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Happy Holidays from the Planning Group! Thumbnail

Happy Holidays from the Planning Group!

During this holiday season we wanted to help those that have been directly impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic.  Our team came together to donate new coats and warm wool socks to the Brother Frances Shelter.  These articles of clothing will go to help keep the homeless population around Anchorage a bit warmer during this season.
Brother Francis Shelter, a program of Catholic Social Services, is an emergency shelter for men and women in Anchorage without a home. They serve the homeless with dignity, care, compassion and with an emphasis on moving guests toward self-sufficiency. Click here for more information on Brother Francis Shelter.

Market Highlights

  • Stimulus Passed: Sunday night, after a standoff with Congress, President Trump signed into law a year-end spending bill containing approximately $900 billion in coronavirus relief measures. This averts a government shutdown that would have begun on Tuesday. The shift came after an intensive lobbying effort by multiple GOP leaders. In a statement following the bill's signing, Trump said he would be sending a "redlined" version of the bill to Congress with his proposed cuts, and that he expects Congress to vote on boosting stimulus payments to $2,000 (which House has already voted on).
  • Holiday Sales Muted: Mastercard data showed a 3% year over year increase in US holiday sales for an extended Oct 11 - Dec 24 season (with sales up 2.4% for the traditional Nov 1 - Dec 24 period). The release noted record e-commerce growth and pandemic-consistent trends of higher spending on home and less on apparel. The season produced notable winners and losers, as large retailers with agile e-commerce operations fared well while many smaller shops struggled.
  • Good Vaccine News:  The AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be rolled out starting January 4th, while the UK Vaccines Minister said approval will likely be granted Monday after regulators were presented full trial data. AstraZeneca's vaccine was found to be 90% effective when administered as a half dose followed by a full dose at least one month apart. However, efficacy fell to 62% when administered as two full doses. The AstraZeneca CEO said the company has figured out the "winning formula to get efficacy that…is up there with everybody else."
  • Brexit Deal: The member states of the European Union unanimously backed the post-Brexit trade and security deal that will go into effect January 1, 2021. The final obstacle to the deal is a UK parliament vote expected to take place on Wednesday. The deal contains new rules for how the UK and EU will live, work and trade together. The most notable parts of the agreement are that there will be no taxes on each other's goods when they cross borders (i.e. tariffs) and there will be no limits on the amount of items that can ben traded (i.e. quotas).

Good News

  • Just a few doses of an experimental drug that reboots protein production in cells can reverse age-related declines in memory and mental flexibility in mice, according to a new study by UC San Francisco scientists. The drug, called ISRIB, has already been shown in laboratory studies to restore memory function months after traumatic brain injury (TBI), reverse cognitive impairments in Down Syndrome, prevent noise-related hearing loss, fight certain types of prostate cancer, and even enhance cognition in healthy animals. In the new study, published Dec. 1 in the open-access journal eLife, researchers showed rapid restoration of youthful cognitive abilities in aged mice, accompanied by a rejuvenation of brain and immune cells that could help explain improvements in brain function—and with no side effects observed.
  • MacKenzie Scott, who was married to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for 25 years, has donated more than $4 billion in the past four months to hundreds of organizations and charities—in particular to food banks and emergency relief funds across the USA. She used a “data-driven approach” to identify organizations with strong leadership teams and paid “special attention to those operating in communities facing high projected food insecurity, high measures of racial inequity, high local poverty rates, and low access to philanthropic capital.” Recipients of Scott’s funding include the YMCA, Meals on Wheels, the Global Fund for Women, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs, many dozens of food banks, Goodwill, and various centers of education such as Blackfoot Community College. According to Scott, these organizations help deliver vital services, “and also through the profound encouragement felt each time a person is seen, valued, and trusted by another human being.” Scott also noted that she had made “unsolicited and unexpected gifts given with full trust and no strings attached.” Such strings are a mainstay of modern philanthropy: onerous grant proposals and nerve-racking site visits, followed by reports on the variety of performance benchmarks that charities are required to meet to keep the money flowing. “Not only are nonprofits chronically underfunded, they are also chronically diverted from their work by fund-raising and by burdensome reporting requirements that donors often place on them,” Ms. Scott wrote.
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