Stocks moved higher during a holiday-shortened week of trading, capping off a turbulent, but otherwise strong year for equity investors.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1.35%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 increased by 1.43%. The Nasdaq Composite index, which led all year, added 0.65%. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, rose 2.02%.1,2,3
The Year in Brief
The global pandemic disrupted economies, financial markets, and daily life in 2020. Households and businesses were put to the test during the toughest and grimmest years in decades. The winter brought a resolution to the U.S.-China tariff dispute, the Brexit referendum, and the first U.S. appearance of the novel coronavirus. As spring started, abrupt stay-at-home orders in response to COVID-19 curtailed business activity, which dampened consumer spending. The federal government responded, arranging stimulus payments for millions of Americans.
Wall Street bounced back from its March downturn, but the economy limped along. The pandemic entered its worst phase in fall, but two highly promising vaccines were announced in November, and as winter started, they began to roll out to the public. On the cusp of 2021, Congress approved a second national economic stimulus, and the European Union and United Kingdom signed off on a post-Brexit trade deal.
There are many unanswered questions as we enter 2021. Will mass vaccination happen as quickly as we anticipate? Will a successful vaccination program lead to more hiring, more travel, more in-store shopping, and more confidence? The financial markets will be watching progress on this effort.
The U.S. Economy
The pandemic sent the U.S. economy into an abnormal phase, and so our fundamental economic indicators displayed atypical readings.
The Department of Labor's main jobless rate, 3.5% in February, hit 14.7% by April. Headline unemployment declined for the next seven months, to 6.7% by November. The U-6 unemployment rate, measuring unemployment and underemployment, peaked at 22.8% in April.4,5
As people stayed home, consumer spending trended lower, falling 6.9% in March and 12.6% in April.6
The federal government moved to boost economic activity. As March ended, a $2 trillion economic stimulus bill became law, featuring cash payments to households, temporary increases in federal unemployment benefits, and a Small Business Administration program pledging to offer distressed companies funds equivalent to 8 weeks of payroll costs. The aid began rolling out in April, and in May, the White House unveiled Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership intended to produce COVID-19 vaccines in record time. Two vaccines were approved by the Food and Drug Administration by fall.7,8
The Federal Reserve took the benchmark federal funds interest rate down to a target range of 0-0.25%, and revived emergency loan programs first introduced in 2008. It collaborated with the Department of the Treasury on efforts to buy corporate bonds and encourage business loans. In a monetary policy shift, the central bank said in August that it would accept average inflation of 2% for the near term, and was willing to tolerate a little more inflation in the economy while pursuing the goal of full employment.9,10
As stay-at-home orders lifted, the economy rebounded. Gross domestic product, which the Bureau of Economic Analysis said had contracted 31.4% in the second quarter, grew 33.4% in Q3. The BEA also recorded a 41.0% Q3 climb for consumer spending. Stay-at-home orders returned in Q4, however, prompting another federal economic stimulus in December.11
The housing market stayed strong. By November, existing home sales were up 25.8% year-over-year, according to the National Association of Realtors; Census Bureau data showed a 20.8% annualized improvement for new home buying.12,13
The U.S.-China tariff dispute eased throughout the year. In the January 2020 trade talks, the U.S. promised to lessen import taxes on Chinese goods, and China agreed to buy more American exports.14
The Global Economy
The International Monetary Fund expects the world economy will contract 4.4% in 2020. If that estimate holds, 2020 will be the worst year for global growth since the 1930s. The U.S. economy shrank 4.3% in 2020, according to the IMF's forecast. That is better than the 8.3% setback estimated for the eurozone. The IMF projects that China's economy grew 1.9% last year. As for 2021, it sees GDP advances of 8.2% for China, 5.2% for the eurozone, and 3.1% for the U.S.15,16
The European Union and United Kingdom agreed to a post-Brexit trade deal on December 24. This completed the Brexit process, which began with the 2016 leave vote and included the U.K.'s formal exit from the E.U. last January. Businesses and financial firms based in the U.K. now face new trade rules and costs, even with the new pact in place.17
Looking at stock benchmarks around the world, there were more ups than downs. South Korea's Kospi Composite stood out with a 30.75% 2020 gain. Argentina's MERVAL climbed 22.93%, Taiwan's TWII 22.80%. Two other notable 2020 advances: Japan's Nikkei 225 added 16.01%, and China's Shanghai Composite rose 13.87%. There were also notable retreats: Indonesia's IDX Composite lost 5.09%, France's CAC 40 7.14%, Russia's RTS 10.42%, and Spain's IBEX 15.45%. The MSCI EAFE index, a broad benchmark tracking developed-economy stock market performance in Europe and Asia, rose 5.43%.18,19
We join all Americans in happily drawing the curtain on 2020. Though it was a challenging and tragic year for so many, there are good reasons to believe that 2021 will be a year of progress in returning to our pre-pandemic normal. We wish you and your family a healthy and happy new year!
