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Covid19 and the Stock Markets

Written By: - Date published: 8:30 am, May 12th, 2020 - 33 comments
Categories: capitalism, Economy, uncategorized, unemployment, us politics - Tags: , ,

In this time of uncertainty when mass unemployment beckons you would expect that stock exchanges would be plummeting. But think again. Because they seem to be doing fine.

Here is a graph of the NZSX over the past 6 months. Bottom line, the market has rallied since the March dip that coincided with the imposition of the lockdown and is higher than it was a year ago.

Individual results are mixed. Generally banks and tourism related industries have been hammered, while Fisher and Paykell and Restaurant Brands (read takeaways) have surged. Broadband providers have been doing fine. It is almost as if a big uncontrolled pool of money has sloshed round rather than been drained away.

How about in America where the economy has lost 20 million jobs in the past month. The current rate is 14.7%, and this is the highest since the great depression.

This graph from the New York Times shows how unique and appalling this surge in unemployment is.

Surely the stock markets would be tanking?

Afraid not, they appear to be rallying and current levels are not far removed from what they were 12 months ago.

So what gives? Why would a country with over 1.3 million Covid infections and 80,000 deaths and where 20 million jobs disappeared in April have its stock market rally?

Eric Levits in the New Yorker magazine offers this explanation:

On Thursday, the tech-heavy NASDAQ Index turned positive on the year, while Dow futures jumped more than 250 points following the Labor Department’s report Friday morning. That was just the latest bout of optimism in a bullish stock market run that has taken the S&P 500 up roughly 29 percent since March 23 when investors seemed to be deeply spooked by the very reality that’s now playing out before our eyes: mass unemployment, a shrinking economy, and tens of millions of Americans — the people Wall Street refers to as “consumers” — facing a dire financial outlook.

The rally in equities over the past few weeks has had plenty of detractors. Bears insist that investors are deluding themselves about the plausibility of a “V-shaped recovery,” and/or the insulation of major firms from the consequences of mass bankruptcies. And yet, a growing number of Wall Street investors and analysts have made peace with the dissonance between the markets’ fortunes and their own. In their view, capitalists haven’t lost touch with reality — equity values simply no longer depend on the functioning of society.

He offers this pessimistic prediction:

[Blackrock CEO Robert] Fink reportedly warned that a “cascade of bankruptcies” is about to hit the U.S. That is probably less of a prediction than it is a disclosure, given BlackRock’s centrality to the American political economy (Fink’s firm is managing multiple Federal Reserve’s bond-buying programs). Fink further said that as the leisure and hospitality sectors crater, pressure will grow on Congress to launch evermore sweeping rescue efforts of major firms and small businesses — and that will lead Washington to raise the corporate tax rate from 21 percent back up to 28 or 29 percent in the near future. Meanwhile, the pandemic will leave a durable imprint on the American consumer’s psyche, causing a long-term reduction in travel and the use of public transport. Taken together, Fink’s prophecies suggest that Wall Street’s worst days of the COVID-19 crisis may still be ahead of it.

New Zealand’s problems are much more manageable than those in the United States. But the cognitive dissonance being displayed by investors suggests that capitalism may be in for a rough time.

33 comments on “Covid19 and the Stock Markets ”

  1. Ad 1

    No one screwed up their courage and sank it all into Fisher and Paykel Healthcare?

    Almost a pity there isn't a sharemarket that lists countries.

    • mickysavage 1.1

      F&P are doing pretty well, Amazing what a medical crisis does to a company producing medical equipment …

    • Phil 1.2

      Almost a pity there isn't a sharemarket that lists countries.

      That's kinda what government bond markets are. Index funds basically do that for each nations sharemarket, too.

  2. Dennis Frank 2

    equity values simply no longer depend on the functioning of society

    So what do they now depend on? Herding (reef fish). Perception. Sell incoming bad news, buy the bounce-back – just make sure you get there first!

    And remember the market has been driven by high-speed computers (not people) for quite a while now. May the best algorithm win.

    • Incognito 2.1

      May the best algorithm win.

      And the shortest ping.

      • Phil 2.1.1

        If you two are talking about the trading algorithms that arbitrage between buyers and sellers, they don't 'drive' the market anywhere in the conventional sense of the use of that word.

