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An Oregon winery doubled down on its brand ambassador program after it had to shut down tasting rooms, and it's keeping customers loyal through the pandemic

  • Willamette Valley Vineyards, Oregon's only publicly-traded wine company, experienced an uptick in sales and hired more people despite the pandemic shutting down a main part of its business — its tasting rooms and restaurant. 
  • Thanks to the expansion of its wine ambassador program to deliver more personalized service, the company developed a stronger connection with "wine enthusiasts" — Willamette's most active, excited consumers. 
  • When one ambassador visited a customer, "The woman opened her door and said, 'I haven't been out of the house in over two weeks because I'm high risk.' They had a 45-minute conversation outside of the house because she hadn't talked to anyone in so long," winery director Christine Clair said.  
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Things were looking pretty rosé for Willamette Valley Vineyards at the beginning of 2020. Oregon's only publicly-traded winery (Nasdaq: WVVI) had recently been named Wine Enthusiast's Innovator of the Year, along with three other companies, for its partnership in the Oregon Solidarity project, which rescued several tons of valuable wine grapes from southern Oregon that might have otherwise gone to waste due to a contract dispute. It broke ground on a luxurious new sparkling wine production facility and education center in the heart of Oregon's wine country, and was on track to have record Q1 sales. 

Then the COVID-19 crisis began. On March 17, Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued an executive order prohibiting restaurants from serving food and drinks onsite. Just like that, the company's tasting rooms and restaurant, which accounted for 40% of its sales, were shuttered.   

Although the crisis is far from over, Willamette Valley Vineyards has shown an impressive ability to sustain itself during the pandemic. Sales were actually slightly higher while the tasting room was shut than they'd been during the same period a year earlier, according to Christine Clair, winery director at Willamette. The company hasn't laid off a single person who was willing to transition to another role; in fact, it's actually hired new people, going from 229 employees on March 16 to 261 on June 30. 

Much of the vineyards' success has to do with expanding an existing ambassador program that allowed it to give individualized, personal service to customers. But CEO Jim Bernau, the Oregon native who started the winery in 1983, believes it has just as much to do with the company's long-term work to connect with enthusiastic wine consumers. That effort has built a loyalty to the brand that didn't erode — and maybe even strengthened — when times got tough. 

Ambassadors add a human touch and creativity to the business

Willamette Valley Vineyards had maintained a winery ambassador program since 1999. According to Clair, Bernau's likely successor, these employees provide a personal winery concierge service, offering timely customer service and making recommendations to consumers looking to order wine nationally and internationally. 

When the ability to do sales at the tasting room vanished, Willamette Valley Vineyards turned to its wine ambassadors. It transitioned many tasting room staffers to the program, which now has 15 people in its ranks. Thanks to their efforts, Q2 sales were also higher in 2020 than they were in 2019, according to Clair. 

One of the attributes that's helped the program succeed is collecting and mining customer data. 

"Our Winery Ambassadors get to know their customers exceptionally well," Clair said. "They know their dog's name. They know their children's birthdays. They know their anniversary. When people purchase from a winery, a lot of it is focused around celebrations." Knowing when those celebrations are about to occur allows ambassadors to do more targeted, timely outreach. 

Another is the program's emphasis on education and storytelling. In addition to deep knowledge of Willamette Valley Vineyards' products, ambassadors can discuss Oregon's terroir, soils, appellations, and history as a fine wine region. They can lead blending seminars and talk about the variety of flavors a person may experience in different clones of Pinot Noir. 

Ambassadors are given both the direction and flexibility they need to successfully utilize their specific skills. They receive training and education on the company's products and the wine industry at large as well as best practices that have worked for others in their position. 

"Every Wednesday, we have a team huddle and talk about, 'What was your biggest success for the week, and what's coming up?'" Clair said. To keep staff motivated, the company sets ambitious monthly sales goals and requires everyone to fill out a weekly activity report. 

But how ambassadors meet those goals is largely up to them. If they like to talk on the phone, they can make calls. If they prefer texting, they can contact consumers who have listed that as their preferred method of communication. Some have reached out to contacts in the corporate world and hosted wine tastings by Zoom at virtual retreats. Several have made educational and entertaining videos. (This one of a wine truck substituting for the local ice cream truck was particularly popular.) One woman grew up in Texas and has found that her understanding of the Lone Star State helps her sell more wine. 

