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Stock futures rise, adding to Wednesday’s gains, as Congress confirms Biden election

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U.S. stock futures rose on Thursday as Congress confirmed the election of Joe Biden as president. Gains were muted following a sizable rally on Wednesday.

Dow Jones Industrial average futures added 94 points, or 0.3%. S&P 500 futures rose 0.4% and Nasdaq 100 futures gained 0.6%.

On Wednesday, the Dow climbed more than 400 points or 1.4% to close at a record as investors digested what a Democratic-held Congress would mean for stocks and largely looked past riots at the U.S. Capitol. The S&P 500 rose 0.57%, hitting an intraday all-time high during the session.

During Wednesday’s trading session, markets were seemingly unaffected by the chaos in Washington caused by pro-Trump rioters at the U.S. Capitol. Lawmakers had just started the procedural process of counting the Electoral College votes and formally declaring President-elect Joe Biden the winner, when protesters stormed the chamber.

Later Wednesday evening, the Capitol building was secured and Congress reconvened to continue the process to confirm Biden’s win. That affirmation came early Thursday morning with the House of Representatives and the Senate rejecting efforts to object to the acceptance of the Electoral College votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania.

“The strength of the country is our institutions and our laws,” Ed Keon of QMA told CNBC. “Seeing this is disheartening but we will prevail and I think that’s the message of the markets.”

President Donald Trump said in a statement after the Congress confirmation of Biden that “there will be an orderly transition on January 20th.”

“I think the reason the markets aren’t too flummoxed is it’s not going to change the transition of power,” Tom Lee, Fundstrat Global Advisors co-founder, said.

On Wednesday, equities rose as Georgia’s Senate runoff election results rolled in. Minutes after the closing bell, NBC projected that Democrat Jon Ossoff defeated Republican David Perdue. This comes after NBC earlier projected Democrat Raphael Warnock defeated Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler in their runoff.

Georgia’s election results create a 50-50 Senate that Democrats will control, due to the tiebreaking vote in Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. It is widely expected that a Democrat-held Senate would push for a more robust stimulus package, speculation which boosted equities on Wednesday, especially stocks hit hardest during the Covid recession.

The small cap benchmark Russell 2000 jumped nearly 4%on Wednesday to top the 2,050 level on hopes of further fiscal aid.

The 10-year Treasury yield broke above 1% for the first time since the pandemic-triggered rout in March late on Tuesday. The jump in yields triggered a rally in bank stocks on Wednesday.

Amid the chaos, cryptocurrency Bitcoin topped $36,000.

The Labor Department releases last week’s jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday. Economists polled by Dow Jones are expecting 815,000 Americans filed for unemployment last week, compared to the previous week’s 787,000 claims.

Bed Bath & Beyond, Constellation Brands, Walgreens Boots Alliance and Conagra report quarterly earnings before the bell on Thursday. Chipmaker Micron reports after the bell.

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Denmark to trial green hydrogen production using offshore wind power

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Tali Aiona | EyeEm | Getty Images

Danish energy firm Orsted is pushing ahead with plans to develop a demonstration project which will harness offshore wind energy to produce “green” hydrogen.

In an announcement Wednesday, the company said it had taken a final investment decision on the 2 megawatt (MW) H2RES scheme, which will be able to produce up to roughly 1,000 kilograms of renewable hydrogen per day.

Slated to generate its first hydrogen toward the end of this year, the project will be based at Orsted’s Avedøre Power Station, south of Copenhagen.

Orsted said H2RES would assess “how to best combine an electrolyser with the fluctuating power supply from offshore wind.” The power will come from two 3.6 MW turbines, with the hydrogen produced by the system providing fuel for road-based transport.

Hydrogen can be produced in a number of ways. One way includes using electrolysis, with an electric current splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen. If the electricity used in the process comes from a renewable source such as wind then it’s termed “green” or “renewable” hydrogen.

In a statement Anders Nordstrøm, who heads up Orsted’s hydrogen activities, described H2RES as a “small but important step towards large-scale renewable hydrogen production.”

Back in 2019, Orsted and its partners received funding for the scheme from the Danish energy agency’s Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Program. The funding amounted to 34.6 million Danish krone (approximately $5.63 million).

Orsted is one of many major firms looking to investigate the potential of green hydrogen production.

Earlier this week, a subsidiary of German industrial giant Thyssenkrupp was awarded an engineering contract to carry out the installation of an 88 MW water electrolysis plant for Hydro-Québec. The electricity for this project will come from hydropower.

And back in November, it was announced that BP would work with Orsted on the development of a large-scale renewable hydrogen project at a refinery in north-west Germany.

At the time, BP said it had signed a letter of intent with Orsted to collaborate on the initiative. According to the oil and gas giant, the scheme will involve the development of an initial 50 megawatt electrolyzer as well as “associated infrastructure” at its Lingen Refinery. The electrolyzer, BP said, was expected to generate nearly 9,000 metric tons of hydrogen per year.

