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Why stock markets are rising during the pandemic

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The United States stock markets blazed through new highs this week. How could this be?

There are many and varied opinions (I emphasise opinion) as to why the US (and other global markets) are up, even while the pandemic is still omnipresent with families and small businesses struggling financially to survive. Here are a few of the possible contributing factors:

• Stimulus money still flowing on both sides of Atlantic

• Short-squeeze coverage

• Inflation has remained low

• Borrowing is cheap

• Consumer demand after quarantine

• In times of very low interest rates, stocks generally appreciate more than alternatives

• Negative yields on fixed income securities, as well as sky-high purchase premiums

• Economies are slow moving; stock market activity is considered reflective of the future with perception built into their projections — usually positioning five to eight months ahead of any recovery, and vice versa.

• Large, multinational companies with deep financial resources and country-diversified consumer markets, are still considered excellent stock buys

• Companies have resumed buyback stock purchases

• Medical research indicates there may be a vaccine for distribution in 2021

One excellent analyst observed that “a new stock-market high is coming because of all the money that is being printed.”

Nigam Arora, on Marketwatch last month, said: “From a technical perspective, there are no hurdles for [the stock market] to reach a new high. And momentum investors are aggressively buying those stocks.”

Mr Nigam, engineer, nuclear physicist, author, and entrepreneur and the founder of two Inc 500 fastest-growing companies, who is also frequently featured in Marketwatch, provides some insightful, practical pointers for investors, among them:

• This is a bubble that will get bigger before it pops;

• The big money is invested in the five large-cap tech stocks, Amazon, Apple, Google Alphabet), Microsoft, Facebook;

• Hold onto good long-term positions, but use protection bands (*see note) to protect your portfolio;

• Pay attention to election risk;

• Stay nimble, do not get locked into a bullish or bearish opinion.

These are comments from some highly regarded investment analysts opinions regarding the US stock market performance.

There are some positive things to consider:

• Pension portfolios more heavily weighted towards stocks may be on the increase

• Some growth is returning

• Optimism is uncertain, still depends upon many factors currently and where you are, your job status, financial savings, and investment mix.

Readers, you'll look at this and say, well, I've got enough to worry about just putting food on the table. How does this news trickle down to my level?

What is the average, ordinary person thinking?

Let's have a look at the US Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, based on a probability-design random sample, conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch.

Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at The Conference Board, said: “Consumer confidence declined in July following a large gain in June. The Present Situation Index improved, but the Expectations Index retreated. Large declines were experienced in Michigan, Florida, Texas and California, no doubt a result of the resurgence of Covid-19. Looking ahead, consumers have grown less optimistic about the short-term outlook for the economy and labour market and remain subdued about their financial prospects. Such uncertainty about the short-term future does not bode well for the recovery, nor for consumer spending.”

Where is the US Economy as of this month? The Conference Board has two recovery scenarios:

Base Case: a GDP rebound of 26 per cent in third quarter 2020, with a -1.6 per cent fourth-quarter retraction.

Upside Case: more optimistic annual negative retraction of -3.3 per cent in 2020 with a rebound of +4.4 per cent in 2021. This scenario predicts US monthly economic output to completely recover by August 2021.

What is actually happening in real life?

Media, politicians, and others touting stock market gains in the United States project a bizarre appearance of normality.

One only has to see the increasing numbers of photos of personal belongings in streets due to eviction procedures and/or mortgage foreclosures, to feel terribly sad for families.

The dichotomy between rises in stock market valuations and the absolute despair of these millions of families unemployed, underfunded (or no funds), Covid-19 severe illness and fatality events, no health insurance, existing on piecemeal stimulus with little positive news in sight, is absolutely appalling.

Who does not feel empathy for those so much less fortunate by helping, sharing and kindness, but it may not be enough to stop eviction proceedings, fill empty stomachs or mollify exhausted spirits.

These are the truly nasty segments of this whole global pandemic.

So, we have to conjecture. When will the set point come, the trigger for increased economic security and comfort for those whose lives have been impacted through no fault of their own?

The familiar refrain that “life is not fair” is resoundingly true these days.

Let's hope and pray for the optimistic upside recovery.

Note:

* Protection bands are used for longer-term portfolios: keeping more cash, reducing concentrations in any one position, diversifying further, and hedging.

Sources:

Various quotes listed above taken from investment/economic analysts.

• What Is The Stock Market Trying To Tell Us About The Economy, And Should We Listen? Forbes, August 3, Bill Conerly https://tinyurl.com/yymz98ou

• The Economy Looks Rough. The Stock Market Doesn't. Here's Why That May Make Sense. New York Intelligencer The Top Line July 23, Josh Barrohttps://tinyurl.com/y4xq5l7h

• The Mystery of High Stock Prices, New York Times July 3. Why is the market doing so well when the economy is doing so poorly? Steven Rattner. Mr Rattner served as counsellor to the Treasury secretary in the Obama Administration. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/03/opinion/stock-market.html

• Opinion: A new stock-market high is coming because of all the money that is being printed, July 25, Nigam Arora https://tinyurl.com/yy8azbu2

• Consumer Confidence: The Conference Board Economic Forecast for the US Economy — August 2020 https://www.conference-board.org/research/us-forecast

The Conference Board, Inc is a non-profit business membership and research group organisation. It counts over 1,000 public and private corporations and other organisations as members, encompassing 60 countries. The Conference Board convenes conferences and peer-learning groups, conducts economic and business management research, and publishes several widely tracked economic indicators.

Martha Harris Myron CPA JSM: Masters of Law — international tax and financial services, dual Bermudian/US citizen. All proceeds from these columns are donated to The Bermuda Salvation Army. E-mail: martha.myron@gmail.com

Future predictions: the US Conference Board has two recovery scenarios. The base case sees GDP rebound 26 per cent in third quarter 2020, with a -1.6 per cent fourth quarter retraction. While the upside case has a negative retraction of -3.3 per cent in 2020 with a rebound of +4.4 per cent in 2021 (Image by The US Conference Board)
Surging ahead: global stocks markets are up, even while families and small businesses struggle financially to survive due to the disruption of the pandemic. Moneywise has taken a look at some of the factors behind stock valuations (Photograph by Colin Ziemer via AP)

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Published August 22, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated August 22, 2020 at 1:06 pm)

Why stock markets are rising during the pandemic

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