Today’s Market Wrap Up and a Glimpse Into Wednesday

Stocks extended their gains on Tuesday, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq finding their way back to record ground. The Nasdaq is now hovering above the 15K threshold. The Dow Jones Industrial Average also finished the day in the green. The S&P 500 is up about 19% year-to-date.

Investors are feeling optimistic now that the FDA has formally approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. If a greater percentage of the U.S. population gets vaccinated, it would likely bode well for the economy.  Plus the spread of the delta variant is beginning to show signs of weakening.

Wall Street expects the bulls to stay in control for the rest of the year. Wells Fargo strategist Chris Harvey raised his S&P 500 year-end forecast from 3,850 to 4,825, according to CNBC.

The oil price was also higher on the day, rising more than 3% to hover above the USD 71 threshold once again.

Stocks to Watch

  • Shares of electronics retailer Best Buy soared 8% on the day after the company’s top and bottom-line results surpassed Wall Street estimates. The company also lifted its full-year revenue forecast amid strengthening demand for its products and a return to in-store shopping.
  • Cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike Holdings saw its shares climb 8% higher after the stock made its way onto the Nasdaq 100 index.
  • Shares of Shanghai-based e-commerce giant skyrocketed 14% higher on Tuesday on the heels of a 26% jump in Q2 sales to USD 39 billion. The company expects to get through the Chinese government’s tech crackdown unscathed, unlike its competitor Alibaba, whose revenues took a hit as a result.
  • GameStop saw its value balloon by more than one-quarter on the day on solid volume as retail investors made bullish bets.
  • Shares of clothing retailer Urban Outfitters fell 5% in after-hours trading even though the company’s Q2 earnings and revenue results beat analysts’ estimates.

Look Ahead

Durable goods orders for the month of July will be released on Wednesday. Wells Fargo economists predict that there was a decline of 1.2% amid “a slowing in transportation orders.” Excluding transportation, they forecast a modest increase of 0.5%.

All eyes are on the Fed’s upcoming Jackson Hole economic summit on Friday, the theme of which is “Macroeconomic Policy in an Uneven Economy” and which will be held virtually this year.

Thanksgiving Week: Retailers’ Roaring Return?

Typically, Black Friday sales are accompanied by scenes of bargain-hunters camping outside popular retail outlets, braving the cold, only to bum-rush the store once it’s open. Sometimes, overly eager shoppers literally bust down doors and even get into fist fights over the best deals.

This year, things are set to be very different, due to the Covid-19 resurgence across America.

Instead of the usual frenzy at the physical stores, the stampede for bargains has been very apparent in the stock markets. Investors have made a beeline towards companies that had been beaten down by the pandemic, as they price in a return to in-person shopping, enabled by a Covid-19 vaccine.

Such a narrative has sent stocks in mall-based retailers surging on Monday:

  • Macy’s soared 15 percent (month-to-date gains: 67.63 percent). Macy had also reported a better-than-expected Q3 performance last week.

  • American Eagle Outfitters jumped 7.32 percent (month-to-date gains: 32.6 percent). The company is set to release its Q3 earnings after US markets close on Tuesday.

  • Gap advanced 6.93 percent (month-to-date gains: 33.98 percent). Gap is also set to unveil its quarterly results after US markets close on November 24th.

  • Urban Outfitters climbed 4.44 percent (month-to-date gains: 41.72 percent), before announcing after markets closed on Monday that its Q3 earnings-per-share exceeded estimates.

Overall, the S&P 1500 Apparel Retail Index has surged by nearly 86 percent since its March low, and is now a mere 2.14 percent away from its highest ever closing price, posted on February 20th this year. Still with the stocks of many of these so-called “nonessential retailers” now reaching overbought territory, perhaps a pullback can be expected in the near-term.

Pandemic-fueled bonanza

This wave of optimism has been fanned by a report from the National Retail Federation, which expects US holiday sales to post a 3.6 to 5.2 percent growth compared to 2019’s US$729.1 billion that was spent during the year-end shopping season. The industry’s leading trade group expects a “strong finish” to what has been a tumultuous 2020, given that Americans who were not able to spend on other items such as vacations and in-person entertainment (sporting events, movies, etc.) will instead pour between US$755.3 billion to US$766.7 billion into their year-end shopping spree. Such an outlook augurs well for the overall US retail sales figure, which could only muster a mere 0.3 percent growth in October compared to the month prior.

Retailers have to deliver results

However, execution risks remain. It remains to be seen how well these retailers can handle the incoming swarm of orders, be it for curbside pickup or direct shipping. Amazon has already braced itself by hiring over 25,000 more workers for its warehouses this year, while adding an extra 100,000 seasonal workers to handle the expected tsunami of online orders.

And the expected rebound in footfall isn’t assured. The pandemic may have left longer-lasting scars, potentially enforcing a lasting shift in shopping habits. Consumers may feel a lot more reluctant to return to in-person shopping and may have grown accustomed to buying items online. And with a spate of job losses in the US economy, with weekly jobless claims still over three times more than pre-pandemic levels while the unemployment rate remains close to seven percent, American consumers’ purchasing power may need more time to recover.

“Dark Winter” ahead?

Still, a fresh round of US fiscal stimulus by the incoming Biden administration could help dampen some of these downside risks on US retail activity. Otherwise, once the year-end shopping spree fades, these retailers might have been to brave a long, cold winter before they can welcome warm bodies back into their stores once more, to justify the eye-popping gains in their shares of late.

Written on 24/11/20 08:00 GMT by Han Tan, Market Analyst at FXTM

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