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Quest Means Business
Wall Street and Main Street on Different Levels During the Pandemic; New Year`s Eve is Drastically Different This Year; La Guardia Airport Takes on a Much Need Renovation. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired December 31, 2020 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ZAIN ASHER, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: It is the final day of trading of 2020 and the Dow is staging a late session rally (ph). Let`s take a look and see
what the big board is doing. We`ve seen the market seesawing all day. It`s now firmly in the green there up by 85 points.
Those are the markets and this is the day so far. Wall Street closes out a roller coaster year of record highs, even as the U.S. label market recovery
remains stalled. And three hours and counting, the U.K. is set to leave the European Union after four and a half tumultuous years.
And long detested by travelers, La Guardia bets that an $8.5 billion renovation can repair its reputation as the worst airport in America.
Coming to you live from New York, it is New Year`s Eve, Thursday, December 31. I`m Zain Asher in for my colleague Richard Quest and this is "Quest
All right, depending on where you are in the world, you are either saying welcome to 2021 or good riddance to the year that was, 2020. That was the
year that obviously has brought the coronavirus pandemic and so much heartbreak to so many. That year is now finally coming to an end.
To end such a dark year, now some lights. Take a look here. Right now Dubai where it`s just gone midnight -- just gone midnight in Dubai. They are
putting on their traditional firework show at the Burj Khalifa. You are looking at live pictures.
There it is bursting with color. Dubai certainly ring in the new year there in style. Meantime in New Zealand ...
In New Zealand people partied like it was 2019. Crowds were allowed to actually gather after months of no COVID cases reported there. So crowds
were actually gathering there in New Zealand.
In the meantime -- in Bangkok, Thailand and many other cities people could log on and watch from home. Now New York is still going to hold its iconic
ball drop this evening in Times Square but without the iconic crowds.
TERRANCE A. MONAHAN, CHIEF OF NEW YORK POLICE DEPT.: Don`t come. Do not come to the area. If you think you`re going to be able to stand there and
watch the ball, you`re mistaken. Don`t come. Watch it on home; it`ll be a spectacular television show.
Next year we`ll all gather together and we`ll fill Times Square. But this year, don`t even attempt to come down there to watch it.
ASHER: NYPD saying do not even bother to come to Times Square. They`re still going to have the ball drop but no crowds allowed. Wall Street, by
the way, is celebrating a banner year as the world gets ready for 2021. Markets are near record highs despite continued U.S. job losses, 787,000
people filed first time jobless benefits just last week.
The stock market and the real economy told somewhat different stories throughout the year. So far the U.S. has actually posted a net loss -- a
net loss this year of more than 9 million jobs.
The review sites -- excuse me -- Yelp says nearly 100,000 businesses closed for good by October. At the same time, (inaudible) has risen 15 percent and
global businesses has reportedly raised nearly $300 billion.
Rana Foroohar is associate editor at the Financial Times. She joins us live now from New York. I mean Rana, could you have foreseen anything like this
this year, at a time when we`ve lost 9 million jobs here in the U.S.? You`re seeing record highs with the U.S. stock market, what gives?
RANA FOROOHAR, ASSOCIATE EDITOR FINANCIAL TIMES: Well, you know, Zain, I - - in answer to your first question, could anyone have foreseen the pandemic; absolutely not. But you know I can remember going back a year,
having the conversation with you about the disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street. I mean this has been with us for several years now but the
pandemic has brought it home in a completely new way.
Nobody thought asset prices were going to be able to stay this high for this long amidst real GDP declines and unemployment figures, the likes of
which we haven`t seen since the Great Depression.
So of course the big question in the markets is is this a bubble and at what point does it burst. You know I personally think that if we were to
see the vaccine roll out in the new year happen quickly enough that there was a really strong recovery on Main Street that then pushed inflation a
little bit higher and resulted in interest rates going up; that could be the point at which you start to asset prices going down and Wall Street and
Main Street reconnecting.
ASHER: I`m also interested in what -- what happens to the U.S. dollar going into next year. Obviously there`s been a decline there. U.S. dollar
is traditionally a safe haven. But what will the global recovery, which we anticipate over the coming year or so, what will that mean for investment
in riskier assets do you think?
FOROOHAR: Well, that`s a great question. I actually think that the pandemic may be remembered as the point at which we entered a post dollar
world. And what I mean by that is for the last really half century; the dollar has been the global reserve currency.
And it still is. But you see China rolling out the digital RNB. You see Europe coming together. There`s a chance that there could be resurgence of
growth in Europe in the New Year.
You now have more of a tri-polar world and the dollar in this world may be weaker, it may decline in power. And that along with a correction in asset
prices could reshape global markets and really make them much more specific to countries, much more specific to industries.
I think stock picking is going to be something that you`re going to see coming back. I`m not sure that past investing is going to be the next five
years what it has been in the previous five.
