Last week, as COVID-19 vaccination efforts continued, there was speculation about stock market corrections and asset bubbles.
On Sunday morning, Bloomberg reported 63 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine had been administered across 56 countries. In the United States, 21.1 million shots have been delivered – about 51 percent of the vaccinations that were sent to states. At that point, the pace of vaccination in the United States was just over one million doses a day.
Improvements in the pace of vaccinations could lift market optimism, according to Ben Levisohn of Barron’s, but a market correction is still a possibility:
“…the S&P 500 has been following a pattern typical of recessions since 1990, one that sees the recovery occur in three phases: an initial recovery, a period of consolidation, and a second rebound. The initial recovery has lasted an average of 10 months, with an average return of 48 percent. That was followed by a period of consolidation that lasted from two to seven months and saw stocks sink an average of 17 percent. That was then followed by another rally…The current bounce from the March lows has lasted about 10 months and produced gains of just over 71 percent. If the market follows the historical pattern, it should pull back by spring – but that will be a buying opportunity.”
A survey from Deutsche Bank sparked talk about the possibility of asset bubbles. In a CNBC interview, Jim Reid, who heads global credit strategy at Deutsche Bank, shared results of the company’s January survey. Of the 627 market professionals who participated, the vast majority of respondents (89 percent) saw some asset bubbles in markets. Reid explained central bank policies and stay-at-home trading were responsible, in part, for rising asset prices.
Solid fourth quarter 2020 earnings may be supporting asset prices, too. So far, 13 percent of companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index have reported results. John Butters of FactSet wrote, “At this point in time, more S&P 500 companies are beating EPS [earnings-per-share] estimates for the fourth quarter than average, and beating EPS estimates by a wider margin than average.”
Last week, major U.S. stock indices moved higher. The Nasdaq Composite gained 4.2 percent, which was its biggest gain since November 2020.
Investors were rocked by economic data showing the economy hit the brakes hard in December.
Last week, major U.S. stock indices decelerated as investors gaped at the economic damage caused by the rising number of coronavirus cases around the world. There have been more than two million COVID-19 deaths globally, with more than 390,000 deaths in the United States. The spread has resulted in new lockdowns and restrictions and has hurt economic recovery.
Ben Levisohn of Barron’s reported:
“This past week – with the market looking ahead to the inauguration and what might be in store following the Capitol riots and Donald Trump’s second impeachment – was a terrible one for economic data. Whether it was small-business confidence, consumer inflation, or just about anything else, the numbers painted a picture of an economy that was slowing more rapidly than expected. Initial jobless claims, which spiked to their highest level since August, and retail sales, which fell 0.7 percent, were particularly frightening.”
On Thursday, President-elect Biden explained his $1.9 trillion economic relief package. The announcement of new stimulus didn’t move investors. That may be because the potential impact of a new stimulus plan has already been priced into markets, as has the new administration’s longer-term plans for infrastructure spending, reported Katherine Greifeld of Bloomberg. The relief package that passes Congress may be smaller – about $1.1 trillion, according to a Goldman Sachs economist cited by Randall Forsyth of Barron’s.
Investors are keeping an eye on inflation, which remains relatively low but has begun trending higher, according to Jeffry Bartash of MarketWatch. During the past few months, the core rate of inflation has remained below the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target. However, inflation expectations and bond yields have been moving higher, reported Jonnelle Marte, Ann Saphir, and Howard Schneider of Reuters. As bonds provide more attractive returns, income investors may shift away from stocks and into less risky opportunities.
Last week, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index lost more than 1 percent for the first time since October.
The Guidance Wealth office will be closed
Monday, January 18th, in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The event at the United States Capitol building had a resounding impact around the world, but it didn’t deter global stock markets.
Last week, investors weighed the violent disruption of America’s 2020 presidential election process against the outcome of the Senate runoff in Georgia, and decided the latter was more significant. Financial Times reported the Democratic party’s win in Georgia improves the possibility of additional government relief spending in 2021:
“In turn, this renews the momentum behind trends within equity and bond markets that have been unfolding in recent months. These include rising long-term interest rates and inflation expectations that reflect hopes of an accelerating economy later this year.”
Last week, the yield on 10-year U.S. Treasuries moved above 1 percent for the first time since March 2020, closing on Friday at 1.13 percent.
Disappointing employment numbers may provide an impetus for additional government stimulus measures. Last Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the loss of 140,000 U.S. jobs in December 2020. It was the first decline in eight months, reported MarketWatch, and resulted from a surge of coronavirus cases across the country. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.7 percent.
Major U.S. stock indices moved higher last week. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, Dow Jones Industrial Average, and Nasdaq Composite all closed at record highs. The small-cap Russell 2000 Index gained almost 6 percent.
Global stock markets also moved higher. A strategist cited by Financial Times commented, “The only noise in markets…was a bullish stampede as [they] continued their strong start to 2021.”
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Last week was the cherry on top of a turbulent year for investors.
After the $900 billion fiscal stimulus bill was signed on Sunday, major U.S. stock indices moved higher. The Washington Post reported, “The S&P 500-stock index, the most widely watched gauge, is finishing the year up more than 16 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 7.25 percent and 43.6 percent, respectively. The Dow and S&P 500 finished at record levels despite the public health and economic crises.”
U.S. Treasuries gained, too, as yields moved slightly lower. Thirty-year Treasuries finished the week yielding 1.65 percent. While government bonds didn’t offer attractive levels of income during the year, they “…lived up to their billing as a stock market hedge in 2020. Rates plunged as stocks collapsed in March, and the Treasury market finished 2020 with yields not much above the pandemic panic lows and down half a percentage point or more for the year,” reported Barron’s.
The Year in Review
Early in 2020, despite the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China, the possibility of a global pandemic was not on investors’ minds. Financial markets were concerned about:
As the COVID-19 virus began to spread across the globe, stock markets dropped sharply around the world and the longest bull market in U.S. history came to an end. The downturn reflected doubts about the U.S. government’s response to the crisis. In mid-March, Axios reported, “While central banks around the world are stepping in, it’s unclear what measures – if any – the Trump administration will be able to get through Congress to stem the economic pain.”
Before the end of the month, attitudes shifted as Congress responded to the coronavirus juggernaut by passing the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The measure received overwhelming bipartisan support and was quickly signed into law.
The CARES Act and central bank support inspired optimism in financial markets. The bear market in the S&P 500 Index became the shortest in history, lasting just 33 days, according to Reuters. From late March through August, despite significant economic damage and persistent virus spread, the S&P 500 recovered its losses, gaining about 55 percent.
The economy also began to recover in the second quarter, and the United States saw gains in employment, consumer spending, and other economic data, reported Deloitte. However, by late July, there were signs the recovery might be faltering.
“Daily credit card spending, which by early April had declined 32 percent from the pre-COVID level, was up to just 4.7 percent below the pre-COVID level on June 22. But, by July 19, it was falling, down 6.4 percent. Initial weekly claims for unemployment insurance stalled at 1.4 million – a huge number suggesting that job losses were continuing. And, the Census Bureau’s weekly Household Pulse survey found more people unemployed in late July than at the beginning of the month,” reported Deloitte.
Congress went back to work and spent much of the latter half of 2020 negotiating a new stimulus bill, which passed last week, and $600 stimulus checks have begun arriving in Americans’ bank accounts. In the meantime, several COVID-19 vaccines have been developed and approved, and inoculations have begun in several countries.
Vaccine availability boosted financial market optimism. Investors anticipate vaccines will bring the coronavirus under control and usher in a return to business-as-usual by mid-2021, reported CNBC.
We wish you a happy and prosperous New Year!