Most importantly, ambassadors haven't lost sight of the tremendous value of human connection — especially at a time when the person-to-person interaction that used to take place in restaurants and bars can be impossible. Clair called out a staffer who recently made a contactless delivery to a customer's home. When she arrived, "The woman opened her door and said, 'I haven't been out of the house in over two weeks because I'm high risk.' They had a 45-minute conversation outside of the house because she hadn't talked to anyone in so long," Clair said.  

Shared values and ownership build loyalty 

Since founding Willamette Valley Vineyards, Bernau has targeted consumers who are not just casual wine drinkers, but what he calls "wine enthusiasts" — people who are active, excited consumers of the product the company sells. 

"Our customers are more than customers," he said. "They're brand champions and they're industry champions. They want to support their aspirational goals for our state and for our valley." 

With those people identified, he's made clear the company's values and worked hard at providing outstanding service to people who share those values. "We believe in protecting our environment and doing everything we can, when we grow and make our wines, to be careful in how we treat our neighbors, how we treat our employees, and how we treat our environment," he said. 

The company also does a lot to give back to the community. During the pandemic, it's continued to make donations to nonprofits such as Meals on Wheels, the Oregon Humane Society, the local food bank, and the Historic Carousel and Museum in nearby Albany. 

These efforts don't appeal to everyone, Bernau noted. But those who appreciate them develop greater allegiance to the company. Customers today, he said, want to buy more than things. "They buy values," he said. "They buy things that represent them and what they believe."

Bernau has built further ownership in the company by actually allowing customers to be owners. In 1989, Willamette Valley Vineyards conducted the first successful stock offering using the then-new federal Regulation A, which was designed to help small companies generate revenue from small owners. Over 5,000 people bought in, giving them both a financial and emotional stake in the company. The program has worked so well that Willamette Valley Vineyards is in the beginning stages of offering a second Series A round.  

Many customers have spent the pandemic thinking long and hard about where they spend their dollars. They've prioritized American-made products or brands to which they felt a connection, mindful that their decisions might very well mean life or death for their favorite companies. 

"Our customers aren't just ingesting wine as a beverage. They're on a mission with us," Bernau said. During this difficult time, that's made all the difference.

This article was originally published on Business Insider August 12, 2020.

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Indian economy contracts for second quarter in a row, recovery seen next year

  • India's gross domestic product in July-September quarter contracted 7.5% on year, data released by the National Statistical Office on Friday showed, compared to a decline of 23.9% in the previous three months.
  • Analysts in a Reuters poll had forecast an 8.8% contraction in the lastest period.

The Indian economy shrank for the second straight quarter through September, although it showed signs of a pick-up after the easing of pandemic restrictions that triggered a record contraction in the previous quarter.

India's gross domestic product in July-September quarter contracted 7.5% on year, data released by the National Statistical Office on Friday showed, compared to a decline of 23.9% in the previous three months.

Analysts in a Reuters poll had forecast an 8.8% contraction in the lastest period.

Annual growth of 3.4% in farm sector and 0.6% in manufacturing during September quarter raised hopes of an early recovery as the government gears up to distribute coranavirus vaccines to a country with about 1.4 billion people.

Economists have marginally raised growth forecasts this month after a pick-up in consumer demand for autos, non-durables and rail freight during the festival season.

"The possibility of a release of several highly effective vaccines soon gives us hope that there is an end date to the pandemic Rumki Majumdar, economist at Deloitte India, while expressing confidence in a quick economic rebound.

India's tally of COVID-19 infections has crossed 9.3 million to stand as the world's second highest after the United States, with 135,715 deaths in the south Asian nation.

The Reserve Bank of India, which has slashed its benchmark repo rate by a total of 115 basis points since March to cushion the shock from the crisis, is expected to keep rates on hold at its policy review meeting next week due to growing concerns about inflation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose party won elections this month in the eastern state of Bihar, expects the recent easing of farm and labor laws, along with tax incentives, to bolster manufacturing and lure more foreign investment.

But critics say the economy, which must grow at more than 8% a year to create jobs for millions of young people entering the workforce, faces a prolonged slowdown, thanks to a delay in resolving a banking crisis and inadequate stimulus measures.

