Two vaccines are better than one

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Today's Agenda

End of Pandemic Is Finally in Sight

Most people don't look forward to Mondays, and 2020 has felt like a dreadful one that won't end. But the most unloved day of the week just made considerable progress in improving its brand: Two Mondays in a row now have delivered the best news since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, renewing hope for the fearful and frustrated masses and revealing that there will, in fact, be an end to all this. Last week, it was that a vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE prevented more than 90% of Covid-19 cases, based on preliminary results from a 44,000-person trial. To convey just how remarkable that is, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would have settled for 50% efficacy. Then today, another drugmaker, Moderna Inc., estimated that its own vaccine has done even better: 94.5% effective. Of course, there are hurdles and notes of caution — and it's crucial that everyone continue wearing masks and social distancing as cases multiply. Still, it was a good day and investors celebrated, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising 1.6% and the S&P 500 index closing at a new record high. It's OK for you to take a moment to smile, too.

The two vaccines are especially fascinating because they both use novel messenger RNA technology, which is different from the more time-consuming method that's been traditionally employed. Max Nisen breaks it all down here, explaining that mRNA could allow scientists to more quickly adapt the shots if the virus mutates — and be better prepared to respond to future pandemics. Other companies are working on other types of inoculations, and getting the entire world vaccinated means rooting for all of them, Max writes. All those in favor of a motion to replace Wall Street's Merger Monday observance with Good Vaccine News Monday for the remainder of the year, say "aye."

Preparing for Life After Trump

In not-so-good pandemic news, President Donald Trump's refusal to concede that he lost the election is preventing President-elect Joe Biden's team from getting the access it needs to get ready to take over virus-fighting duties. And it's unjustified. Jonathan Bernstein writes that Trump can keep on filing lawsuits challenging the results without standing in the way of a transition process that should be going on behind the scenes. It's less a coherent legal or political strategy than pure pettiness — and blocking a smooth passage during a public-health crisis will be harmful to Americans.

But there's nothing to stop Biden from thinking about taxes, and for that Natasha Sarin has an idea: Empower the Internal Revenue Service to collect the tax money that wealthy Americans are supposed to be paying. Because Congress cut the IRS's budget, it's had fewer auditors capable of scrutinizing the labyrinthine finances of the ultra-rich. As a result, they get audited less, causing the IRS to miss out on lots of much-needed revenue.

Republicans have instead pressured the agency to focus on fraud among low-wage recipients of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is peanuts compared to the more than $1 trillion that could be raised if the IRS were restored, Natasha writes.

Bonus Transition Reading: Biden is turning to younger economists who will bring big policy ideas backed by big data and pragmatism. — Noah Smith

Preparing for Life After Covid

Next year may bring the return of travel — remember that word? It might feel a little early to be talking about getting on airplanes and visiting crowded tourist destinations when you're being discouraged from even having turkey dinner with Grandma. Clearly, it's too soon for cruises, as one ship's passengers sadly learned last week. So it's understandable if like the Yanny/Laurel situation, someone says "travel" and you hear "Covid." But the CEO of travel site Expedia Group Inc. is confident that there's about to be a surge in summer 2021 vacation bookings. In another long-term optimistic sign, Home Depot Inc. just made an $8.7 billion acquisition of HD Supply Holdings Inc., a company that sells maintenance products to hotels and resorts, Brooke Sutherland writes.

Further Merger Monday Reading: For PNC Financial Services Group Inc., paying almost $12 billion isn't a bad price to expand in the South. — Elisa Martinuzzi 

Further Business Optimism Reading: Chief financial officers don't like to set expectations they can't meet, which is why it's notable that so many had positive things to say this earnings season. — John Authers

Telltale Charts

An unprecedented amount of money is pouring into consumer startups fit for pandemic times, such as oat milk maker Oatly AB and fitness equipment maker Tonal Systems Inc., Sarah Halzack writes.

Yields on junk bonds are deceptively low, warns Brian Chappatta, after relatively safe borrowers such as Ford Motor Co. and Kraft Heinz Co. slid into junk territory this year and brought down the average.

Further Reading

Lucky work-from-anywhere employees will be the new target of calls for tax justice. — Lionel Laurent

Joe Biden is probably about to issue a bunch of executive orders and that's perfectly normal. — Cass R. Sunstein

Butter has been the key ingredient benefiting from America's crisis comfort baking. — Justin Fox

Putting Judy Shelton on the Federal Reserve is still a bad idea that will have ripple effects. Karl W. Smith

How to tweak the "60/40" portfolio when bond yields are so low. — Barry Ritholtz 


The upside to Americans staying home may be all the money they're saving.

Henry Kissinger warns of U.S.-China conflict becoming like World War I .

The number of women entering top U.S. business schools is slowly inching up.


The push for a four-day workweek gains traction in Europe.

Platypuses glow under black lights and no one knows why.

Lessons on loneliness after quarantining on a lobster boat. 

Amazon's Fire TV users can finally stream HBO Max. 

Note: Please send oat milk lattes and complaints to Tara Lachapelle at

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