ASHER: In terms of the pandemic winners this year, stocks like Amazon, stocks like Peloton, I mean stocks like Zoom; a year or two ago I`m not
sure many people knew what Zoom was. Now we`ve seen the stock market -- that stock price really surge. I mean take a look at the screen, Zoom is in
the green there.
So I`m just curious, what does it mean. I mean obviously a lot of these stocks have done very well because people have been at home, not
necessarily going to the office, at their computer screen, ordering online, having conference calls online that sort of thing.
What happens next year when there`s a vaccine and things go back to normal? What happens to the NASDAQ then?
FOROOHAR: Well, it`s really interesting. I mean implicit in your question is the fact that so much of the S&P, so much of the NASDAQ is tech stocks.
You know five -- five stocks, really the big five; you know Apple, Amazon, Google; these are the stocks that have driven the entire market. There are
other new comers; Zoom, Tesla, you know lots of different tech stocks really buoying (ph) things right now.
So what changes when we got back to normal post pandemic. Well, for starters, all things are going to be more digital than they were. Basically
the pandemic put on steroids, sped up changes that we already knew were coming.
You know even prior to this pandemic, about 80 percent of corporate value was in the top 10 percent stocks that were the most digital, had the most
personal data, most I.P. That`s just going to continue. So I think you`re still going to see tech stocks doing well.
On the other hand you have this sort of headwind coming of global regulation. So major cases against Google, against Facebook coming down the
pipe both in the U.S. and in Europe.
China, the Communist Party in Beijing is actually cracking down on big Chinese tech stocks like Alibaba. So you`ve got these two trends, I think
that on net balance you`re still going to see digital assets and asset prices doing quite well.
ASHER: Rana Foroohar, Happy New Year. I wish you all the best for 2021. Let`s make it a good one. A much better one shall we say.
FOROOHA: Yes, cheers to that.
ASHER: Thank you, Rana.
All right, New Year`s Day will mark a missed deadline for vaccinations in the U.S. The U.S. Center for Disease Control says just about 2.8 million
Americans have gotten their first shot. That is a far, far cry from the year end goal of 20 million people.
A top U.S. infectious disease expert says a slow vaccine roll out is certainly disappointing. Sara Murray has more.
ANTHONY FAUCI, DIR., U.S. NATL. INST. OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: See it`s been a very, very tough year. This is the worst that we`ve had
literally in 102 years.
SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And as 2020 comes to a close, the coronavirus is still reeking devastation across the country. And life
saving vaccines are lagging behind.
FAUCI: I mean we would have liked to have seen it run smoothly and have 20 million doses into people today by the end of the 2020, which was the
MURRAY: Hailed as the light at the end of the tunnel, vaccines have been slow to make their way into Americans` arms. Less than 2.8 million shots
have been administered. And less than 12.5 million doses distributed according to the CDC, far short of the Trump administrations 20 million
FAUCI: Obviously it didn`t happen and that`s disappointing.
MURRAY: As states struggle with distribution challenges ...
MIKE DEWINE, OHIO GOVERNOR: We know that things are moral imperative to get this out just as quickly as we can.
MURRAY: Arizona`s governor ordered the state health department to accelerate vaccinations rather than leaving it to each county, saying
vaccines don`t do any good sitting in a freezer.
In West Virginia officials say 42 people were accidently given antibody treatments instead of coronavirus vaccines.
In Wisconsin the FBI is investigating after someone intentionally removed 57 vaccine vials from a pharmacy freezer and about 500 doses were
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want some normalcy in my life again.
MURRAY: And in states like Florida and Tennessee, which opened vaccines up to the elderly, lines are snaking around the block. The urgent need for
vaccines evident as 2020 ends with more grim milestones.
Three thousand seven hundred and forty-four people died of coronavirus Wednesday, an all time high, and 125, 220 were hospitalized. It marks the
third time the U.S. set a hospitalization record in December alone.
Many Americans understandably eager to bid ado to 2020. But officials warn this isn`t the time to pop over to Times Square to ring in the new year.
BILL DE BLASIO, NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Don`t go down there, watch from home.
ASHER: CNN`s Sara Murray reporting there. Coming up, after 4-1/2 years, three prime ministers and endless negotiations, the U.K. is long and
divisive Brexit journey is finally over. That`s next.
Less than three hours and counting, that`s when the U.K.`s relationship with the E.U. formally changes and a new era begins. Last minute
preparations are being made. (Inaudible) terminals in the U.K. and France as border officials prepare to implement new controls.
The post (ph) Brexit trade deal was agreed on just days before its night`s deadline and the queen gave her final approval hours after Britain`s
Parliament voted to back the agreement on Wednesday.
Much of the U.K. will mark the new year and the departure from the E.U. under partial lockdown. Millions more people were placed under the toughest
restrictions tier four over night as the new COVID variant keeps on spreading.
