The Markets (as of market close March 20, 2020)
Following the Fed’s latest interest rate cut last weekend, stocks opened markedly lower on Monday, prompting the third circuit breaker in the last six sessions as trading was halted only seconds after the opening bell. By midmorning on Monday, the Dow had lost 8.5%, the S&P 500 slid 7.7%, and the Nasdaq fell 7.8%. By the end of the day, the Dow posted its worst percentage decline since 1987, the S&P 500 fell 12.0%, and the Nasdaq was off 12.3%. Business disruptions, store closures, and travel restrictions continue to drive the massive sell-off.
A late rally Tuesday pushed the major indexes higher, but the momentum was short-lived. Wednesday’s futures triggered yet another circuit breaker. The stock market is now firmly in bear territory — more than 20% off its 52-week high. Despite new measures by the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank late Wednesday, stocks continued to fall.
After Thursday’s passage of legislation intended to provide some relief to those who are unable to work, coupled with an extension to file income taxes until July, stocks rebounded, somewhat. While Thursday’s gains provided a brief respite from the constant sell-offs, stock values remain depressed. The Dow was down more than 32% from its February 12 high, while the other major indexes have all fallen more than 20%.
By the end of the week, each of the benchmark indexes fell by more than 10%, led by the large caps of the Dow and the small caps of the Russell 2000. The federal government closed U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada to nonessential travel. States like New York, California, and Illinois ordered their respective workforces to stay home. Investors saw these moves as more reason to fear that the worst is yet to come from the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting more stock sell-offs.
Year-to-date, the Russell 2000 is nearly 40% below its 2019 closing value. The Dow and Global Dow are each more than 32% off last year’s pace. The tech-heavy Nasdaq has given up more than 23% from last year, which was a stellar one for this index.
Oil prices continued to plunge last week, closing at $19.84 per barrel by late Friday afternoon, down from the prior week’s price of $33.34. The price of gold (COMEX) also fell last week, closing at $1,498.90 by late Friday afternoon, down from the prior week’s
price of $1,532.80. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.248 per
gallon on March 16, 2020, $0.127 lower than the prior week’s price and $0.300 less
than a year ago. Click her for more: WinthropPartners Weekly Update 3-23-2020
Thomas Saunders is the Managing Partner of Winthrop Partners. Prior to founding Winthrop Partners, Tom was Senior Vice President at what is now JP Morgan. His career includes senior and executive roles at Brown Brothers Harriman and First Niagara Bank, a top 25 Bank. Click here to contact Thomas Saunders about your investment and planning requirements.