Weekly Market Commentary
May 11, 2020
The stock market is not the economy.
It’s an important point to remember when headlines marvel that U.S. stock markets are moving higher while the U.S. economy is contracting. Stock markets are not mindful of the present moment. They are forward-looking, reflecting expectations about what will happen in the months and years to come, explained Mark Hulbert in a MarketWatch opinion piece.
May 4, 2020
There are signs COVID-19 may be in retreat.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control reported, overall in the United States, for the week ending April 25 (officially week 17 of the coronavirus), the number of:
• People visiting healthcare providers with COVID-19 symptoms declined.
• Positive tests at public health, clinical, and commercial laboratories declined or remained similar.
• Deaths attributed to pneumonia, influenza, or COVID-19 declined, too, although the percentage remains above normal.
This is good news since some states are beginning to reopen.
April 27, 2020
We live in interesting times.
There is discussion about whether the saying, “May you live in interesting times,” is a blessing or a curse. At this point in 2020, we all understand why.
Last week, the world watched in consternation as the price of oil, specifically West Texas Intermediate crude oil, dropped into negative territory. The price moved below zero because a purchase date coincided with a lack of storage space. As a result, the owners of the oil had to pay to have it taken off their hands, reported Ben Levisohn of Barron’s.
April 20, 2020
Last week’s economic data was about what you might expect in the midst of a virus crisis that has shut down businesses and forced people to stay home:
• Retail sales were down 8.7 percent in March. Retail sales track demand for everything from clothing to refrigerators. The March decline was the worst monthly performance on record, according to Ben Levisohn of Barron’s.
• Oil prices fell further. Saudi Arabia, Russia, and other nations agreed to reduce oil production, but that may not be enough to steady prices. The Economist explained, “Global demand may fall by 29 [million] barrels a day this month, three times the OPEC deal’s promised cuts.”
• Earnings season began with a whimper. Just a sliver (9 percent) of the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index have reported first quarter earnings. So far, blended earnings (actual results for companies that have reported plus estimated results for companies that have not) are down 14.5 percent for the first quarter, reported John Butters of FactSet.
There were some bright spots, though, that boosted optimism in financial markets.
April 13, 2020
Why is the stock market doing so well when the COVID-19 pandemic has yet to peak?
At the end of last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the United States remains in the acceleration phase of the coronavirus pandemic. This phase ends when new cases of COVID-19 level off. The next phase should be a period of deceleration, and the number of cases should decline.
April 6, 2020
In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy says to her little dog, “Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.” Today, many of us understand Dorothy’s trepidation and uncertainty better than ever before.
COVID-19 has changed our world in ways previously unimaginable. In many states, Americans shelter at home, venturing out for groceries, medicine, and other essentials. Parents have become teachers guiding online schoolwork, often while balancing their own work and online meetings. We are learning to manage the loneliness, frustration, and anxiety that accompany quarantine conditions.
March 30, 2020
The United States set some records last week.
First, we became the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. Popular Science explained:
“An increase of 15,000 known cases in just one day pushed the United States past Italy and China, making it the new epicenter of the pandemic…Experts suspect the actual number of U.S. cases is much higher than currently reported…the United States has tested a far lower percentage of its large population than other hard-hit countries.”
On Friday, March 27, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported there were 103,321 confirmed cases and 1,668 deaths in the United States.
March 23, 2020
The coronavirus (COVID-19) continued to spread across the United States last week.
On Friday, March 13, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported there were 1,629 confirmed and presumptive cases and 41 deaths. Last Friday, March 20, the numbers had increased to 15,219 cases and 201 deaths.
Governments in several states – including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, New Jersey, and New York – have issued shelter-in-place orders that apply to the entire state or one or more counties within the state.
March 16, 2020
Last week was one for the history books.
Mid-week, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared coronavirus a global pandemic. At the time, there were more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and the death toll exceeded 4,000 people. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 46 states and the District of Columbia have been affected, so far. As of Friday, there have been 1,629 confirmed and presumptive cases and 41 deaths.
As the need for containment became clear, daily life underwent rapid change. Major gatherings, from sporting events to Broadway shows to industry conferences, were canceled. Travel was restricted.
March 9, 2020
Last week, market volatility reached levels that make many investors uncomfortable.
On Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged higher, delivering its biggest one-day point gain in history. The catalyst may have been reports that ‘Group of Seven’ (G7) finance ministers and central bank governors were meeting via conference call on Tuesday. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire indicated the discussion would lead to coordinated monetary efforts to address economic issues related to the coronavirus, reported Reuters.
March 2, 2020
Take a deep breath.
We have experienced downturns before.
Think back to 2018. During the last quarter of the year, major stock indices in the Unites States suffered double-digit losses, much of it during December. What happened next? By the end of 2019, those indices had reached new highs.
The reasons for, and performance following, market downturns varies. The key is not to panic.
February 24, 2020
Risk on or risk off?
The coronavirus appears to have inspired two distinct schools of thought among investors. Some investors currently favor opportunities that are considered lower risk, like Treasury bonds and gold, because they’re concerned about the potential impact of the coronavirus on the global economy. Others are piling into higher risk assets, like stocks, that could benefit if central banks (like the United States Federal Reserve) take steps to stimulate economic growth, reported Randall Forsyth of Barron’s.
February 18, 2020
Many stock markets around the world moved higher last week.
Investors’ optimism in the face of economic headwinds has confounded some in the financial services industry. Laurence Fletcher and Jennifer Ablan of Financial Times cited several money managers who believe investors have become complacent. One theory is investors’ buy-the-dip mentality has become so firmly ingrained that any price drop is seen as a buying opportunity, regardless of share price valuation.
February 10, 2020
Last week, major U.S. indices posted strong gains. That’s welcome news, but the drivers behind share price appreciation appear to have little to do with company fundamentals.
Fourth quarter earnings season is underway. During earnings season, companies let investors know how profitable they were during the previous quarter. With 45 percent of companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500) Index reporting, earnings are slightly down. If the trend continues, this will be the fourth consecutive quarter of year-over-year earnings declines, according to FactSet.
February 3, 2020
Prepare yourself. There is a good chance markets will be volatile in the coming weeks.
Precautions designed to slow the spread of the Coronavirus may also slow Chinese economic growth and, by extension, global economic growth.
On Thursday, the World Health Organization declared the Coronavirus to be an international health emergency. The U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory for China, and major U.S. airlines suspended flights to the nation, reported Forbes.