Jason Gunkel, CFP®, CFA, CAP®, Chief Investment Officer
December 3, 2020
The stock market, as represented by the S&P 500, continued its rally in November, returning nearly 11% and reaching several new all-time highs. The Dow Jones Industrial Average also crossed the 30,000 mark in November for the first time ever. The U.S. stock market is now up about 14% for the year to date.
The November market rally began after the U.S. election, which will most likely result in a divided Congress. This is seen as favorable by investors. The rally continued to pick up steam after announcements of multiple successful COVID-19 vaccine results.
The companies, Pfizer and Moderna, reported their vaccines have been shown to be 95% and 94% effective, respectively. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has meetings scheduled for December 10 and December 17 to decide on the emergency-use authorization of these vaccines. The rollout of the vaccines could begin immediately after, according to the New York Times.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities should get the first doses of the vaccine. The general public, who are not in high-risk groups, could start getting access in early spring. Most Americans will be able to get vaccinated by the summer, according to the CDC.
The vaccine news has been welcomed by the financial markets and especially for the sectors of the economy that have been hurt the most by the pandemic. Sectors, such as energy and financials, have rebounded the most in November. They have outperformed technology stocks, which had led the market rally year to date by a wide margin.
This rotation from more “growth” sectors to “value” sectors tends to be a sign that investors are more optimistic about a longer-term recovery in the economy. Fidelity has forecasted that the U.S. economy is no longer in a recession and has entered the early stages of an economic recovery. The economy is about two-thirds of the way back to a full recovery, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
The employment news continues to be mixed. On the bright side, the unemployment rate has fallen from a peak of about 14% to less than 7%. The U.S. economy added 245,000 jobs in November, but this was the smallest number in the past seven months, reported by Yahoo Finance.
Long-term unemployment (defined as longer than 27 weeks) has continued to rise, and now makes up about one-third of all people unemployed. In addition, the number of people who are filing first-time jobless claims continues to be above 700,000 per week, according to Bloomberg.
The COVID-19 pandemic is probably still the biggest risk to the market and economic recovery. On the same day the U.S. stock market hit a new all-time high, the number of deaths caused by the virus also reached a new daily record of 2,885 on December 2, as reported by the New York Times.
The potential for further economic shutdowns in parts of the country and economy could stall the recovery. However, the vaccines provide hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Throughout most of the pandemic, investors have been very forward looking that the economy would fully reopen at some point. The vaccine releases could provide enough confidence for investors to keep the stock market rally going through a potentially difficult winter.