        All they do is find situations where people want to buy and sell at inefficient prices (e.g. I want to sell a stock for $1.49, you want to buy it for $1.51… the computer hits both trades, the market price ends up at something like $1.50) until the market settles efficiently.

  3. Richard Ellis 3

    Looks like a classic bull trap to me

  4. Tricledrown 4

    The 1929 Crash didn't hit home for 2 yrs fully.

    Because of conservative politics no bailout of mainstreet or Wall st.

    The big problem is whether the US can pump money into mainstreet and wall st. Otherwise this is going to be a long u shaped recovery. Trump has pumped 1 weeks wages in.NZ 6 weeks(12× 1/2 a weekly wage.Australia has pumped in $130 billion already doubling the UB.Thats 2 1/2 times the NZ subsidy per head .

    Commentators economists and the Narional Party are saying there is some magical cut of point where debt is to high.Australian Conservative govt with a much higher level seems to be doing the right thing.while National claim being fiscally conservative is the right approach.History shows that Australia is on the right track save as much of the economy as you can now rather than take 10 to 30 to rebuild from scratch.

  5. Adrian Thornton 5

    Wall Street’s War

    Congress looked serious about finance reform – until America’s biggest banks unleashed an army of 2,000 paid lobbyists

    https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/wall-streets-war-193451/

  6. AB 6

    "So what gives?"

    In the USA at least: A belief that the Federal Reserve will never turn off the money tap? Several trillion dollars in bailouts going without scrutiny into corporate coffers and the potential for stock buybacks? Multiple opportunities for the consolidation and extension of monopoly capitalism as 'main street' falls over? The political defeat of any alternative economic vision represented by the Sanders campaign? Lots of money sloshing round at the top of the economic pile with nowhere else to go?

    • bill 6.1

      Drawn to Mark Blyth's analogy of the American economy being like a 6 litre Mustang GT with no safety features. (Apparently Europe's a Volvo 🙂 )

      His take's worth a deek.

    • Incognito 6.2

      Exactly my thoughts. Those trillion-dollar bail outs and dirt-cheap credit for some need to find a place to land and take hold. It seems the only point of wealth is to increase it, for the sake of it. It has no purpose in reality and no real meaning beyond human psychology. Post-modern madness.

  7. barry 7

    The only way the Fed and governments know to support the economy is to throw money at it. But people are not spending and have nothing to spend the money on so they buy shares (or property, or …). They have run out of ideas.

    QE helped to recover from the GFC, but we have just seen bubble after bubble and they (the fed, reserve bank etc) don't know how to undo the QE without bursting the bubbles and causing business failures.

    In some respects the bubbles have artificially extended the recovery and the world was overdue for a recession, but got stagnation (low wage growth, part time work, increasing inequality) instead. Now the economic malaise has been whacked by covid. It is unreasonable to expect that many companies won't collapse. Many were unsustainable anyway and Covid has just hastened the demise. Unfortunately economic concentration in a few big tech companies will probably accelerate.

    How to encourage the sustainable small well paying industries and discourage the exploitative companies? Part of that will be through the share market, but it will be risky for some time.

    • Phil 7.1

      The only way the Fed and governments know to support the economy is to throw money at it.

      To be fair to the Fed, the *only* way central banks can support an economy is to throw money at it. Whether that be through QE, negative rates, bond buybacks, helicopter money, operation twist etc, they're all designed with the same outcome in mind: increasing the volume and flow of liquidity in the financial system.

      Which is why central banks across the world since the GFC have been at pains to point out that recoveries cannot be sustained with monetary-policy stimulus alone. There needs to be sound fiscal-policy stimulus from governments that are awake to the prevailing economic conditions as well.

      • Pat 7.1.1

        govs and central banks need to work out (and desperately) how to unwind those bubbles (disconnect) without collapsing the real economy…that is the challenge.

        At this stage they dont appear to have any ideas

  8. bwaghorn 8

    Would the rise of online platforms like shearsies opening up the nzx to uneducated boobs (me being one of them ) be putting a the markets at risk of just being a big ponzu scheme?

    They published there increase in subscribers the other day and its huge in the last year

  9. bill 9

    From May 9th (Warren Gunnels is Bernie Sanders' Budget Committee's Staff Director)

    In the past DAY, the 8 richest men increased their wealth by $6.2B
    Mark Zuckerberg:$1.08B
    Larry Page:$956M
    Bill Gates:$931M
    Sergey Brin:919M
    Jeff Bezos:$907M
    Larry Ellison:$634M
    Warren Buffett:$429M
    Steve Ballmer:$353M

    Combined wealth: $653.8B

    While 33M+ lost jobs

  10. bill 10

    Sorry for dropping yet another vid on your thread Micky, but this breakdown from Kulinski speaks directly to your post and reeks of that rarest of things – common sense.