Other firms to have gotten involved in projects connected to green hydrogen production over the last few years include Repsol and Siemens Energy.

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Dr. Fauci to lead U.S. delegation at WHO meetings as Biden plans to reverse Trump withdrawal

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A photo taken in the late hours of May 29, 2020 shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) at their headquarters in Geneva amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus.

Fabrice Coffirni | AFP | Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Dr. Anthony Fauci to lead a U.S. delegation at the World Health Organization’s annual meetings this week, reversing outgoing President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw from the international aid group.

The new administration plans to work with the WHO on an international Covid-19 response plan as one of Biden’s first major policy changes planned for his first day in office, the transition team announced hours before his inauguration Wednesday.

Fauci is scheduled to deliver remarks to WHO on Thursday at its annual executive board meetings, which are currently underway, according to Biden’s transition team.

“Once the United States resumes its engagement with the WHO, the Biden-Harris Administration will work with the WHO and our partners to strengthen and reform the organization, support the COVID-19 health and humanitarian response, and advance global health and health security,” the statement said.

Reengaging with WHO, which is the United Nation’s health organization, is among a litany of changes Biden plans to make to combat the Covid-19 pandemic raging throughout the country and across the world. He also plans to issue an executive order Wednesday “requiring masks and physical distancing in all federal buildings, on all federal lands, and by federal employees and contractors.”

The changes will make good on one of Biden’s key campaign promises. He pledged to rejoin the global health agency on his first day in office if he defeated Trump, whose decision to leave the WHO as America faced the worst coronavirus outbreak of any country globally drew bipartisan criticism from lawmakers.

Trump announced the country would withdrawal from the United Nations health agency in late May, but the process wasn’t expected to become final until this July. Trump repeatedly criticized the WHO for being too “China-centric” and denounced the disproportionate amount of funding the U.S. allocated to the agency in comparison to other countries.

In April, Trump said his administration would suspend funding to the WHO while it reviewed the agency’s role in “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.” The U.S. is the largest donor to the organization, providing the agency with nearly $893 million during the agency’s 2018 and 2019 budget cycle.

This is a developing story. Please check back later for updates.

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EU fines PC gaming giant Valve for antitrust practices on Steam

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In this photo illustration, the Steam application seen displayed on a iPhone.

Guillaume Payen | SOPA Images | LightRocket via Getty Images

LONDON — European antitrust regulators have fined Valve and five other PC game publishers a total of 7.8 million euros ($9.5 million) over a practice known as “geo-blocking.”

Valve is most well known as the creator of the popular PC game store Steam.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, said Wednesday that Valve and other publishers restricted sales of video games based on the geographical location of users. Such practices breach EU competition law.

The Commission said these practices were aimed at maintaining certain price differences between eastern and western European countries and blocking users from shopping around in the EU’s single market.

The publishers include Japanese gaming giants Bandai Namco and Capcom, American firm ZeniMax — which owns the well-known game studio Bethesda Softworks — French developer Focus Home and German group Koch Media.

Fines for those publishers were reduced to a total of 6 million euros due to their cooperation with EU competition officials, the EU said. However, Valve was fined over 1.6 million euros for refusing to cooperate.

“Today’s sanctions against the ‘geo-blocking’ practices of Valve and five PC video game publishers serve as a reminder that under EU competition law, companies are prohibited from contractually restricting cross-border sales,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

“Such practices deprive European consumers of the benefits of the EU Digital Single Market and of the opportunity to shop around for the most suitable offer in the EU.”

Valve was not immediately available for comment.

What did Valve do?

According to the EU, Valve allowed five prominent PC game publishers to distribute geo-blocked game codes for its distribution platform Steam.

“Users located outside a designated Member State were prevented from activating a given PC video game with Steam activation keys,” the Commission said.

Steam is a household name in PC gaming. It is the biggest online marketplace for PC games and generates the most revenues for Valve, which is also known for highly acclaimed game series like Half-Life and Portal.

Valve was founded in 1996 by former Microsoft employees Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington. The company has been privately owned since its inception.

The EU says Valve agreed bilateral deals with all the named publishers to issue Steam keys that prevented activation of certain games outside the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. These practices last between one and five years and were implemented between September 2010 and October 2015, according to the Commission.

Meanwhile, Bandai Namco, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax formed licensing and distribution agreements with clauses restricting cross-border sales of games, the EU added. The bloc said these deals tended to last longer — between three and 11 years — and occurred between March 2007 and November 2018.

The practices concerned around 100 PC games, according to the EU.

Why does it matter?

Vestager, Europe’s top competition official, has made a name for herself taking on the biggest tech titans in the United States. Wednesday’s news suggests she is now turning her attention to the massive video game sector.

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