Markets have reached a new milestone in the middle of a bruising pandemic, another sign that investors have been more than willing to look past short-term pain toward better days ahead.
The Dow topped 30,000 points on Tuesday for the first time ever, a symbolic win for the market bulls that have bet risky assets like stocks can keep pushing higher.
“Although 30,000 isn’t much different than 29,999, there is something special about those big milestone numbers,” said Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist for LPL Financial. “This is yet another reminder of how far stocks and the economy have come since the depths of March.”
How far is that, exactly? The Dow has rallied nearly 62% since it bottomed out on March 23, when it stood at 18,592 points.
What’s happened since then:
- Trillions of dollars in support from governments and, more importantly, central banks has led to a sustained boost in confidence.
- The economic recovery has proved surprisingly resilient in certain sectors, with US home sales rising to a 14-year peak in October, while retail sales are higher than ever.
- Multiple Covid-19 vaccines appear to be both safe and effective, laying the groundwork for distribution in the coming months.
These factors have paved the way for a hope-fueled rebound as Wall Street looks ahead to next year, when corporate earnings that have taken a hit are expected to bounce back.
“We believe that the stimulus measures we have seen since the start of the pandemic together with the economic recovery will support financial assets, equities in particular, in the year ahead,” Michael Strobaek, global chief investment officer at Credit Suisse, told clients this week.
Credit Suisse sees 2021 earnings beating those from 2019, helping to justify high stock valuations.
On Tuesday, a post-election bump after President-elect Joe Biden named key members of his Cabinet — including news that former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen would be tapped as Treasury Secretary — was enough to push the Dow past 30,000.
But the big question is whether Wall Street, in fixing its sights on the second half of 2021, is ignoring the potential for bumps in the road in the coming months.
Vaccine distribution is a notoriously tricky business that will involve an unprecedented degree of global coordination. And in the meantime, the coronavirus situation is only getting worse.
More than 2,100 Covid-19 deaths were reported in the United States on Tuesday, the highest single-day death toll since early May. Public health officials are worried that household mixing during Thanksgiving week will only make matters worse.