WEEKLY MARKET COMMENTARY

The Markets

Stock markets in the United States retreated a bit last week.

U.S. stocks have been trending higher for months. Last week, they gave back some gains. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 3.3 percent, while the S&P 500 Index fell 2.3 percent, and the Dow lost 1.8 percent, reported Ben Levisohn of Barron’s.

It was difficult to pinpoint a specific reason for the market’s retreat. Levisohn offered a litany of possibilities that included:

•  The Labor Day holiday
•  Corporate earnings guidance suggesting companies are pulling back on tech spending
•  Dr. Anthony Fauci tempering expectations a vaccine will be available by Nov. 1st
• Fears a disputed election could disrupt stock markets
• Congress’s lack of progress on a new stimulus bill

The downturn could also have something to do with the Congressional Budget Office report on U.S. debt levels. Next year, our country is expected to owe more (government debt) than it produces (gross domestic product or GDP). By 2023, the U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio is estimated to be 107 percent, which would be the highest in our nation’s history.

A high debt-to-GDP level, typically, is bad news for economic growth. The World Bank has found countries with debt-to-GDP ratios that exceed 77 percent for extended periods of time, see significant slowdowns in economic growth, reported Will Kenton and Julius Mansa in Investopedia. U.S. debt-to-GDP has been above 77 percent since 2009, according to data from the St. Louis Federal Reserve.

Michael Mackenzie of Financial Times cautioned ultra-loose central bank monetary policy and enormous government spending can have unwelcome side effects. He cited an emerging markets strategist who argued, “…excessive stimulus and easy money policies led either to asset bubbles or a burst of inflation. Both outcomes ‘bode ill for share prices in the long run.’”

On the other hand, Mackenzie says, “Given the current U.S. policy mix that penalizes investors sitting on the sidelines and holding cash – given they are earning next to nothing in interest – any cooling of a red-hot market is easily framed as an opportunity. For many, it is another chance to ‘buy the dip.’”

We’ll see what happens next week.

WHAT WILL A ‘NEW’ NORMAL LOOK LIKE?

COVID-19 has reshaped our world. Some of the ways we have adapted will be temporary, others may become permanent. Here are just a few ways our lives and the world around us have changed:

•  Remote work. Just 12 percent of people participating in a recent survey want to return to work in an office full time. The majority (72 percent) would prefer a combination of office and remote work. The attractions of the hybrid model include reducing commute time, saving money, and improving work-life balance.

•   Air quality. The 2020 slowdown delivered a temporary respite from air pollution in some parts of the world. The Economist reported, “…as [economic productivity] has fallen so has air pollution. This spring marked the first time in decades that residents of Jalandhar in northern India were able to see the snow-capped Himalayan mountains, 160km (100 miles) away.” The World Health Organization estimates that more than four million people died prematurely from diseases related to air pollution in 2016.

•  Movie watching. Social distancing has kept indoor movie theaters closed. So, instead of people streaming into theaters to watch summer blockbusters, new movie releases have begun streaming into people’s homes, reported Jeffrey Brown and Courtney Norris of PBS.

•   Grocery shopping. Many people don’t shop the way they used to shop. They’ve been taking advantage of innovations, such as touchless checkout, contactless shopping, online ordering, curbside pick-up, and home delivery.

•   Water quality. Water quality has improved along with air quality. However, higher concentrations of microplastics and other substances are increasing in some waterways because we’re using more disposable products. “It would be nice to keep this quality of air and water when the pandemic is over. It is possible, but we will have to work hard for it,” reported Marco Tedesco in State of the Planet, which is published by Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

Weekly Focus – Think About It

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
–Albert Einstein, Physicist

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Sites & Sources

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Sources:
https://www.barrons.com/articles/the-stock-markets-august-gains-turned-to-september-pain-what-happens-next-51599266176?mod=hp_LEAD_2
https://www.cbo.gov
https://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/debtgdpratio.asp
https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/GFDEGDQ188S
https://www.ft.com/content/ec16193f-8728-445e-a456-530f2ca9d791
https://slack.com/blog/news/slack-launches-the-future-forum
https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2020/09/05/air-pollution-is-returning-to-pre-covid-levels?utm_campaign=coronavirus-special-edition&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_source=salesforce-marketing-cloud&utm_term=2020-09-05&utm_content=article-link-2&etear=nl_special_2
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/what-the-pandemic-means-for-a-film-industry-in-a-state-of-paralysis
https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/06/how-coronavirus-convinced-grocery-chains-to-experiment-with-new-tech-.html
https://blogsei.columbia.edu/2020/06/08/coronavirus-improving-water-quality/
https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/change