Global equity markets have had a remarkable rally in November with three promising coronavirus vaccines due to see the light. US equities reached new highs on Tuesday with the Dow Jones Industrial Average breaching 30,000 for the first time, having added 12.7% month-to-date. The UK’s FTSE 100 performed even better with gains of 14.6% as many of its components benefit from a global recovery. Meanwhile, in Japan the Nikkei index hit a fresh 29-year high.
The global rally seems to have paused for now, following a modest decline of 173 points in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and 0.16% retreat in the S&P 500. The fall was driven by the sectors which have benefited the most from the vaccine news, such as Energy, Basic Materials, Industrials and Financials. However, the Nasdaq Composite ended Wednesday up 0.47% as investors flocked back to the big Tech names.
Markets seem to be repeating the cycle of the past two weeks. Vaccine news gets released on a Monday and pushes cyclical stocks sharply higher, while growth stocks get dumped. We then see a reversal in positioning in the latter part of the week. While the release of vaccine results is promising, we do not know yet when this pandemic will be completely over and that is what investors will continue to struggle with. Wednesday’s economic data showed that US jobless claims increased for a second consecutive week suggesting more pain ahead as business restrictions and partial lockdowns continue to hurt employment. Consumer spending remains a bright spot having increased 0.5% in October, but given the 0.7% decline in personal income, there is a high chance that these numbers soften in the final two months of the year.
Minutes from the FOMC’s most recent meeting earlier this month indicated that monetary policy is likely to remain accommodative and officials will provide further guidance on bond buying. The central bank is not expected to take any steps to upset the market, and it’s evident that we’ll continue to live with a low rate environment for a couple of years. However, the economy is now in need of a fiscal boost and not a monetary one. The faster the US government acts, the more jobs it will preserve and the faster activity can return to pre-Covid era levels. Time seems to be running short to pass a bill before year-end, but that is increasingly necessary in order to prevent further shocks to the economy and hence markets.