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U.S. stocks will be outpaced by Europe next year, strategist says

  • Parker expects non-U.S. markets to outperform the U.S. over the next 6-9 months.
  • Spain's IBEX 35 index has soared nearly 24% since the beginning of November, while Italy's FTSE MIB has jumped 21%.

Growth and stock market gains in the U.S. will be overshadowed by most other global regions during 2021, according to Bob Parker, an investment committee member at Quilvest Wealth Management. 

"We're actually at a very interesting time in markets, whereby I think non-U.S. markets over probably the next six months to nine months will outperform the U.S.," Parker explained on CNBC's "Squawk Box Europe" Friday. 

In a research note emailed to CNBC, Parker noted that investors will start to focus on markets and sectors which will recover rapidly after the coronavirus has been curtailed, "where growth prospects are the most durable and where valuations are less stretched." 

A key theme for next year, he believes, is for European equities to outperform the U.S. with markets in the U.K., Spain and Italy to lead that charge. Spain's IBEX 35 index has soared nearly 24% since the beginning of November, while Italy's FTSE MIB has jumped 21%.  

"Positive expectations on vaccines has meant that people have gone back into what was a very unloved, under-owned market," Parker told CNBC. He also believes that euro zone and U.K. growth will either outpace or be equivalent to that in the U.S. next year, underlying those stock market gains. 

Tech trade 

Parker explained that up until this month, much of the movement in stock markets this year had been driven by U.S. equities outperforming most other markets, with the tech sector seeing the most gains. However, throughout November "tech-heavy" markets had underperformed, he added. 

Month-to-date, the tech-heavy Nasdaq has risen close to 10%, according to Refinitiv data. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average index, which is skewed toward stocks with a greater reliance on a cyclical economic recovery, has climbed around 13%. 

Announcements about effective Covid-19 vaccines from pharmaceuticals giants Pfizer and Moderna, in particular, have driven the Dow's outperformance, as a sign that economies may soon be able to re-open fully and begin to recover from the crisis. 

Parker also highlighted that the same trend had played out with China's tech-heavy CSI 300 index, which has underperformed other Asian markets in the last month. The CSI 300 has risen nearly 6% since Nov. 1, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index, which contains a bigger mix of sectors, has added 10%. 

"So I think theme one has been this very crowded trade in tech both in China and in the States, that we've seen their profit taking," Parker said.

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Daily COVID-19 Infections In US Moving Close To 200K

Daily COVID-19 infections in the United States are rapidly moving close to the 2,00,000 mark with new cases reaching the highest point since the pandemic began.

With 1,88,146 new cases reporting in the last 24 hours, the country’s total number of COVID-19 infections increased to 11717953, as per latest data from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

This is a 10 percent-plus rise from the previous day, and for the first time that COVID cases are crossing the 180000 threshold a day.

COVID casualties crossed 2000 in the same period. 2018 deaths in the last 24 hours took the total to 252555.

The U.S. outbreak has reached a point where the rate of increase now is not in thousands, but multiplying in tens of thousands since the beginning of this month.

More than 1 million COVID-19 cases were reported in the United States over the last 7 days.

As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised Americans to postpone travelling during Thanksgiving.

“The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with,” CDC said in its latest update Thursday.

“Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu,” the federal health agency said in a warning issued a week ahead of the US Holiday.

There have been reports that as cases surge, consumers are back to panic-buying toilet paper and household goods.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has advised not to use the antiviral drug remdesivir to treat patients hospitalized with the viral disease.

On Friday, WHO issued a conditional recommendation against the use of remdesivir in hospitalized patients, saying, “regardless of disease severity, there is currently no evidence that remdesivir improves survival and other outcomes in these patients”.

The situation overseas also is getting worse. A covid-19 -related death is happening in Europe every 17 seconds on average in the past week, a World Health Organization official said Thursday.

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‘Killing Spree’: DeSantis Extends Ban On Mask Enforcement Amid Florida COVID-19 Spike

Health experts and local leaders were stunned Wednesday when Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis extended his order barring towns, cities, and counties from enforcing local mask mandates even amid a disturbing spike in COVID-19 cases.

DeSantis extended an earlier order prohibiting localities from fining people who refuse to wear masks, effectively rendering mandates unenforceable.