The so called tier four rules now apply to three out of four people in the U.K. The U.K. officially left the E.U. in January but in reality Brexit
begins tonight when the transition period ends. Salma Abdelaziz joins us live now from London.
So Salma, this is it, you know after 4-1/2 year of negotiations this is it. Obviously the negotiations are over but we`re seeing a new chapter start
there in the U.K. What technically happens at 11:00 pm or rather from 11:00 pm onwards U.K. time tonight?
SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean Brexit is done but it`s not really done because so far all it`s been is it`s been a talk about
Brexit, the theory of Brexit. Now we`re going to see it put into practice, this idea now is real.
So at 11:00 pm what`s going to happen. Well, let`s just run through the rules. It`s going to be a zero tariffs, zero quota deal so you can trade as
many goods as you want without any additional taxes.
Of course the right to free movement will end at 11:00 pm. That means that British citizens can no longer pick up and move to Rome or decided to
retire in Spain without having a Visa for that stay. There will be no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. That was of course a major
sticking point that`s been resolved.
And there will be a 5-1/2 year transition period for fishing rights. Another issue that has been brought up is that the U.K. police will
immediately lose access to the E.U. database of criminal records and background information that they might need for crime fighting. That
And of course, now all goods will be subject to customs and checks that go into the E.U. from the U.K. That`s going to start on January 1. So a lot of
rules here for people to get their minds around. But let me just run you though one scenario.
To give you an explanation of the type of bureaucracy that people will be facing, let`s say I`m a British citizen and my family and I want to travel
to Spain for a few months. We just -- we`d like to go and we have a dog.
Well, now all of these rules are going to come into play. I can no longer stay on a none E.U. passport line. My dog will be subject to new rules and
new restrictions because E.U. passports for pets have now expired.
If I`m driving a vehicle into the E.U., I now have to get insurance for that vehicle inside the E.U. and I`m just giving you an example of an
ordinary family trying to spend a holiday in the E.U., which used to be quite a simple thing.
Imagine having to do this as a business, as an industry, trying to figure out all of these restrictions. Some industry leaders are warning of what`s
called invisible chaos. Essentially that goods would be trapped in the depots while these businesses try to figure out all the paperwork. Zain.
ASHER: Yes, certainly going to be an adjustment period for businesses. But you know I want you to set the scene for us, just pivoting slightly. Set
the scene and the mood for us in London tonight. Obviously there`s only a few hours left to go of 2020, the year that was.
But you`ve got 20 million people right now under lockdown, under some degree of lockdown, under restrictions. And so what is that like on New
Year`s Eve? It must be incredibly surreal.
ABDELAZIZ: It`s strange, Zain. It`s strange and it`s sad and it`s sombering. I mean this is a city that you know is -- is known for its night
life, is known for its spirit, is known for going out no matter how cold it is. And to walk around London right now, it`s an absolute ghost town.
Of course you`re under the toughest lockdown, the toughest restrictions. Everybody has been told you`ve got to stay at home. The message from the
government is COVID loves -- loves crowds rather. Don`t gather, don`t go to a party, don`t celebrate, stay at home and be safe.
And it`s not just the government that`s begging. The doctors, the nurses, the healthcare workers who face so much already, they`re essentially
pleading with the population. One intensive care doctor saying anybody who breaks these restrictions will have blood on their hands.
And it`s important to remember the U.K. has been breaking records this week. More patients in hospital with coronavirus than ever before. Record
numbers of cases in a single day. And ambulance service that`s overwhelmed. Hospitals that need help. It`s a very tough and depressing and dark time. I
mean the only ray of hope really right now with these coronavirus updates is that approval of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine.
But it is a very strange time indeed to be standing in one of the biggest cities in the world and knowing that it`s going to be completely quite on
New Year`s Eve. Zain.
ASHER: Yes, another 365 days to go until hopefully the U.K. can actually celebrate another New Year`s Eve. Salma Abdelaziz, Happy New Year to you
and your family. I hope that everyone has a safe, prosperous, healthy 2021; everyone that you care about. Thank you, Salma.
All right, still to come here; if a ball drops on New Years in Times Square and there aren`t any party goers around to actually see it, did it really
drop. Ahead we`ll go there live for the answer.
From party town to ghost town, New York`s Times Square is usually packed at this point on New Year`s Eve with people waiting to watch this ball drop at
midnight. But this year it will fall to an empty street as police tell everyone to stay home.
That warning means that our Brynn Gingras practically has the place to herself. Don`t you Brynn?
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey. Yes, it`s definitely got a different feel here, Zain. You know I was listening to your reporter from
London saying it feels like a ghost town, everyone there having to stay home.
