CNBC/Noah Higgins-Dunn and Will Feuer
U.S. likely to fall short of goal to vaccinate 20 million people against Covid before end of year

With only a few days to go, the United States will likely fall short of its goal to vaccinate 20 million Americans by the year’s end as the nation embarks on what will be a historic campaign to inoculate hundreds of millions of people against the coronavirus by the middle of next year.

Two Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have now been given emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, paving the way for the first handful of front-line health-care workers and vulnerable long-term care residents to be inoculated against the virus.

The Trump administration’s vaccine program, Operation Warp Speed, planned to provide 40 million doses of vaccines between the two companies by the end of the year, which would’ve been enough for roughly 20 million people since each drug requires two shots at differing intervals.

As of the latest figures released Monday, however, it seemed far short of that goal: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said just more than 11.4 million doses had been distributed since Dec. 13 but only about 2.1 million had been administered. The CDC noted a number of reasons for the considerable difference between the number of distributed doses that have yet to be administered.

Part of the problem is a lag in data reporting, the agency said, while other issues lie with how jurisdictions are managing their allocations. The launch of the federal government’s partnership with major pharmacy chains like CVS and Walgreens, which will be tasked with vaccinating long-term care residents, is still pending, the CDC said.

But even if there’s undercounting, the United States is still “below where we want to be,” White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN’s “New Day” on Tuesday.

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Fox Business/Jonathan Garber
Republicans fear Biden will demolish Trump’s economic wins

Republicans worry a Biden administration will muck up the economic strides made during President Trump’s four years in office.

The index of consumer sentiment fell to 78.2 in December for Republicans, the lowest reading since October 2016, the month before Trump’s election victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The reading hit a high of 127.2 in February 2020 – just before COVID-19 lockdowns sent the U.S. economy spiraling into its sharpest slowdown of the post-World War II era.

Sentiment measures are becoming “more linked to politics” than what is actually happening in the economy, said Gbenga Ajilore, senior economist at the Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning public policy research and advocacy organization.

Biden, set to take office on Jan. 20, has pledged to at least partially reverse the benefits of Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and tighten regulations.

“Almost everything Biden wants to do on the economy is negative,” Stephen Moore, economic adviser to Trump, told FOX Business. “It’s hard to point to anything that’s really constructive or pro-business.”

Trump, whose legal challenges to the Nov. 3 election results have so far failed to extend his presidency, lowered the top corporate tax rate to 21% from 35% and reduced personal income taxes for many Americans. He also favored a climate with fewer regulatory restrictions.

While those policies were favored by Republicans, they weren’t necessarily liked by Democrats, who saw their economic sentiment reading jump to 85, up from 73.6, in the month following the election. The December level was the highest since the 102.1 recorded just ahead of the 2016 election.

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Reuters/Nakul Iyer
Gold rises as dollar weakens despite delayed U.S. stimulus vote

Gold prices gained on Wednesday as the dollar weakened, with investors looking past a top U.S. Republican leader’s decision to postpone a Senate vote on increased pandemic relief payments.

Spot gold rose 0.2% to $1,881.17 per ounce by 0728 GMT. U.S. gold futures were up 0.2% at $1,886.00.

A weaker dollar is enough to create a small upward momentum for confidence to be maintained in gold,” said Michael Langford, director at corporate advisory AirGuide.

The dollar index hit a more than two-year low, as traders shrugged off Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to put off a vote on increasing COVID-19 relief checks to $2,000.

Langford said $2,000 stimulus checks would most likely go through and that would be a positive for gold, adding that the metal needed an unexpected catalyst to see significant upside.

Gold is seen as a hedge against inflation and currency debasement likely to result from large stimulus measures.

“Gold could reclaim the $2,000 handle in 2021, depending on the U.S. inflation outlook. Further rounds of fiscal stimulus under the (Joe) Biden administration should translate into more upside,” said FXTM market analyst Han Tan.

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