The daily business briefing: December 27, 2019

Harold Maass

1.

Amazon shares surged 4.4 percent higher on Thursday after the online retail giant announced "record-breaking" holiday sales. The company said its customers ordered "billions of items" in the Thanksgiving-to-Christmas season. Amazon said its own devices helped boost sales, with customers snapping up tens of millions of Echo Dots, Fire TV Sticks, Echo Show 5s, and other Alexa-enabled gadgets. The devices have been big sellers for several years, making Amazon the biggest provider of voice assistants. Other popular items included the LOL Surprise Glitter Globe Doll Winter Disco Series with Glitter Hair, iRobot's Roomba 675 vacuum, and the Instant Pot Duo 80 pressure cooker. [Barron's, CNN]

2.

Tesla has sealed agreements for up to $1.3 billion in loans from Chinese banks, according to a Thursday regulatory filing. The revolving loan deal is intended for use on Tesla's Shanghai electric-car factory. The lenders involved in the agreement include China Construction Bank Corp, Agricultural Bank of China, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. The Shanghai plant will be Tesla's first vehicle manufacturing facility outside the U.S. It is part of the company's effort to increase its sales in China, the world's biggest auto market, without higher import tariffs that apply to cars made in the U.S. [Reuters]

3.

U.S. stock index futures gained early Friday, continuing a year-end rally that lifted Wall Street to new records a day earlier. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq were up by about 0.3 percent in the hours before the opening bell. The tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 0.8 percent on Thursday to close above 9,000 for the first time. It got a boost from Amazon, which saw its shares jump after reporting record holiday sales. The S&P is up by 29.2 percent in 2019, putting it close to its best year since 1997. Stocks have gained since the U.S. and China announced earlier this month that they had reached a "phase one" deal toward ending their trade war. [CNBC]

4.

The Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday unveiled a sweeping proposal to regulate drones by requiring tracking technology to be installed in all but the smallest drones flying in the U.S. "Remote ID technologies will enhance safety and security by allowing the FAA, law enforcement, and federal security agencies to identify drones flying in their jurisdiction," Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said. Drone manufacturers, operators, and others had mixed reactions to the news. Brendan Schulman, vice president for policy and legal affairs at DJI, said the Chinese company and others were already trying to create a "license plate system" to identify drones, so the proposed system could work. Paul Aitken, a founder of drone-pilot training company DroneU, said the cost of implementing the system could be a problem. [The New York Times]

5.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker brought in $32 million in U.S. ticket sales on Christmas Day, the second biggest gross ever for the holiday. Only Star Wars: The Force Awakens did better on Christmas, with $49.3 million in 2015. The Last Jedi made $27.4 million on the holiday in 2017, trailed by Rogue One with $25.8 million in 2016. The strong performance lifted The Rise of Skywalker's global total to $516 million over eight days in theaters, keeping it on track to be Disney's seventh movie of the year to make $1 billion. The Rise of Skywalker has attracted audiences despite bad reviews from critics, who gave it a 55 percent "Rotten" score on Rotten Tomatoes. [CNBC]

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