Yahoo Finance/Emily McCormick
December jobs report preview: Labor market likely ‘crawled over the finish line’ in 2020

Job growth in the U.S. likely slowed sharply at the end of the year as the unemployment rate ticked up, as the pandemic that rocked the economy over the past year dealt yet another blow to the labor market.

Consensus economists expect to see a further deceleration in payrolls growth in December and a tick higher in the jobless rate, with employment trends weakening as new virus-related restrictions dampened employment and businesses awaited support from Congress’s latest stimulus package.

As has been the case over the course of the pandemic, individual estimates for the report spanned a wide range, and a number of economists expected to see payrolls growth turn negative for the first time since April. Such a result would further widen the employment deficit in the labor market from before the pre-pandemic, with the economy still more than 9.8 million payrolls short of its February levels as of November.

The survey week for the December jobs report took place over the 12th of the month, during a record surge in national coronavirus cases and before lawmakers approved the $900 billion virus-relief package, which extended federal unemployment programs and offered augmented jobless benefits and small-business aid. That week, initial jobless claims surged to a three-month high of nearly 900,000, suggesting a jump in layoffs in the final month of the year.

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CNBC/Noah Higgins-Dunn
New York Gov. Cuomo warns Covid variant discovered in UK could strain hospitals, force shutdown

A new and more contagious strain of the coronavirus that was first discovered in the United Kingdom could force New York into another economic shutdown if it spreads unchecked and weakens the state’s hospitals, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday.

So far, New York has reported only one Covid-19 case with the new variant, known as B.1.1.7, but there’s likely more cases that just haven’t been detected, Cuomo said. While the variant is thought to be more transmissible than previous versions of the virus, it doesn’t appear to make patients more sick or increase their risk of death, health officials have said.

But a more transmissible strain is still worrisome because it will infect more people, Cuomo said during a call with reporters. That will drive more hospitalizations at a time when every New York facility is facing a shortage of health-care workers, especially nurses, the Democratic governor said.

Protecting New York’s health-care systems has been a priority for the governor, who warned that another economic shutdown could be on the horizon if the state’s hospitalization rate worsens. There are currently more than 8,600 people hospitalized with Covid-19 in New York, the most since early May of last year, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project, which is run by journalists at The Atlantic.

“In the U.K., it overtook everything in three weeks,” Cuomo said. “If the U.K. spread catches on in New York, hospitalization rate goes up, the hospital staff is sick, then we have a real problem and we’re at shut down again.”

Three states — Texas, Connecticut and Pennsylvania — all announced earlier Thursday that they identified their first Covid-19 cases with the B.1.1.7 variant, joining New York, California, Florida, Georgia and Colorado in confirming the arrival of the new strain.

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Kitco/Anna Golubova
$2,000 gold to keep metals ‘atop the leader board’ in 2021, says Bloomberg Intelligence

Gold will be the asset to beat in 2021, according to Bloomberg Intelligence, which sees the precious metal outperforming U.S. stocks.

“Gold may gain increasing reference as the performance benchmark to beat,” said Bloomberg Intelligence senior commodity strategist Mike McGlone.

Gold’s price advance of 2020 appears to be sustainable, McGlone said on Tuesday, noting that the current resistance of $2,000 an ounce will become the metal’s support.

“In an investment landscape increasingly dominated by how low — or negative — central banks will set base rates, along with rising debt-to-GDP and QE, we see the foundation solidifying under the price of gold. Resistance at about $2,000 an ounce in 2020 is set to transition to support in 2021,” McGlone wrote.

With all the main drivers still supportive of higher gold prices, the precious metal is bound to continue beating U.S. stocks.

“The unlikeliness of reversing the unprecedented global fiscal and monetary stimulus that helped boost gold and copper about 25% in 2020 — vs. less than 20% for the S&P 500 — should keep the metals atop the leader board,” McGlone pointed out.

For 2020 data, the strategist cited the Bloomberg All Metals Total Return Index, which gained almost 21%, beating the record-setting S&P 500 by about 3%.

“Our bias is that the greater potential for quantitative easing (QE) and debt-to-GDP levels to keep rising should keep metals prices — notably gold and silver — going up,” McGlone said.

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