This Week: Key Economic Data
Tuesday: Institute for Supply Management (ISM) Manufacturing PMI (Purchasing Managers Index).
Wednesday: Automated Data Processing (ADP) Employment Change, Factory Orders.
Thursday: Initial Jobless Claims, ISM Non-Manufacturing PMI.
Friday: Employment Report.
Source: Econoday, December 31, 2020
This Week: Companies Reporting Earnings
Thursday: Micron Technologies (MU), Constellation Brands (STZ), Walgreens Boots (WBA), Conagra Brands (CAG)
Source: Zacks, December 31, 2020
“To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone, and a funny bone.”
– Reba McEntire
Tax Benefit and Credits: FAQs for Retirees
Lots of questions can come up about income taxes after one has retired. Listed are answers to just a few common questions from retired taxpayers.
What types of income are taxable?
What types of income are non-taxable?
Why is my pension taxed?
* This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax professional.
Tip adapted from IRS20
Practicing Gratitude in the New Year
Instead of beginning the new year with a list of resolutions, start by examining the good things that are already in your life by practicing gratitude.
Psychologists have defined gratitude as a positive emotional response to receiving a benefit from someone. In positive psychology, gratitude is the human way of acknowledging the good things in life. Thankfully, gratitude is something you can learn if it does not come innately.
There are benefits to practicing gratitude, especially in times of stress and uncertainty. Gratitude invites positive emotions that can have physical benefits, through the immune and/or endocrine systems. Research shows that when we think about what we appreciate, the parasympathetic or calming part of the nervous system is triggered, which can have protective benefits for the body—including decreasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increasing oxytocin, the bonding hormone involved in relationships that make us feel good.
There are a few great ways to get started today and practice gratitude in your own life:
Tip adapted from Psychology Today21
The railings on a 60-yard-long walkway have ornamental sculptures every 12 yards on both sides, starting at the east and west ends of the walkway. How many total sculptures are there on the walkway?
Last week’s riddle: What number logically comes next in this series: 2, 3, 5, 9, 17, __? Answer: 33. (The difference between the two numbers is progressively multiplied by 2 and added to the next number.)
Northern Lights, Fairbanks, Alaska.
Footnotes and Sources
1. The Wall Street Journal, December 31, 2020
2. The Wall Street Journal, December 31, 2020
3. The Wall Street Journal, December 31, 2020
4. Trading Economics, January 2, 2021
5. CNN Business, May 8, 2020
6. Investing.com, January 2, 2021
7. Los Angeles Times, December 18, 2020
8. Treasury.gov, January 2, 2021
9. New York Times, December 23, 2020
10. Reuters, August 27, 2020
11. The Balance, December 27, 2020
12. Reuters, December 22, 2020
13. Census Bureau, December 23, 2020
14. NPR, January 15, 2020
15. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, December 31, 2020
16. CNN Business, October 13, 2020
17. The Week U.K., December 23, 2020
18. Barchart.com, December 31, 2020
19. Wall Street Journal, January 1, 2021
20. IRS.gov, January 1, 2021
21. PsychologyToday.com, October 10, 2020
Investing involves risks, and investment decisions should be based on your own goals, time horizon, and tolerance for risk. The return and principal value of investments will fluctuate as market conditions change. When sold, investments may be worth more or less than their original cost.
The forecasts or forward-looking statements are based on assumptions, may not materialize, and are subject to revision without notice.
The market indexes discussed are unmanaged, and generally, considered representative of their respective markets. Index performance is not indicative of the past performance of a particular investment. Indexes do not incur management fees, costs, and expenses. Individuals cannot directly invest in unmanaged indexes. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average is an unmanaged index that is generally considered representative of large-capitalization companies on the U.S. stock market. Nasdaq Composite is an index of the common stocks and similar securities listed on the NASDAQ stock market and is considered a broad indicator of the performance of technology and growth companies. The MSCI EAFE Index was created by Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) and serves as a benchmark of the performance of major international equity markets, as represented by 21 major MSCI indexes from Europe, Australia, and Southeast Asia. The S&P 500 Composite Index is an unmanaged group of securities that are considered to be representative of the stock market in general.
U.S. Treasury Notes are guaranteed by the federal government as to the timely payment of principal and interest. However, if you sell a Treasury Note prior to maturity, it may be worth more or less than the original price paid. Fixed income investments are subject to various risks including changes in interest rates, credit quality, inflation risk, market valuations, prepayments, corporate events, tax ramifications and other factors.
International investments carry additional risks, which include differences in financial reporting standards, currency exchange rates, political risks unique to a specific country, foreign taxes and regulations, and the potential for illiquid markets. These factors may result in greater share price volatility.
Please consult your financial professional for additional information.
This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG is not affiliated with the named representative, financial professional, Registered Investment Advisor, Broker-Dealer, nor state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and they should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.
Copyright 2021 FMG Suite.
Weekly Market Insights: The Year in Review
January 05, 2021