Biden installed with pledge to ‘unite America’
The new US president taking the oath
Joe Biden was officially inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States promising to unite the nation and injecting new confidence into the markets.
Swearing an oath in front of the Capitol – a scene of a violent confrontation involving Trump supporters earlier this month – he declared: “This is America’s day.”
He added: “We celebrate the cause of democracy. We have learned that democracy is precious … and democracy has prevailed.”
He addressed a crowd reduced to just 1,000 because of Covid restrictions and amid tight security.
History was made when a beaming Kamala Harris became the first female Vice President.
Embraced by his wife Jill, the new First Lady
Mr Biden added: “My soul is in this, uniting America. With unity we can do great things.”
His predecessor, Donald Trump was not present – the first outgoing president not to attend an inauguration of his successor since 1869.
He flew to Mar-a-Lago with his wife Melania aboard Air Force One after telling supporters and the media: “Have a good life, we will see you soon.
“We’ll be back in some form.”
Kamala Harris: making history
Despite Mr Trump’s snub and the obvious hostility between the two men, it was revealed that the outgoing president had left a conciliatory letter for his successor on the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.
“The president wrote a very generous letter,” Mr Biden said. “Because it was private, I won’t talk about it until I talk to him. But it was generous.”
Even so, Mr Biden wasted no time sweeping aside four years of an era which has seen the US lose friends abroad and turn on itself with divisions not seen for generations.
On his first afternoon in the White House the new president signed 15 executive actions.
Lady Gaga sings the US national anthem
Mr Biden will usher in a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package and signed a document to begin the process of re-entering the Paris climate accord.
He revoked Trump’s emergency declaration that helped fund the construction of a wall on the Mexican border and ended a travel ban on some majority-Muslim countries.
The UK government will be keen to enter into early talks about a trade deal, while Scotch whisky companies hope to revive discussions on the levies that were imposed in late 2019.
Capitol Hill: scene of rioting two weeks ago
Wall Street’s main indexes rose sharply, having already scaled record highs in recent months. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up by about 13% since the presidential election in November.
Investors have been betting on a strong economic recovery in 2021 on the back of COVID-19 vaccine rollout and a bigger pandemic relief plan.
Nearly all of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors were higher in afternoon trading, with communication services, consumer discretionary and technology among the biggest gainers.
Masked but clearly identifiable: Bill Clinton and George W Bush
The Dow rose 257.86 points, or 0.83%, the S&P 500 gained 1.39%, and the Nasdaq Composite added 1.97%.
Some analysts are wondering if stock market valuations, now near a 20-year high, can be sustained, with some even talking of a dotcom-style bursting of the bubble.
Much will depend on the corporate reporting season in the next few weeks, and the success of action to combat the pandemic.