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The markets roll into record territory—but this one group is missing out

February 6, 2020, 9:59 AM UTC

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Buongiorno, Bull Sheeters. And, yes, it is a good start to the day. We have a bunch of new highs to tell you about. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 opened in record territory, catching up with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq, which hit new records of their own at the close on Wednesday.

Yesterday was one of those rare trading days in which the major equities indexes, gold, crude and the dollar all climbed. (In the “You-can’t-have-it-all” category: Tesla fell 17% on Wednesday, returning, if not to earth, at least to a neighboring galaxy). The stellar ADP jobs numbers gave the U.S. markets a jolt yesterday. Today, investors are cheering China’s announcement to chop by half its tariffs on U.S. goods.

To more depressing news now… The coronavirus situation is showing no signs of improving. The death toll has now topped 560 and infections are above 28,000. Companies continue to warn about potential Q1-and-beyond impacts. (Get used to that.)

And yet the markets continue to roll. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was up for a third straight day on Thursday and has now recovered about half the losses it incurred over the past two-plus weeks.

Missing out

Since the 2009 lows of the Great Recession, the S&P 500 is up more than 500%. Sadly, this means nothing to an enormous swath of America.

As Ben Carlson, a regular Fortune contributor, pointed out yesterday, much of America’s middle class is missing out on this historic decade-long equities rally. One big reason is that they have much of their wealth tied up in real estate—in the homes they live in, in other words. Not the most liquid of asset classes. More to the point, the real estate market, while improving recently, is not nearly having the same kind of bull run as stocks.

This phenomenon, Carlson notes, is exacerbating the wealth gap in America. We dig it into it further in today’s chart.


As you see here, the top 20% of wealthy Americans have far more of their wealth invested in stocks, bonds and other financial assets. It’s the opposite for the bottom 80%, which leaves them more vulnerable to another housing crash.

Of course, bubbles can arise in any asset class. It is those who are more diversified who fare better when they do pop.

I suggest you take a moment to read Carlson’s analysis of this issue. He’s a CFA, and so he comes at these pieces with you, the investor, in mind.

See you tomorrow.

Bernhard Warner

Today's reads

Tariff-ic news. As noted above, China has pledged to slash tariffs on $75 billion of U.S. imports. There's a big but, however. The near-standstill in China’s economy caused by the coronavirus outbreak has intensified doubts over Beijing’s ability to follow through on its previous commitment to buy $200 billion more U.S. goods over the next two years, The Wall Street Journal reports

Counting unicorns. Bed-in-a-box seller Casper Sleep Inc. raised $100 million in an initial public offering on Wednesday, pricing its shares at the bottom of a reduced range, Bloomberg reports. Casper, which boasted a valuation of $1.1 billion in a private funding round last year, was valued in Wednesday’s IPO at less than half that. Another sign investors have grown skeptical of money-losing unicorns.

Hard pedaling. Speaking of unicorns...Peloton Interactive, the maker of internet-connected exercise equipment, said sales in the current quarter would be lower than analysts’ forecasts, sending its shares down by as much as 17%. The weak forecast from New York-based Peloton overshadowed strong growth in revenues in the holiday quarter and a more optimistic forecast for sales this year. 

Market candy

A 17% share-price drop = justified? "Investors who like the sensation of their stomach dropping away don't need to board a roller coaster. They can just buy Tesla shares," writes Erik Sherman in Fortune. By Tuesday’s close, the stock was trading at $968.99, or up 114% through the first five-plus weeks of 2020. Then on Wednesday, the shares plunged more than 17% to $734.70, their worst one-day drop in eight years. But don't feel bad for shareholders. Tesla's market cap is still bigger than that of Volkswagen, Daimler and all but Toyota in the automotive world. And, even after yesterday's sell-off, shares are still up roughly 97% YTD.