Investors were taken on a rollercoaster ride with bigger drops than Disney's Space Mountain in 2020. The chart below is from the Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED). The chart is tracking the Weekly Economic Index (WEI) and the S&P 500. The WEI is an index that measures consumer behavior, labor market, and production. I like following this indicator as the information comes out weekly and it’s a good indicator of what the US economy is doing. The best performing ETF of the month is at the top of the graph. As you can see from the chart, the S&P 500 was a leading indicator and declined before economic activity started to slow down.
The US responded to the COVID19 threat by basically shutting down the country to slow the spread. In general, the public was getting very concerned as the number of deaths continued to escalate in New York City. The stock market was freefalling like Tom Petty. Additionally, the fixed income market, repo market, muni market, CMBS market, MBS market, etc., were all in freefall. The safety of the money market was even questionable!
The S&P 500 hit a market bottom of 2,237 on March 23, the US Government (yellow) started rolling out massive spending bills to help with unemployment, save industries, and prop up the economy. The Fed (red) began to deploy strategies developed during the Financial Crisis of 2007-2009, all in one month. This bazooka strategy brought liquidity to the fixed income markets, which alleviated investors' fears. Investors calmed down enough to realize that they don't need to sell and probably should invest their free cash.
The market recovery quickly turned into a bull market. Who would have thought? On December 31, 2020, the S&P 500 closed up 16% for the year or 67% from the market low in March.
As of January 9, 2021, the markets have done fabulously. It's difficult to say if this bull market is going to continue for the entire year. Markets are increasing due to all the stimulus pumped into the system and the expectation that companies will increase earnings. I believe that the markets will continue to increase over the first half of the year and taper off in the second half of the year. US companies are surviving the pandemic by issuing historic amounts of debt. The increasing debt service will make it difficult for companies to turn increasing sales into profits during the recovery. Hopefully, interest rates and inflation will remain low, so our companies don't become "zombies" where all the operating profits go to servicing the debt they accumulated during the pandemic.
ETF of the Week: iShares Core Small Capitalized ETF (IJR)
iShares Core Small Capitalized ETF (IJR)was the best performing ETF last week at 7.38%. IJR invests in companies with a market capitalization of $600 million to $2.4 billion. Small Capitalized Stocks are much more volatile than the bigger cousins S&P 500 ETF (SPY). Companies in SPY must have a market capitalization of at least $8.2 billion.