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Good morning. ICU beds run scarce in France, EU stimulus clears a hurdle, and Germany's pipeline faces more trouble. Here's what's moving markets.

Beds Run Out

France and Italy both recorded the highest daily coronavirus death tolls since April and the Paris region is close to exhausting its ICU capacity, with 93.6% of intensive-care beds across France now occupied by Covid-19 patients. In Germany, the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care has reached a new record, though capacity remains, with just over 70% of beds occupied including non-Covid cases. Meanwhile, preparations to distribute a vaccine are ramping up worldwide, with Pfizer and BioNTech's shot requiring sophisticated deep-freeze infrastructure. U.S. top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said low-risk people in the country should get access to a vaccine by April.

Progress in Brussels

European Union negotiators reached a deal on the bloc's long-term spending plans, moving a step closer to finalizing its landmark 1.8 trillion-euro budget and stimulus accord. The EU is under pressure to wrap up the emergency package so that it will be operational next year, as the continent contends with a surge in coronavirus cases and the worst recession in its history. The recovery plan is expected to add 2% to the EU's economic output in the coming years, according to European Commission projections. The deal, which allows the commission to raise 750 billion euros in jointly backed debt, still needs final approval from EU lawmakers and governments. 

A Different Ally

Joe Biden used his first phone call with Boris Johnson as U.S. president-elect to warn the British leader not to compromise peace in Northern Ireland in his pursuit of Brexit. A British official confirmed that Biden raised the Good Friday Agreement in the context of Brexit negotiations, and that Johnson responded by promising the president-elect that Britain would uphold the peace accord. Biden spoke later to Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin, and again made a point of emphasizing his backing for peace in the region. The exchange with Johnson marks an uncomfortable start to the newest incarnation of the so-called special relationship between the U.K. and the U.S., and suggests Biden will not be an unequivocal backer of Johnson's Brexit project the way President Donald Trump has been.

Sanctions in the Pipeline

Negotiators in the U.S. Congress have reached an agreement to include additional sanctions against a gas pipeline between Russia and Germany in a must-pass defense bill, according to three people familiar with the matter. The sanctions against Gazprom's Nord Stream 2 pipeline would target insurance and certification companies that work with Russian vessels on completion of the project. They would be included as part of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, which must be passed by the end of the year. Germany, and German officials, would not be part of any sanctions, according to New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez.

Coming Up…

Euro Stoxx 50 futures are pointing modestly lower, despite gains in Asian markets amid record Singles' Day online sales. Today's earnings highlights include auto supplier Continental, expected to release new full-year guidance as it returns to quarterly profitability, as well as Dutch bank ABN Amro, utility EON and Swiss chocolatier Barry Callebaut. Italian tire maker Pirelli and shoe maker Tod's are expected after European markets close. 

What We've Been Reading

This is what's caught our eye over the past 24 hours. 

And finally, here's what Cormac Mullen is interested in this morning

Just when stocks are getting interesting again, Treasury yields are creeping up toward increasingly attractive levels. The enthusiasm that followed Pfizer's vaccine breakthrough has seen benchmark yields come within a whisker of the much-discussed 1% level. That, coupled with the climb in U.S. stocks, has pushed the earnings yield gap between equities and sovereign bonds to the lowest in about 18 months. While I'm sympathetic to the argument that dividend yields would be a better comparison -- the gap there is only at the lowest since March -- I'm also aware that the earnings measure is one closely followed by asset allocators. And the 1% level on U.S. Treasury yields is no doubt being closely watched by the Federal Reserve. So while the vaccine progress has opened up the possibility of a quicker return to normal next year, don't be surprised to see investors opt for the new normal for now and continue to bet on lower-for-longer Treasury yields.

Cormac Mullen is a cross-asset reporter and editor for Bloomberg News in Tokyo.

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