By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
• Biden has named David Kessler, a former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as the new head of his vaccine program, replacing Moncef Slaoui, who headed Operation Warp Speed and will remain a consultant. Kessler headed the FDA under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. His title will be chief science officer of the administration’s COVID response.
• China’s National Health Commission said Friday that it has an active caseload of COVID-19 cases of more than 1,000 people, a day after reporting its first death from the illness since May, the New York Times reported. Officials said 144 new cases were counted on Thursday, the biggest daily number since a series of new outbreaks began at year-end. The government has ordered more than 28 million people to stay at home.
• Indonesia recorded its biggest one-day increase in COVID-19 cases on Friday with 12,818 new infections, Reuters reported. That takes the total to 882,418. The country of about 270 million also reported 238 new deaths overnight, taking the total to 25,484. It has recorded among the most coronavirus infections and fatalities in Asia.
• A coalition of tech and health players – including the Mayo Clinic, Microsoft Corp. /zigman2/quotes/207732364/composite MSFT +0.48% , Oracle Corp. /zigman2/quotes/202180826/composite ORCL +0.84% and Salesforce.com Inc. /zigman2/quotes/200515854/composite CRM -0.47% – are working to create a digital vaccination “passport,” that allows users to show on smartphones evidence of inoculation, CNBC reported. The so-called Vaccination Credential Initiative aims to develop technology that would allow users to obtain an encrypted digital copy of their immunization credentials that can be stored in a digital wallet of their choice, such as the Apple Wallet or Google Pay.
The Month Coronavirus Unraveled American Business - A WSJ Documentary
When the coronavirus tore through industry, commerce and society in March 2020, the U.S. economy came to a screeching halt. Top executives relive the tough decisions they made as they scrambled to weather the storm. Photo Illustration: Adele Morgan/The Wall Street Journal
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide climbed above 93.5 million on Friday, the Johns Hopkins data shows, and the death toll rose to 2.0 million. About 51 million people have recovered from COVID-19.
Brazil has the second highest death toll after the U.S. at 207,095 and is third by cases at 8.3 million.
India is second worldwide in cases with 10.5 million, and third in deaths at 151,918.
Mexico has the fourth highest death toll at 137,916 and 13th highest case tally at 1.6 million.
The U.K. has 3.3 million cases and 87,448 deaths, the highest in Europe and fifth highest in the world.
China, where the virus was first discovered late last year, has had 97,448 confirmed cases and 4,796 deaths, according to its official numbers.
What’s the economy saying?
Sales at U.S. retailers fell in December for the third month in a row as the record deluge of coronavirus cases opened fresh wounds in the economy, MarketWatch’s Jeffry Bartash reported.
Retail sales dropped 0.7 % last month, the government said Friday . Economists polled by Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal had forecast a 0.1% decline.
If auto dealers and gasoline stations are excluded, retail sales sank a sharper 2.1% in December. Auto and gas purchases often swing up and down and can mask underlying trends in retail sales.
“This is a weak handoff for 2021,” said senior economist Jennifer Lee of BMO Capital Markets.
“President-elect Biden’s proposed fiscal stimulus will get pushback, no question,” she added. “But the latest reports on payroll cuts, jobless claims, and now, far weaker than expected retail spending, will give the package a stronger voice.”
Separately, industrial production rose 1.6% in December, the Federal Reserve reported Friday. That’s the largest gain since July.
The gain was well above Wall Street expectations of a 0.5% increase, according to a survey by The Wall Street Journal.
For the fourth quarter, industrial production rose at an 8.4% annual rate.
The New York Fed’s Empire State business conditions index fell 1.4 points to 3.5 in January, the regional Fed bank said Friday. That is the fourth straight drop and the lowest level of activity since June. Economists had expected a reading of 7.2, according to a survey by The Wall Street Journal.
Any reading above zero indicates improving conditions.