The rule is not that strict here. That`s what officials are asking for but certainly we`re seeing people walk around but not where we are right now,
not in Times Square. As you said, the NYPD top officials, top rep (ph) saying stay home, stay clear of this area, you will not be allowed in.
Behind me actually, and they`ve started to really freeze this area as the hours have ticked closer to the big show tonight, they`re not allowing
anyone behind me into Times Square unless you`ve had a COVID test.
And that only includes the performers for tonight, the crew members and then also there are about 40 front line workers, the heroes of 2020 who got
a special invite to be inside who actually witnessed the ball drop up close and personal with their families in socially distanced pens.
So it`s pretty interesting to see the security as we go on through the afternoon bump up. And I got to tell you, Zain, of course NYPD has always
secured this area for this big celebration but they`re working this year with 80 percent fewer officers than they have in the past, which is a big
deal and a big job of theirs tonight will be to make sure people just stay away from this area and keep -- keep everyone safe while they ring in the
new year, Zain.
ASHER: Yes, and for those front line workers, those healthcare workers, it is important to note as you`ve touched on throughout the day that they will
be socially distanced obviously wearing masks as well to make sure that they keep safe during the celebration.
GINGRAS: Yes, absolutely.
ASHER: Brynn, Happy New Year to you. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.
GINGRAS: You too.
ASHER: U.S. airports are the most crowded they`ve been since the start of the pandemic. The TSA screened more than 1 million travelers on Wednesday.
It was the fourth busiest day since mid-March despite warnings from public health officials to stay home.
In New York`s La Guardia Airport, they`re hoping a major renovation will lead to big recovery. Despised by many travelers, La Guardia just opened a
new terminal B; Richard Quest got a personal tour. Take a look.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST: Welcome to La Guardia, long considered one of the worst airports in the United States. For decades it`s been a sore point for
New York commuters. Now it`s making an $8 billion bet on repairing La Guardia`s reputation once and for all.
RICK COTTON, EXEC. DIRECTOR, PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK & NEW JERSEY: New Yorkers love to criticize, they love to hate. I think if you looked at
every single passenger survey, La Guardia was always the worst.
So the challenge first of all was to take it from worst to first.
QUEST: It has one of the worst on-time records in the country. Travelers say it`s amongst the noisiest, most outdated that`s difficult to get to.
Little wonder giving the central terminal building hasn`t changed much since it opened in 1964.
Officials in New York gave La Guardia`s restoration the green light in 2015 after a wakeup call from then Vice President Joe Biden.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: If I took you in blind folded and too you to the La Guardia Airport in New York you must think I must be in some
third world country.
QUEST: That had ramifications. That was -- that was almost like firing the starting gun (ph).
COTTON: It was. Many people were unhappy at that comment. Governor Cuomo took it as a challenge and that was the impetuous to create the Advisory
Panel and the project was off and running.
QUEST: La Guardia`s re-opening comes at a difficult time. Passenger numbers have plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic as states impose strict
quarantines and many countries shut their borders to international travelers.
COTTON: At the beginning of the crisis back in March, the passenger levels at this airport and all three of our airports dropped 98 percent. There was
two percent of regular passengers using these airports.
We are still down 75 to 80 percent in terms of travel through these airports.
QUEST: Deserted check-in, empty concourses. This isn`t what they had in mind when they started the $8 billion reconstruction of La Guardia airport,
one of the most overcrowded and grubby in North America.
But now look at it. Brand spanking new, gleaming with facilities galore. Just waiting for post COVID passengers.
New York`s port authority is doing all it can to lure travelers back to its airports, even offering free COVID test to arriving passengers here at La
Guardia. But with the increased footfall comes bigger health risks.
When they do return to La Guardia, passengers will find an airport completely transformed.
COTTON: That the airport should be inspiring. It shouldn`t just be functional. So art -- so art becomes a center piece and you have -- you
have five major artistic installations.
QUEST: La Guardia`s transformation is almost complete. The terminal won`t fully re-open until 2022. When it does officials are hoping it begins a new
chapter for both La Guardia, the aviation industry and the passengers who travel here.
COTTON: La Guardia has gone from the worst airport in the country to what we think is best in class and it not only is best in class in terms of
function, it is inspiring, it is appealing, it has works of art and it speaks to where it is located, which is New York. And that was what we
wanted to build.
ASHER: All right. Before we love and leave you this year, 2020; let`s take a quick last look at the markets. Just 30 minutes left of trade in 2020.
The Dow is actually up almost 150 points. It`s been a bit of a seesaw day but it looks like the market is rallying because of a better than expected
weekly jobless claims reading.
Still the markets though are overall indeed flat. But what a year it has been. Certainly the picture you have on your screen does sort of represent
and symbolize the kind of year we`ve had in stocks, certainly a roller coast year.
All right, that is it for "Quest Means Business." I am Zain Asher; "Americans Rebuild" is up next. You`re watching CNN.