods company with a portfolio of medical, wellness and adult-use brands consumers love.”

The deal creates a company that could be able to compete more effectively against the likes of Canopy Growth (CGC) and Cronos Group (CRON) -- two other Canadian cannabis leaders that have the financial backing of US consumer products giants.

Corona owner Constellation Brands (STZ) has a big stake in Canopy while Marlboro parent Altria (MO) has invested in Cronos -- although both American firms have struggled with those cannabis investments so far.

10:27 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

Bitcoin finally tops $20,000

From CNN Business' Paul R. La Monica

After flirting with the $20,000 level for the past month or so, bitcoin prices finally topped the $20K mark on Wednesday. Prices rose nearly 5% to a new record high above $20,400.

Bitcoin (XBT) has been on a tear this year, nearly tripling as investors flocked to bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies during the pandemic. Bitcoin's appeal has grown as the US dollar has weakened.

With the Federal Reserve expected to leave interest rates near zero for several more years, bitcoin may continue to win new fans.

Well-known names are adding to bitcoin's mainstream appeal this year. A top executive at BlackRock (BLK) has even said the cryptocurrency can replace gold, and payments giants Square (SQ) and PayPal (PYPL) have both embraced bitcoin too.

7:21 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

Chili's owner withdraws financial guidance

From CNN Business' Jordan Valinsky

Chili's owner Brinker International (EAT) said it's withdrawing its second-quarter outlook because of the pandemic that's forcing dining rooms in some states to close or limit capacity ... again.

"While positive Chili's traffic in October generated a strong start to the quarter, the recent rise in Covid-19 cases has resulted in dining room closures and capacity limitations that will prevent us from achieving our plans for the second quarter," said Brinker CEO Wyman Roberts.

Restaurant sales were down just 1% from a year ago in the beginning of October. That slid to nearly 14% in December as Covid-19 cases climbed throughout the United States.

Brinker's shares fell 2% in premarket trading.

6:25 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

China's luxury market boomed this year, even as global sales shrank

From CNN Business' Michelle Toh

China's luxury market has proved "unstoppable" this year even as the coronavirus pandemic hammered global demand for expensive goods.

That's according to a report released Wednesday by Alibaba's (BABA) TMall shopping platform and the consultancy Bain, which said the Chinese luxury market would grow by 48% this year to about 346 billion yuan ($52.9 billion) despite the pandemic.

The growth will almost double mainland China's overall share of the global industry from 11% last year to 20% in 2020, the firms said.

Read more here.

7:22 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

US stocks signal higher opening

From CNN Business' David Goldman and Jordan Valinsky

US stock futures were slightly higher, as investors wait for more information about the economic recovery from the Federal Reserve at 2 pm ET. They’ll also get a glimpse at retail sales during the holiday shopping season.

  • Dow futures were up 82 points, or 0.3%
  • S&P 500 futures rose 0.3%
  • Nasdaq futures were 0.3% higher.

 FEAR & GREED:  69 = Greed

‘BACK TO NORMAL’ INDEX: The US Economy is 80% ‘back to normal

Stocks look to continue their year-end rally after finishing higher Tuesday. The Dow and S&P 500 ended the day just below their all-time closing highs while the Nasdaq notched a new record.

6:17 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

Exxon is in crisis. Angry shareholders are rebelling

From CNN Business' Matt Egan

For decades, ExxonMobil was an unstoppable machine and the envy of the oil industry. Now that machine has broken down -- and Exxon's critics are pouncing.

For the first time in modern history, Exxon (XOMfaces a credible challenge from frustrated investors seeking to overthrow its board of directors.

That effort, led by a new activist investor firm called Engine No. 1, calls for Exxon to rein in its massive spending ambitions, revamp executive pay and explore a push into clean energy. Engine No. 1 has received support from the Church of England and one of America's most powerful pension funds: the California State Teachers' Retirement System, or CalSTRS.

Read more here.