For the week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average led the U.S. index losses at -2.70%, followed by the S&P 500 Index -2.08% and the Nasdaq -1.72%. It was another topsy-turvy week that was impacted by jobless figures (crazy spike), payrolls (down), oil (down, then dead-cat bounce), COVID-19 infections (scary up) and stimulus policy implementation (initiated). Looking back at this bear market, it was initially started with daily free falls in stocks, then over the course of the past weeks the equity markets have been less volatile with more liquidity, yet still oscillating on a downward trajectory. The reality is it will take a long time for the U.S. economy to properly absorb the 2 trillion-dollar stimulus and by the time the economy does, then things will likely be even worse. I look at it this way, the stimulus represents about 10% of GDP, but some Wall Street firms are now looking at the U.S. economy (GDP) contracting almost -40%. So, from the macro perspective, even when the stimulus is fully implemented, the markets should still be down over -25% just as a baseline (+10% -38% = -28%). Yes, there is more stimulus likely to be on the way, but I suspect the full negative impact of COVID-19 on business activity has yet to be foretold. For example, there is going to be a heck of a lot of businesses that will shutter, which will include many bankruptcies for small businesses, and serious downsizing for even the big companies with slashed office footprints, closed retail space, laid-off staffing/workforce etc. The government just can’t throw money at a massive and complex problem, then jump-start the U.S. economy into a “V” shape recovery. That said, at some point, there will still be an opportunity to trade here as the markets are behaving with better liquidity (exogenous help by Treasury w/ asset purchases); therefore, advisers with a thoughtful investment strategy can be opportunistic. Case in point, we plan to reenter the market with phased increments near or at the March 23rd lows. Then later, we think there will be some upside opportunity to sell some of the bottom feeding acquisitions months after on expected future COVID-19 medical treatment announcements down the road. It is our view there is the highest probability that the U.S. equity markets will take a partial “W” course, but flat-line before making the last upswing. Hence, the market will fall (which it did), it will recovery some with stimulus (which it did), will fall again (started, expect further downside), then partially recover again when there is news that COVID-19 is flattening & news of effective medical treatments, then finally decline from there to some (unknown) degree as the market ‘soberly’ processes that the world’s largest economy just can’t restart all engines when many of the largest companies had already taken longer-term “cutback” actions that simply can’t be undone with a magic wand.
First Quarter & March’s Monthly Wrap-up: The S&P 500 index finished down -20% for the first quarter, marking its worst quarter since the fourth quarter of 2008. The S&P 500 was down -12.51% for the month, while the Dow finished off -13.74%. Except for utilities, the other 11 sectors were down; tech’s big 5 lost a trillion dollars last month.