Wealth Management — June 5, 2020
- US stocks traded sharply higher Friday, as the S&P 500 rallied 2.6% to close at 3,194. With the rally, the index is now down only 1.1% year to date and just 5.5% from the February 19 all-time high.
- A blockbuster May jobs report that saw the US add 2.5 million jobs last month versus expectations for a 7.5 million reduction in payrolls, catalyzed a sharp risk-on move across financial markets Friday. US stocks surged, led by cyclical sectors, while 10-year rates spiked to their highest levels in three months. The surprise growth in payrolls and fall in the unemployment rate amplifies hopes that the worst may be behind us from an economic perspective, though with tens of millions of Americans still unemployed and an official unemployment rate north of 13%, clearly there is still a long way to go in this labor market recovery.
- All 11 S&P 500 sectors were higher Friday, with Energy (+7.5%) and Financials (+3.9%) outperforming the broader market, while Consumer Staples (+1.5%) and Utilities (+1.4%) lagged.
- Rates were higher across the curve with the 10-year rising to 0.90% as of the 4 p.m. equity close. The yield curve steepened, as 10-year rates rose more than 2-year rates. WTI oil rose to over $39 per barrel, while gold fell 1.9%. The US dollar was modestly higher, as measured by the US Dollar Index.
US stocks rallied sharply on Friday as the S&P 500 gained 2.6%, punctuating a strong week for markets as the recent surge leaves the S&P 500 down just 1.1% on the year to date. Better-than-expected jobs data on Friday helped propel equities higher, with the unemployment rate shockingly dropping last month to 13.3%, well ahead of the 19% consensus estimate, and on the back of the US economy adding 2.5 million jobs in May against the consensus estimate of 7.5 million payroll losses. While Friday’s May jobs report is encouraging, and would suggest the worst is over as it pertains to the labor market following a historic pace of job losses earlier this spring, the 21 million Americans that are still classified as unemployed, per the report, show there is still a long way to go in this labor market recovery. Although in recent weeks cyclical, value and small-capitalization stocks have shined, this week proved to be even more of a perfect storm for that cohort; yield curves steepened, driven by a backup in longer-dated yields signaling stronger future economic growth; industrial and cyclical commodities, like copper, outperformed defensive ones such as gold; “safe-haven” currencies like the yen and the US dollar vastly underperformed emerging and international developing market currencies; and economic data was better than expected. In today’s session specifically, Energy stocks gained over 7%, Industrials and Financials gained almost 4% each, while small caps, as measured by the Russell 2000 Index, also surged nearly 4%.
With this week’s rally, the S&P 500 is now just 6% away from reaching its previous all-time high of 3,386 on February 19. The index experienced both a 20%+ bear-market decline and a 20%+ bull-market rally in the span of just eight weeks. This volatility perhaps is unsurprising, as the range of potential outcomes for the economy looking forward is wide, given near unprecedented headwinds posed by the COVID-19 pandemic alongside near-unprecedented levels of stimulus coming from governments and central banks. The global economy has likely slid into recession, and the negative economic effects of the pandemic became more tangible this spring, as unemployment rates spiked and consumer and corporate activity fell dramatically. Importantly, however, policy makers have acted, and record levels of stimulus should help ease the burden the current crisis is putting on households, businesses and the economy at large. A one-two punch of monetary and fiscal policy is being delivered in the US, as policy makers confront the current economic challenges. US policy makers have acted aggressively to address the challenges posed to the economy currently, and ultimately this policy response should help drive an economic recovery once the current health crisis is resolved. Early signs of that potential recovery appear to be at hand, with green shoots in recent economic data, including this morning’s surprising growth in payrolls.
Over the past 90 days, the S&P 500 has traversed two-and-a-half distinct market phases. The first phase fully discounted the sudden stop COVID-19 lockdown recession from February 19-March 23 in a -34% bear market drawdown. Second, was the repair phase, which was dominated by “do whatever it takes” and outsized policy moves by both the Federal Reserve and Congress where stimulus totaled almost 47% of GDP and was accompanied by a nearly 60% retracement of the sell-off from March 24-April 30. And, finally the current early innings of the recovery phase, which has been characterized by the faster-than-expected re-opening of the economy, has recently allowed the index to surge through 3000 and its 200-, 100- and 50-day moving averages. Although the GIC has been looking for a V-shaped recovery and a decisive shift in market leadership that has accompanied recessions in the past, and we have been well positioned for recent rotations toward small caps, value style, international stocks and cyclicals like financials, we acknowledge that the market has moved very far, very fast. With some of the easy money having been made off the trough, we think markets remain range-bound for the next 3-6 months as the twists and turns of this particular recession with its dependency on the virus trajectory and the true pace of full economic re-opening likely to be opaque and lumpy. In this environment, we are very focused on active security selection with an eye toward valuations and risk premiums in both US stocks and corporate credit. The richness, crowdedness and concentration of the S&P 500 Index, along with our belief that US Treasuries are unattractive and that the US dollar is ultimately poised to weaken, has us also pursuing high levels of asset class diversification with above-average exposures to SMID stocks, international equities and commodities.
Market data provided by Bloomberg.
Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA): A price-weighted average of 30 blue-chip stocks that are generally the leaders in their industry.
NASDAQ Composite Index: A broad-based capitalization-weighted index of stocks in all three NASDAQ tiers: Global Select, Global Market and Capital Market.
S&P 500 Index: The Standard & Poor's (S&P) 500 Index tracks the performance of 500 widely held, large-capitalization US stocks.
US Trade-Weighted Dollar Index: A weighted average of the foreign exchange value of the US dollar against a subset of the broad index currencies that circulate widely outside the US.