The direction in which the stock market may head is not as clear as it was at the end of March as some things are working in favour of stocks going up and also against them; however, the positives continue to outweigh the negatives, said Fidelity’s Global Asset Allocation Division director of global macro, Jurrien Timmer, who remains constructive on stocks and other risk assets in general.
So far, the deadly virus has infected more than 18 million people in over 210 countries and killed nearly 700 thousand, wherein the United States is the worst hit. Despite that, stocks continue to act as if we have already beaten the COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus.
The S&P 500 index has gained 50% since hitting a three-year low on March 23 of 2191.86, largely spurred by the Federal Reserve’s massive stimulus and COVID-19 vaccine optimism. However, the year is already halfway through and now it rests with the stock market to prove that it was right about a sharp V-shaped rebound in economic growth.
Since nearly all the country’s economic activity has been suspended since late March amid rising concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease, federal governments and central banks around the world has spent trillions of dollars trying to help restart the economy and provide some relief to the financial markets.
That stimulus has given the initial impetus to stock as liquidity increased in the debt markets and volatility subdued in several markets. However, the long-term impact of these massive stimuli on the economy and the financial markets is unknown. The S&P 500 ended 1% higher at 3271.12 on Friday, just 122.4 points below its all-time high of 3,393.52 registered on February 19.
The COVID-19 related collapse in earnings will be reversed slowly as the economy re-opens and the recovery matures into expansion in 2021, causing a full recovery in the market to the February highs by the end of this year. The S&P 500 stock index to hit 3,400 By the end of this year and 3,600 next year; earnings to also rebound in 2021, according to Mizuho Securities.
Empirically, big price gains, combined with a large retracement after a fall amid strength in market broadness – a trend that can be seen in the S&P 500 today, has always led to a start of a bull market.
“If there ever was a pivotal moment for making a call on which direction the next 10% or 25% move will be for the S&P 500, now is it, I believe. A few months ago, it seemed to me, it was a relatively simple call, at least based on the study of market history. The stock market typically rallies after the type of historic selling climax experienced in late March, and this time has not been any different so far. But after a 46% rally (which never produced a retest) I think it’s much more of a toss-up now,” said Fidelity’s Global Asset Allocation Division director of global macro, Jurrien Timmer.
On the positives, Fidelity’s Timmer said:
“On the plus side, the economy has bottomed and is recovering, with earnings growth following along. Earnings season is looking good so far, with 85% of companies beating estimates by an average of 15 percentage points. It’s still early days for earnings season with 181 companies reporting, and the differences between estimates and reported earnings are unusually large given how little guidance there has been on the earnings front. The policy response has been another plus, of course. The Fed is keeping its foot on the monetary gas pedal, and more fiscal relief may be on the way as well, as transfer payments threaten to dry up. The promise that the Fed and Treasury (and their global counterparts) can build a bridge across the COVID-19 abyss and on to the other side of this pandemic has been an important factor behind the market’s powerful rally,” Fidelity’s Timmer said.
“The tape (momentum and breadth) has been another plus for the US market. The sentiment picture is another positive. Finally, on the plus side, there appear to be a number of potential positive developments underway in terms of COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. This prospect, along with the Fed, have put a floor under the market, including the more economically sensitive ‘reopen’ sectors,” he added.
On the negatives, Fidelity’s Timmer said
“COVID-19 continues to burn its way through sections of the U.S. and the world, and this is causing some states to delay or reverse their reopening plans. As a result, some of the high-frequency economic indicators are suggesting that the economy is starting to stall out following the initially strong V-shaped recovery. The longer the recovery gets dragged out, the greater the risk that this V could turn into a U or L, and that the liquidity crisis that the Fed was able to mitigate will turn into a solvency crisis not unlike 2008,” Fidelity’s Timmer said.
“The risk is not that the economy will not recover, just that it won’t recover back to its full potential. If the economy recovers, but only to say 70% of what it was pre-COVID, then it will be a long slog back to normal. Right now, the stock market seems to be priced for something quicker. On top of this we have a pivotal election in a few months, bringing with it various potential policy outcomes, which could eventually affect corporate taxes and U.S.-China relations,” he added.
“A well-diversified portfolio of both growth stocks and deep value stocks (especially emerging market and non-US developed), gold and Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS), and long-duration bonds. A portfolio similar to this, in my view, is pretty close to an all-weather portfolio,” he concluded.