COVID-19 Market Update: Are These Market Rallies Sustainable?

In the depression of 1929 – 1933, it is interesting to note from peak to the absolute bottom, the Dow fell 83% over a period of 33 months. During the decline, the market experienced eight rallies of 24%, luring investors into thinking the worse was over before the bottom was finally reached. In this past holiday-shortened week, markets rallied globally with the S&P 500 recording its biggest gain in 45 years. In the past two weeks, the S&P has gained over 20%, which generally would suggest we have entered a new bull phase. We don’t think that is the case, at least for the moment.

This week, hopes were raised as infection growth rates in Spain and Italy declined and New York hospitals received the necessary equipment and beds to handle new cases. Additionally, during the week, the Fed announced another stimulus package for small businesses having under 500 employees. Unfortunately, oil declined last week after the optimism from the previous week came under pressure as talks stalled with Mexico’s unwillingness to accept production cuts. On Sunday evening, a production cut of 9.7 million barrels per day was announced, signaling willingness by some of the most significant players to address the supply glut in a world where demand has fallen by 36 million barrels per day. Many think this will not be enough given the discrepancy between the cut and lack of demand and expect the price to fall from current levels back to the $20.00 level before this is over.

As mentioned in past posts, until the coronavirus infection growth rates are on the decline, we do not think any market rallies will be sustainable. The containment policies seem to be working; however, now there is a fear that if economic activity returns too soon, the outbreak will resume, and many more will be infected, resulting in additional unnecessary deaths. The debate centers on when to re-open the economy. This week it was reported in the National Post that Premier Trudeau announced that he did not see the economy back to “normal” until a vaccine was discovered, and that might be 12 to 18 months. We wonder what “normal” might look like, but more importantly, what happens between now and then? The other side of the debate was voiced this week by Michael Burry in several tweets where he suggested country lockdowns were unjustifiable. For those of you not familiar with Michael Burry, he was the first of the three hedge fund managers documented in Michael Lewis’s book, the “Big Short.” He was a medical doctor graduating from Vanderbilt School of Medicine turned hedge fund manager after founding Scion Capital. When he discovered that the housing market was based on subprime loans, which were, in his opinion, extremely risky and unstable, he shorted the loans assuming that at some point, borrowers would not be able to pay the interest when the mortgage interest rates were re-set. He was proven correct and made enormous amounts of money for his investors, paid them out, and closed his fund. This past week it was reported that he said, “government-enforced lockdowns and business shut-downs may trigger one of the countries deepest ever economic contractions and are not necessary to contain the pandemic.” As investors, the reason this debate becomes so important is the impact on the consumer, the primary driver of economic activity. We have no idea when and how the economy will be re-started, the damage done to the consumer’s balance sheet, and how long it will take to resume normal conditions.

First-quarter corporate earnings announcements will start this week. The earnings for Q1 will be significantly lower than estimated at the beginning of the year, but Q2 could very well be even worse as the lockdown continues. Corporate guidance may give some indication of the damage done to the economy and expectations for beyond Q2. The US Labor Department reported another week of record unemployment filings. The contraction in the labor market is unprecedented, with over 17 million jobs lost since mid-March, not total lost, just in two weeks in March.

While the coronavirus containment may be working, there still seems to be a way to go before the virus is under control. Fiscal and monetary policies are accommodative, but without jobs, the economy will grind to a halt as consumer’s spending stalls for everything but essentials. We continue to think it is too early to jump back into this market other than to be very selective in areas least impacted by the virus and strategies proven to have a low correlation to this latest market contraction.


Important Information:

Warren Gerow is an independent consultant to Sightline Wealth Management.

Sightline Wealth Management LP (“Sightline”) is an investment dealer and is a member of the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) and the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF). Sightline provides management and investment advisory services to high-net-worth individuals and institutional investors primarily through fee-based accounts.

Sightline Wealth Management LP is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ninepoint Financial Group Inc. (“NFG Inc.”). NFG Inc. is also the parent company of Ninepoint Partners LP, it is an investment fund manager and advisor and exempt market dealer. By virtue of the same parent company, Sightline is affiliated with Ninepoint Partners LP. Information and/or materials contained herein is for information purposes only and does not constitute an offer to sell or solicitation to purchase securities of any issuer or any portfolio managed by Sightline Wealth Management or Ninepoint Partners, including Ninepoint managed funds.

Sightline Wealth Management (“Sightline”) makes every effort to ensure that the information has been derived from sources believed to be reliable and accurate. However, Sightline assumes no responsibility for any losses or damages, whether direct or indirect, which arise out of the use of this information. Sightline is not under any obligation to update or keep current the information contained herein. The information should not be regarded by recipients as a substitute for the exercise of their own judgment. Past performance is not indicative of future performance. Please speak to your Advisor regarding the suitability of information provided in this article for you. The opinions, estimates, projections and/or recommendations contained in this document are those of the author as of the date hereof. 

To contact Sightline and request a full Smart Money Market Report, fill out the contact form below

CALL US AT 866.889.1909

Please note we only serve clients who reside in Canada.
I would like to receive ongoing news and information from Sightline Wealth Management

Recent Articles