Wall Street closed out a monster August on Monday, with major benchmarks notching their best month in at least 20 years, bolstered by ultra-accomodative Federal Reserve policy, moderating coronavirus infections and rising optimism for a COVID-19 vaccine that may backstop economic growth.
Despite giving back some gains on Monday, a formidable string of consecutive winning sessions carried the Dow over 7% higher during August, its best monthly showing since 1986. The S&P 500 Index also saw its best month since 1986, while a brisk rally in tech stocks propelled the Nasdaq to its best monthly performance since 2000, representing a nearly 10% gain.
All told, stocks are now deeply entrenched in a new bull market, less than 6 months after a vicious sell-off sparked by the COVID-19 outbreak obliterated all of the Trump era gains.
The high-flying tech shares of Apple (AAPL) and Tesla (TSLA) both soared after their stocks split on Monday, on the heels of setting new record highs. Tech stocks have boosted market sentiment, and helped grease the wheels of a rally that’s carried benchmarks higher despite the ongoing pandemic. Amazon (AMZN), Facebook (FB), Netflix (NFLX) and Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL) have been among the winners.
Additionally, July’s high-frequency economic data broadly outperformed Wall Street’s estimates, the latest being robust personal income and spending data released on Friday. Taken together, economists now believe that third quarter growth could be “even boomier” than prior estimates, JPMorgan Chase said on Friday.
Given that “July activity indicators have generally printed favorably…we are lifting our tracking of current-quarter growth from 20.0% to 27.5%,” wrote economist Michael Feroli. The bank’s raised expectations were bolstered by data released by the St. Louis and New York Federal Reserve Banks, which also expect Q3 growth to soar.
“Even with some slowing in August-September household outlays, perhaps due to the interruption of federal income support, real consumer spending looks set to grow at 36.0% annual rate in Q3,” Feroli added.
Traders have been encouraged by Fed policy that continues to encourage risk appetite, and the COVID-19 outbreak that has shown signs of tapering off in the Sun Belt region — which until very recently had been a domestic epicenter of new infections. Additionally, encouraging developments in the race for a vaccine have given the market reasons for hope.
This week will be an acid test for assumptions about the U.S. recovery, which has defied much of the gloomy expectations associated with a relentless rise of coronavirus cases. With unemployment still elevated, the August payrolls data will be closely watched for signs the labor market is healing, and more displaced workers are finding unemployment.
“Recall that the U.S. non-farm payrolls collapsed by 22.1 million in March and April, noted Marc Chandler at Bannockburn Global Forex. “In the three months…
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