  11. gsays 11

    For me it shows how removed from reality the 'markets' are and the fiction that the financial system is.

  12. Gidday everybody from Panama, where I landed when the music stopped and everybody had to sit down in the nearest chair (just to be clear, I'm here to find warm water surf).

    My profession is as a technical market analyst. I have been doing this now for over a decade. I'm a CMT

    This bounce is not unexpected in technical terms. It's quite normal for the first bounce within a bear market to last several weeks and be quite high, getting fairly close to where the last high in price was seen.

    Often called a Dead Cat Bounce.

    It doesn't mean that a bull market is going to continue. Only a new all time high in price is going to give confidence to that view. While that hasn't happened, it'd probs be best to assume that a bear market is in it's early stages.

    This bounce so far has weak volume and momentum.

    But more concerning, the prior bull market from March 2009 to Feb 2020 also had declining volume. There is weak support below, which means that when price falls there is not alot of support below to stop it.

    Weak volume means that there was not a lot of trades made at those price points, so not so many people bought or sold at those price points. When people buy at a specific price point, and price moves up and away, they think "yay! I'm making money!" but if price turns and falls back to where they bought then they may choose to sell before they face a loss. Hence prior price points with larger volume tend to be "sticky". Hope that makes sense to readers here.

    Anyway, I did a macro economic analysis of the US market, hope it's okay to leave a link <a href="https://elliottwavegold.com/2020/05/us-macro-economic-analysis-08-2020/"here</a>.

    [lprent: Reads a bit like comment spam, but looks like being written by a human, and is relevant to the post. Just don’t trying to astroturf the site. Our site policy is here. ]

    • not intended as spam at all, but if you don't want professional input from a Kiwi overseas who has nothing to sell in NZ (my analysis is of US markets, not useful at all for NZ) and no axe to grind, then by all means delete it and I'll fuck off

      [I let the comment through and I agree lprent the comment was on point and coherent. Happy for your comments Lara but be careful about use of links – MS]

    • Ad 12.2

      Nice link there.

      I agree with the bounce; it's looking very similar to the 1897-88 crash in just that respect.

      • SPC 12.2.1

        More likely the 2008-2010 period. But in the short term like our 1986 peak and crash and 1987 revive and recrash.

        But because of the QE slosh – stocks will eventually recover as they did after the GFC (and the pre GFC high was influenced by the cheap credit/loose money in the US from 2002).

        It's been largely good news for baby boomers – savings multiplied by booming stocks and those in the Wall Street bubble paid fat bonuses.

        It's a lot like a pyramid scheme in a lot of ways – the number of 1%ers on top and the unsustainable nature of it.

        But while old people rule and old people benefit I do not see change coming.

        Another factor was the rise of the company that did not pay dividends and the fall in the rate of the CGT. So much so companies reinvested their profit into buying up their own stock.

  13. woodart 13

    maybe its simpler than most think. where else would you put your money. interest rates at your freindly bank are next to nothing, as they were prior covis. real estate (residental) prices have held up.

  14. Tricledrown 14

    Lara most indicators pointed to the US heading towards a recession before the pandemic.

    As you say bounces occur speculators are quick to jump on the up cycle but quicker to dump on the downward cycle.

    Trump will try to QE his way to victory

    Republicans claim to be fiscally conservative when history shows the opposite Bushes and Reagan ran up huge debts.

  15. SPC 15

    Fund managers – all that retirement saving to invest. And with all that QE money about post GFC, interest rates were so low.

    Those who diversified (bonds) got lower returns and those who went all in for stocks were glorified.

    Is this a case of rinse and repeat?

    • Pat 15.1

      everything is relative….even when the market crashes you still (hopefully) have an asset

  16. Gabby 16

    Bill Ackman knows what to do when share prices fall. He's so keen he gives them a wee push in the right direction.

  17. Jum 17

    I just look at the stock market as a place for rich people to stick the cash they don't need to live on. The conclusion is that they're still rich; it's only the unemployed that are tanking, so no change there.

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