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The daily business briefing: January 19, 2021


President-elect Joe Biden is expected to cancel the permit for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline as soon as he takes office, several news organizations reported Monday, citing people close to the decision. The move would be one of several reversals of policies President Trump adopted to counter environmental initiatives supported by the administration of former President Barack Obama. Biden, who served as Obama’s vice president, previously said he would rejoin the landmark 2015 Paris climate change agreement on his first day in office. Aides said he also plans to approve green energy projects and restore protections for national monuments that were cut back by Trump. [The New York Times, The Washington Post]


China’s economy grew by 2.3 percent in 2020, potentially making it the only major economy to have expanded despite widespread business shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic. China’s growth reached 6.5 percent in the last three months of the year, compared to the same period in 2019. Third-quarter growth was 4.9 percent. The world’s second largest economy contracted by 6.8 percent in the first three months of 2020 as the ruling Communist Party imposed a broad shutdown to fight the spread of the coronavirus. The country bounced back to growth in the second quarter after Beijing declared victory over the pandemic in March and let most factories and other businesses reopen. [The Associated Press]


U.S. stock index futures rose early Tuesday, signaling opening gains after the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq were up by 0.7 percent, 0.8 percent, and 1 percent, respectively, several hours before the opening bell. All three of the main U.S. indexes dropped last week. The Dow fell by 0.9 percent and the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 lost 1.5 percent as earnings season got off to a weak start and President-elect Joe Biden released a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan. Earnings reports continue this week. Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, Biden’s nominee for treasury secretary, is set to appear before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday. [CNBC]


President-elect Joe Biden has chosen former Goldman Sachs executive Gary Gensler to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Rohit Chopra to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Biden transition team said Monday. Gensler served as undersecretary of the treasury for domestic finance from 1999 to 2001, and as assistant treasury secretary for financial markets from 1997 to 1999. He chaired the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission in the Obama administration. Chopra is an ally of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) who helped her launch the CFPB before she was elected to the Senate. He later served as assistant director of the agency. [NPR]


Treasury secretary nominee Janet Yellen plans to urge Congress to “act big” in the next coronavirus stimulus package to help fight the pandemic-induced recession. “Without further action, we risk a longer, more painful recession now — and long-term scarring of the economy later,” Yellen, a former Federal Reserve chair, says in testimony prepared for her confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate Finance Committee. Yellen plans to say that the trillion-dollar relief packages passed last spring, along with the $900 billion added last month, were effective in “averting a lot of suffering.” Yellen is expected to be confirmed without much trouble. She will be the first woman to serve as U.S. treasury secretary. [The Associated Press, CNBC]

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