Stocks Pull Back on Virus, Recovery Concerns
By: Edward Jones
While today's market moves are sizable, they should be framed in the context of the recovery witnessed in prices over the last few months. Since the March 23 bottom, the S&P 500 has risen 34%, while volatility has subsided.* In our view, a longer-term economic recovery is underway, but a lot of uncertainties remain, likely triggering periodic setbacks along the way.
Virus path remains uncertain – The rate of new, confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. peaked in mid-April and, while still elevated, has steadily declined since, supporting investor confidence. However, a lot of that improvement has been driven by a deceleration in cases in former hot spots such as New York and California. At the same time, there has been an acceleration of infection cases and hospitalization rates in a handful of states leading the reopening, such as Arkansas, Arizona and Texas.
Since the trigger for this crisis is biological rather than financial, progress on the medical front will play a key role in the shape of the recovery. Even though there have been some initial signs of success in human trials of a COVID-19 vaccine, this development remains uncertain.
Fed warns economy faces a long road to recovery – The Federal Reserve reiterated on June 10 its pledge to keep rates near zero until the economy has weathered the crisis, with most Fed officials projecting rates staying near zero through 2022. Unemployment and inflation are forecast to recover over the next two years but remain below the long-run trend.
The committee's caution on the economic outlook clouded some hopes for a speedy recovery, suggesting a long road ahead. Our view is that a gradual economic recovery is underway as the economy slowly reopens.
Setting realistic expectations – The speed and aggressiveness of the rebound in stocks imply that expectations about an economic restart might be somewhat optimistic. We believe the path for the markets in the second half of 2020 will likely be bumpy as periodic setbacks stoke volatility. However, higher volatility doesn't necessarily mean a repeat of the conditions we experienced in March, which were fueled by extreme uncertainty around the pandemic, the policy response and the duration of the lockdowns.
There are still plenty of uncertainties and unknowns, but ultimately, an economic recovery will take shape, in our view. Investors should consider rebalancing opportunities and systematic investing at regular intervals, which can reduce the "timing" aspect as volatility plays out.
Edward Jones - Mae Luchetti