He extended the order less than a week after a bipartisan group of mayors pleaded with him to issue a statewide mask mandate. Experts widely regard masks as a simple, effective way to stem the tide of COVID-19. DeSantis is reportedly no longer taking phone calls from mayors.

Chris King, the 2018 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, tweeted a news story of DeSantis’ latest move with a comment calling the decision a “killing spree.”

“I. Have. No. Words. Anymore,” tweeted epidemiologist Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, a senior fellow in the Federations of American Scientists. “God help Florida. God help us all.”

Florida was one of the last states to institute any restrictions to battle COVID-19. DeSantis then allowed restaurants and bars to reopen at 100% capacity beginning in September. That’s when he also barred enforcement of local mask mandates.

Despite the governor’s order, the city of Miami Beach is planning to enforce its mask mandate — as much as it can — through the busy holiday weekend, WSVN Channel 7 News reported.  It will issue citations and a $50 fine, even though it can’t legally collect the money as long as the governor’s order is in place.

Florida is close to its 1 millionth case of COVID-19 with more than 54,000 hospitalizations and more than 18,000 deaths.

DeSantis has been keeping an extremely low profile this month and wasn’t seen in public for 13 days at one point. He held his last press conference on Nov. 4 — to talk about the election.

“Our governor is nowhere to be found,” State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando told Spectrum News 13.

“He’s avoiding interaction with the public, he’s not holding press conferences, he’s not taking questions from the media, and there’s a reason,” Smith added. “He doesn’t want to be held accountable.”

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Alphabet is pulling its Verily life sciences division out of China after struggling to make inroads on a key health-mapping project, insiders say

  • Verily, the Alphabet life sciences division, is closing its Shanghai office, according to sources and confirmed by a spokesperson.
  • The move represents a retreat from China, where Verily has struggled to make inroads, insiders say.
  • Verily has been quietly building a presence in China for a couple of years in the hope of forging key partnerships for Project Baseline, its initiative to "map" human health.
  • Verily says it will centralize its Asia-Pacific hub at its Singapore office.
  • Are you a Verily or Alphabet insider? You can contact this reporter securely using the encrypted messaging app Signal (+1-628-228-1836) or encrypted email ([email protected]). Reach out using a nonwork device.
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Alphabet life sciences company Verily is shutting its Shanghai office in an exit from China, according to sources familiar with the plan. A company spokeswoman confirmed the office closure to Business Insider.

Employees in the Shanghai office were informed of the plans earlier today. A spokeswoman refused to say how many employees were affected, but said the number was fewer than 100. One source estimated there to be around 70 full-time employees in the Shanghai location.

The spokeswoman told Business Insider that Verily will centralize its Asia-Pacific presence in its Singapore office, and will help employees in Shanghai find other roles within the company.

The exact reasons for the shutdown are murky. The Google sister company has been quietly building a China presence for the last couple of years in the hope of forging key deals for Project Baseline, its study to "map" human health by recruiting volunteers for a variety of clinical trials. Verily's spokeswoman said the Shanghai office was an "early pilot," but insiders have indicated that the program was more developed than that.

Some job listings for roles in Verily's Shanghai office, which were still live at the time of publishing, reference these deals as well as plans to grow the company's China presence. "Verily Shanghai has developed local partnerships in China to continue development of the Baseline offering," reads one ad for an engineering director, which can be found on the company's website. Other ads also mention the "Baseline for China market."

But according to sources familiar with the company's strategy, Verily struggled to make the necessary inroads on these deals, which included plans for a significant joint venture between Verily and Shanghai-based medical device company WuXi falling apart, one source said.

A Verily spokeswoman refused to comment on specific deals. She said the company intends to move some of the work being done in China to its US offices. "We're working on building baseline into a global platform," she said when Business Insider asked about plans for any future work in China, but refused to elaborate beyond that.

Google has had a complicated relationship with China. It pulled its search engine out of the country in 2010, citing China's censorship practices, though it continues to maintain a limited presence for some areas of its business.

But Alphabet's other divisions operate largely independent from the Google mothership, and are helping the company find other routes into the country. Alphabet's self-driving unit Waymo also set up a subsidiary in Shanghai in 2018, Reuters reported that the time.

As for Verily, its ambitions for China first became apparent in 2017 when Singapore-based investment arm Temasek put $800 million into the life sciences company. Twenty-three percent of Temasek's portfolio was in China at the time, as Bloomberg reported, hinting at a possible move into the country for Verily.

