5 things to know before the stock market opens Tuesday

Here's the most important news, trends and analysis that investors need to start their trading day:

  • Dow set to rise after Covid restriction fears wiped out Monday's gains
  • Pfizer vaccine expected at more distribution sites
  • UK government says it found a new coronavirus variant
  • Biden calls for unity and healing but also slams Trump
  • Barr resigns as attorney general after clashes with president

1. Dow set to rise after fears of Covid restrictions wiped out Monday's gains

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was set to open higher by about 200 points Tuesday, one day after stocks gave up gains and closed lower. Fears of new Covid-19 mitigation measures ended up offsetting optimism around the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine rollout. Despite dropping 184 points Monday, the Dow was still less than 1.2% from its Dec. 4 record high close.

The dragging talks on new Covid economic stimulus didn't help inspire Wall Street on Monday as a group of bipartisan lawmakers split their $908 billion rescue package into two bills in hopes of getting something through the GOP-controlled Senate and Democratic-held House before the end of the year.

The Federal Reserve, which has been prodding Capitol Hill and the White House to agree on more relief, begins its final two-day policy meeting of 2020 on Tuesday. Interest rates near zero are not expected to be changed Wednesday afternoon, but expanded bond buying could be on the table. Investors will also watch Fed Chairman Jerome Powell's news conference for signals on the direction of the economy next year.

2. Pfizer vaccine expected at more distribution sites

Shipments of Pfizer's Covid vaccine are set to arrive Tuesday at 400 additional hospitals and other distribution sites across the nation. While the first U.S. health-care workers received shots on emergency use authorization Monday, it will be several months before the average person can receive the vaccine.

The FDA published its analysis of Moderna's coronavirus vaccine, saying it meets expectations for emergency use. The agency's vaccine advisory panel meets Thursday on whether to recommend clearance. Upon authorization, government officials plan to ship nearly 6 million Moderna shots in addition to the initial 2.9 million Pfizer doses already being deployed.

3. UK government says it found a new coronavirus variant

One week after the U.K. became the first nation to give Pfizer vaccine shots on emergency clearance, the government identified a new coronavirus variant that may be linked with the faster spread of cases in southern parts of that country. On Wednesday, London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire are set to enter England's toughest tier of Covid restrictions.

In New York, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday, "If we do not change the trajectory, we could very well be headed to shut down … go back to where we were, all nonessential businesses close they go to zero." Democratic New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio also warned that another full lockdown may be needed to slow hospitalizations, which nationwide keeps hitting record after record as total U.S. deaths topped 300,000 and U.S. cases exceeded 16.5 million.

4. Biden calls for unity and healing but also slams Trump

President-elect Joe Biden called for unity and healing in a deeply divided nation Monday night, hours after electors across the country certified his Electoral College victory over President Donald Trump. He also slammed Trump for unfounded claims of voter fraud, saying the Supreme Court "sent a clear signal to President Trump that they would be no part of an unprecedented assault on democracy." More Republicans recognized Biden as the next president. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Biden. "For my part, I am ready for interaction and contacts with you," Putin said in the statement Tuesday.

5. Barr resigns as attorney general after clashes with president

Attorney General William Barr will as head of the Justice Department depart before Christmas. The widely anticipated announcement came just moments after Biden's victory over Trump was formalized by the Electoral College. The shake-up, in the twilight of Trump's tenure in the White House, also followed weeks of public clashes between Barr and the president. In tweets, Trump implied he bore no ill will toward Barr despite recent criticisms. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told CNBC on Monday he's not surprised that Barr "could no longer associate himself with the process that's going on now."

— Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow all the developments on Wall Street in real time with CNBC Pro's live markets blog. Get the latest on the pandemic with our coronavirus blog.

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