Last week, vaccine optimism immunized investors against signs of economic weakness.
In previous commentaries we’ve written about narrative economics, which holds that popular stories may affect individual and collective economic behavior. Last week, diverse narratives had the potential to influence consumer and investor behavior, but not all did. You may have read that:
Coronavirus anxiety is high. “Figures from recent days suggest infections may have fallen off from record highs in some states. But no one is cheering in the emergency wards. Health workers fear that Thanksgiving gatherings will prove to be super-spreader moments… Meanwhile many college students have just gone home for the year… [A medical professional said], ‘It is like slow-motion horror. We’re just standing there and being run over,’” reported The Economist.
Unemployment claims moved higher. “The number of Americans filing first-time claims for jobless benefits increased further last week, suggesting an explosion in new COVID-19 infections and business restrictions were boosting layoffs and undermining the labor market recovery,” reported Lucia Mutikani of Reuters.
Economic stimulus is needed. “As it stands, tens of millions are already struggling to make rent payments and put food on the table. The $1,200 stimulus checks sent out by the government in the spring have long run dry and 12 million Americans are set to lose unemployment insurance the day after Christmas if Congress does not act,” reported Jacqueline Alemany of The Washington Post.
Vaccines are on the way. “As G20 leaders pledged to ensure the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, drugs, and tests so that poorer countries are not left out, the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany each announced plans to begin vaccinations in their countries in December…,” reported The Guardian.
Fiscal and monetary policy will reinvigorate the economy. “Surely the market strength reflects the fact that barring [vaccine] rollout disasters, we should have our normal lives back within months…Now add in the widely held assumption that the expected new Treasury secretary Janet Yellen will deliver the additional stimulus she has called for, and the newish Federal Reserve rhetoric that holds interest rates need to stay low…Suddenly it makes perfect sense to think that pent up demand and possible productivity gains created by the crisis could help set off what Goldman Sachs calls the Roaring 20s Redux,” wrote Merryn Somerset Webb for Financial Times.
The optimistic stories – the potential for vaccines to restore ‘normal’ and the possibility of new stimulus measures if Janet Yellen becomes Treasury Secretary – helped drive markets higher last week. Global stock markets rose and were positioned to deliver their best monthly performance ever, reported Camilla Hodgson of Financial Times.
In the United States, the Dow Jones Industrial Average moved above 30,000 before retreating, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 and Nasdaq Composite Indices both finished the week at record highs, reported Ben Levisohn of Barron’s.
photo by: medical vaccine @ shutterstock - 1012924717