Originally named Google Life Sciences and spun out under Alphabet in 2015, Verily Life Sciences has a range of ongoing projects in healthcare, but Baseline is its biggest and best known.

In March, Verily launched a COVID-19 triaging service and testing sites across the US, while also establishing a lab to process the results.

In August, it announced it would enter the insurance market by launching a subsidiary named the Coefficient Insurance Company.

Get the latest Google stock price here.

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'You should fly': Southwest Airlines CEO said traveling by plane is safe, despite the CDC and infectious disease experts warning against air travel

  • Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said said passengers "should fly" during the coronavirus pandemic in a recent interview with Axios. 
  • Kelly said air cabins recirculate and filter air well, but public health experts say patrons can still contract the virus in crowded airports and sitting near sick passengers.
  • About one million Americans traveled on airplanes the weekend before Thanksgiving, going against the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation to stay home.
  • "You just don't quite know who's on that plane, where they've been, and what their state is," Thomas Russo, chief of the division of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo, previously told Business Insider.
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Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said said passengers "should" fly during the coronavirus pandemic. 

"You should fly," Kelly said in an interview with Axios. "We all need to be responsible, and we all need to be smart about what kind of personal interactions we have."

Kelly said the problem with getting coronavirus is "not being on the airplane," but rather what travelers do outside the air cabin. 

About one million Americans traveled on airplanes the weekend before Thanksgiving, defying the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation to stay home. The US has hit more than 12 million total COVID-19 cases, and a record 85,700 patients were hospitalized as of Tuesday.

Read more: Leaked announcement: Southwest plans to furlough workers for the first time in its 53-year history

Recent research finds that the virus can spread through the air indoors in spaces with poorly ventilated air. The outdoors or spaces that move outdoor air inside have fewer outbreaks than places like indoor restaurants and prisons. Kelly said airplanes recirculate air every few minutes and filter it through a "hospital-grade" filtration system. 

But public health experts and scientists say there is still a big risk in air travel. One report in the journal Emerging Infectious Disease traced 16 coronavirus cases back to a single 10-hour flight, where 92% of passengers sitting near an infected passenger got sick.

Passengers do not simply drive up to the airplane before taking off — they must stand in TSA lines and airport crowds with strangers who may be carrying the virus. Travelers can minimize risk by physically distancing themselves from others, but recent photos show airports are crowded with holiday travelers. 

Read more: Airline analysts and executives predict it will take up to 5 years for the industry to recover, but airlines as big as American may not survive. Read their bleak forecasts here.

Blocking the middle seat helps create space between passengers, but Southwest Airlines will start filling all seats on December 1. The airline posted a $1.2 billion loss in the third quarter due to fewer people traveling during the pandemic, and announced the first layoff in its 53-year history would occur in January.

If patrons wear masks at all times during the flight, Kelly said travelers can further protect themselves. Masks, though highly effective, are not foolproof, which is why public health guidance has been to combine mask wearing with staying six feet apart from others. Airplanes seats are close together, which makes physical distancing difficult for travelers.

"You just don't quite know who's on that plane, where they've been, and what their state is," Thomas Russo, chief of the division of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo, told Business Insider's Alesandra Dubin. "The mask affords a certain degree of protection, but there's no question there's going to be some risk with this situation, particularly the longer the flight is and the more crowded it is." 

Do you have a personal experience with the coronavirus you’d like to share? Or a tip on how your town or community is handling the pandemic? Please email [email protected] and tell us your story.

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COVID-19: These Are the 5 Most Dangerous Counties in Your State

The acceleration in the spread of COVID-19 in the United States in the past month is nothing short of astonishing. Confirmed cases now routinely rise by over 150,000 a day, on the way to what experts think will be 250,000. Fatal cases per day have risen to 1,500, and experts fear that could double. Currently, total confirmed cases in the United States stand at 12,499,396 and fatalities at 261,387.

Some parts of the country are much worse off than others. Currently, the states in the upper Midwest are taking the brunt of the disease. This includes Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. Case counts in states where the growth has slowed also have picked up. This includes, in particular, New York, which was hit worse than any other state in terms of deaths during a horrible period from late March through April. The state still has more fatal cases than any other.

