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Data: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; Chart: Axios Visuals

U.S. commercial and industrial lending fell by $9 billion in December, the largest drop in nearly three years, and the total amount of C&I loans declined to levels last seen in May, data from the St. Louis Fed shows.

Why it matters: The decline in lending to commercial and industrial businesses is the latest sign that the recession in U.S. manufacturing and continued struggles in goods-producing sectors of the economy are spreading. The Commerce Department reported that U.S. business investment had contracted for six straight months as of the third quarter, and had the biggest drop since the end of 2015 in Q3.

Go deeper: Manufacturing should bounce back in 2020

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18 mins ago - Health

U.S., Canada and U.K. accuse Russia of trying to steal coronavirus vaccine research

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin\TASS via Getty Images

Hackers associated with Russian intelligence services are trying to steal information from researchers involved in coronavirus vaccine development, according to a joint advisory by U.K., U.S. and Canadian authorities published Thursday.

The big picture: This isn't the first time a foreign adversary has been accused of attempting to steal COVID-19-related research. U.S. officials in May announced an uptick in Chinese-government affiliated hackers targeting medical research and other facilities in the U.S. for data on a potential cure or effective treatments to combat the virus.

M&A activity falls despite early coronavirus fears

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In April, several prominent Democrats proposed a moratorium on large mergers and acquisitions. Their argument was that the pandemic would embolden the strong to pounce on the weak, thus reducing competition.

Fast forward: The moratorium never materialized. Nor did the M&A feeding frenzy.

More than 32 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits

Photo: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

More than 32 million Americans are receiving some form of unemployment benefits, according to data released by the Labor Department on Thursday.

Why it matters: Tens of millions of jobless Americans will soon have a smaller cash cushion — as coronavirus cases surge and certain parts of the country re-enter pandemic lockdowns — barring an extension of the more generous unemployment benefits that are set to expire at the end of the month.