Market Commentary – July 2020

U.S. equities continued to move higher in July despite rapidly rising COVID-19 infections across the country. On July 16th, daily reported COVID-19 cases hit an all-time high of 77,255. Our view is that stocks can continue higher in the face of rising cases of COVID-19, provided mass lockdowns are not reinstated. We believe that small businesses, municipalities, and the U.S. Government cannot afford the self-inflicted economic damage that would result from more shutdowns. As a result, lockdowns may be instituted on a selective basis, but not at the levels seen in March and April. Employment figures have been a key indicator of how rapidly the U.S. economy has recovered from the recent crisis. On July 2nd, the June jobs report showed the addition of 4.8 million payrolls, which was better than the expectation for 3.2 million. Helping to boost the recovery has been the unprecedented levels of monetary and fiscal stimulus from the U.S. Government. The Federal Reserve continues to maintain extremely accommodative monetary policy and has no immediate plans to raise interest rates above the current level of 0.0%. Eventually, Congress will come to terms on a new round of stimulus measures, which should be positive for markets. We also continue to monitor the U.S. political situation as it relates to China. On July 22nd, the U.S. moved to shut the Chinese consulate in Houston for the purposes of deterring American intellectual property theft. In retaliation, China ordered the closure of the U.S. consulate in Chengdu only five days later. This recent tit-for-tat behavior could have a cumulative negative affect on relations between the two countries in the long term, but in the short term we do not view it as a significant market risk. Overall, our outlook for equities remains net positive, but investors must understand the current environment involves a metaphorical balancing act. Markets will have to contend with big swings in economic data points, corporate earnings, and cases of COVID-19 for some time.