The effects of the disease on any area are measured in several ways. Among the most widely followed are cases per 100,000 people. This shows how deeply COVID-19 has spread in any given county. It also can be a sign of likely future spread because such a large portion of the population already has been affected.

Until vaccines can slow and eventually start to eliminate COVID-19, people have to be on guard for the spread of the disease in their own communities. 24/7 Wall St. has looked at each state to determine the counties where the cases per 100,000 are the highest. We also have shown a more grim figure, which is deaths per 100,000.

The ways that people can protect themselves regardless of the intensity of the spread of the disease have changed very little since the start of the pandemic. Wear masks, social distance, wash hands and when talking stay outside as much as possible. Just as important, do not gather inside in groups of more than a few people.

This list shows the five counties in each state where the cases per 100,000 are the highest. It provides a picture of which areas in a state are most dangerous in terms of the spread of the disease.

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NYC Synagogue Fined For Massive Maskless Wedding

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday that an Orthodox Brooklyn synagogue would be fined $15,000 for hosting a secret wedding packed with thousands of maskless guests, CBS New York reported. (See video of the wedding below.)

“That was amazingly irresponsible, just unacceptable,” the mayor told NY1, threatening “additional consequences.”

Footage of the Nov. 8 nuptials at Yetev Lev temple in Brooklyn, obtained by the New York Post, showed celebrants singing and dancing shoulder to shoulder in a synagogue that reportedly seats 7,000. Most appear to be without masks and ignore social distance guidelines to control the spread of COVID-19.

The Post reported the lengths the synagogue went to stage the clandestine ceremony ― in which the head rabbi’s grandson got married ― in defiance of coronavirus restrictions. The strategy included word-of-mouth correspondence to avoid detection by the city, where large gatherings are banned.

A resurgence of coronavirus has gripped New York, along with much of the country.

The Daily Beast noted that before de Blasio’s announcement, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo attempted to stop another potential superspreading event at an upstate synagogue.

New York has been at odds with segments of the Orthodox community over adherence to safety guidelines.

  • Which airlines are blocking out middle seats for holiday travel?
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  • Is it safe to see grandparents over the holidays? 
  • How can you help a friend with anxiety when you’re also struggling?

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Third promising COVID-19 vaccine spurs hopes for quick oil recovery demand

Fox Business Flash top headlines for November 23

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SINGAPORE - Oil prices held gains on Tuesday as news of a third promising vaccine candidate spurred hopes of a quick recovery in oil demand, while U.S. President-elect Joe Biden received the go-ahead to begin his presidential transition.

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Brent crude futures rose 3 cents, or 0.1%, to $46.09 a barrel by 0113 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude added 11 cents, or 0.3%, to $43.17 a barrel. Both benchmarks settled up about 2% on Monday after gaining about 5% last week.

“Oil prices are consolidating near three-month highs after a third successful coronavirus vaccine trial, better-than-expected flash PMI readings across Europe and the U.S.,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA.

OPEC WARNS NEW CORONAVIRUS WAVE WILL HIT OIL DEMAND

AstraZeneca said on Monday its COVID-19 vaccine was 70% effective in pivotal trials and could be up to 90% effective, giving the world’s fight against the global pandemic a third new weapon that can be cheaper to make, easier to distribute and faster to scale-up than rivals.

This follows positive trial results from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

Oil prices held gains on Tuesday as news of a third promising vaccine candidate spurred hopes of a quick recovery in oil demand, while U.S. President-elect Joe Biden received the go-ahead to begin his presidential transition. Photographer: Jason Alde

Uncertainties surrounding U.S. post-election disputes also started clearing after President Donald Trump on Monday allowed officials to proceed with a transition to President-elect Joe Biden, giving his rival access to briefings and funding even as he vowed to persist with efforts to fight the election results.

U.S. crude oil inventories likely edged lower last week, while distillate stockpiles were seen decreasing for a 10th straight week, a preliminary Reuters poll showed on Monday.

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The poll was conducted ahead of reports from the American Petroleum Institute on Tuesday and the Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Wednesday.

Traders also focused on a week of technical meetings by OPEC and its allies to prepare the ground for next week’s ministerial gathering, which is set to discuss extending oil output curbs into next year due to weak demand amid a second wave of COVID-19.

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