“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain.” – Unknown
Right now the Big 3 – Covid, Election, Stimulus – are making for one heck of a storm. I definitely have my dancing shoes on!
Let’s look at the Big 3 one at a time:
Sadly, we are seeing a significant spike in Covid both here and globally. While most experts anticipated an uptick in the fall flu season, the magnitude and speed of the uptick is greater than most expected. Just this week France announced a new round of mandatory lock-downs, Germany is closing bars, restaurants and theatres for a month, and Chicago is banning indoor dining/drinking and put a curfew on non-essential businesses.
The US economy had been rebounding quite nicely from the deep contraction in the second quarter of this year but this recent uptick in Covid is starting to impact consumer behavior again. On October 18, 2020, TSA air passenger throughput had just surpassed 1,000,000 daily for the first time since March. With numbers like that, it seemed as though the re-opening track was running relatively smooth. Unfortunately, the 10 days following the million passenger reading weren’t nearly as strong. For ten straight days, the total number of daily passengers on US airlines have been lower than the same day a week before. That’s the second-longest streak of consecutive daily week/week declines since the start of the pandemic.
The size of the week/week declines has been relatively small on a percentage basis, so it’s not as though air traffic is crashing to a halt, but if the million passenger milestone was a positive trend towards reopening, the slowdown that has followed it suggests that rising case counts have caused Americans to hunker down a little bit. That’s the kind of environment we find ourselves in these days where a real-time indicator of economic momentum can indicate a positive trend at one point and then one week later it totally contradicts itself. Source Bespoke Investments
Investors tend to conflate their anxiety about politics with anxiety about the financial markets. Although investors are inclined to believe that election outcomes will dictate what happens in the markets and their portfolios (and this may, in fact, be true in the very short-term), the reality for investors is that the future of the market is less sensitive to elections than it is to the fundamental drivers of stock prices including: Corporate profits; inflation; interest rates; job market conditions, consumer sentiment.
The good news for investors is that, regardless of who wins the election, all of these fundamental market drivers generally support stock prices in the intermediate term (one to four years). The Fed seems likely to keep interest rates low until the economy is back at full employment (probably sometime after 2023). Although the Democrats and Republicans have different visions of coronavirus relief/fiscal stimulus with very different elements and different sizes, both parties recognize the need for incremental assistance for unemployed workers and struggling businesses to keep the pandemic-induced recession from feeding on itself. Despite everything that has happened in 2020 the US consumer has a generally positive outlook:
To be clear, we do not mean to suggest that this election does not matter. On the contrary, the consequences of this election may be as—or more—important than any US presidential election in living memory, just not for whether investors should maintain or change the asset allocation of their portfolios.
Stimulus, Stimulus, Stimulus – All That Matters Near-Term
Whether or not it is the right move long term will be determined later, but unfortunately, the economy does not appear to be strong enough to stand on its own. If the spigot turns off, real troubles will emerge for equities and the financial sector in particular. Congress will likely provide additional stimulus once the political pressure of the election is past. The issue is timing. If the election results in status quo (Republicans win White House and Senate, Democrats win House) we likely get a stimulus bill sooner, but smaller – probably before the end of the year. If the Democrats sweep the election, we likely get a much bigger stimulus package although it probably doesn’t happen until after the inauguration in late January 2021, as Republicans will have no motivation to act during the lame duck period. If Biden wins Presidency but Republicans keep control of Senate, sadly I think we get a very small stimulus package, if any, as political gridlock will be in full force.
To recap, delayed or contested election results could fuel short-term market volatility. Because of the expected surge in mail-in voting due to the pandemic, it’s possible the election results will not be known on election night and a complete vote count may not be available for days or weeks. While the election may roil markets in the short term, the pace of the economic recovery and the course of the coronavirus pandemic are likely to be more important to stock market returns than who ultimately controls the White House and Congress.
Even though the spread of the virus seems to be accelerating in the United States, and Europe seems to be in the midst of a second wave of infections, progress toward a vaccine continues to hold out hope that one day our work lives and social lives will eventually return to something closer to ‘normal.’
Let’s stay hopeful and keep dancing in the rain!
Please feel free to share this report with family, friends and colleagues. We appreciate your introduction to anyone who you feel we can help.
November Calendar of Events (comments and additions for future months are always welcome)
- November is National Diabetes Month. Please consider reaching out to a family member or friend who is dealing with this very tough disease.
November 1st Healthcare open enrollment – runs through 12/15/18 – for coverage starting Jan 1, 2018
Note: Medicare open enrollment started 10/15/18 and end 12/7/18
November 1st Set those clocks back
November 3th Election Day – be sure to vote
November 11th Veterans Day – says thanks a Vet
November21st Great American Smokeout – encourage a smoker to quit
November 26th Thanksgiving – have a wonderful holiday
Sources: Charles Schwab, Fidelity, Bespoke Investments, Strategas
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