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Global stocks continue to climb after investors pushed the S&P 500 into a new bull market

August 19, 2020, 9:36 AM UTC

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Good morning, Bull Sheeters. We are officially in a new bull market. The S&P 500 closed at a record high on Tuesday, erasing all pandemic-induced losses from the past six months. Next stop: the U.S. futures are edging higher again this morning.

Here’s what’s moving markets.

Markets update

Asia

  • The major Asia indexes are mixed in afternoon trade, with Japan’s Nikkei leading the way higher, up 0.3%.
  • “I don’t want to talk to China right now,” President Trump declared at a campaign stop on Tuesday, explaining why last weekend’s trade talks between the two economic powers were unceremoniously halted, and casting huge doubts on the future of the Phase 1 deal.
  • New Zealand has gone from zero to 74 COVID cases in a little over a week, and now it’s deploying the military at its borders to keep the outbreak at bay.

Europe

  • The European bourses were higher two hours into the trading session, with the Europe Stoxx 600 edging up 0.2%.
  • Shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk, a big indicator for world trade, raised its full-year outlook this morning as it sees Q3 volumes picking up. Shares were 5.5% higher in the first half-hour of trading.
  • Euro appreciation against the dollar has been the big FX story in recent weeks. Even though the greenback has fallen to multi-year lows against a basket of currencies, Morgan Stanley isn’t giving up on “king dollar.” It just picked it as its best safe-haven currency.

U.S.

  • The U.S. futures are pointing to a positive open (they’ve been tracking higher all morning) following yesterday’s historic run that saw both the S&P and Nasdaq finish in record territory.
  • Home Depot is flat in pre-market trading after the retailer disclosed blockbuster results yesterday with Q2 sales jumping 25% higher.
  • It’s official: the Democratic Party nominated Joe Biden as its presidential candidate on the second night of the DNC convention following a virtual roll call. It’s as good a time as any to revisit this piece: why Wall Street this time isn’t freaking out about the prospect of a Democrat in the White House.

Elsewhere

  • Gold has dipped below $2,000/ounce.
  • The dollar too is down.
  • Crude too is lower ahead of today’s OPEC meeting.

***

A new bull market

The economy may be in the doldrums, but the benchmark S&P 500 has just pulled off the unlikeliest of V-shaped recoveries (and then some). And it did so in record time, recovering more than 50% of its value in a little over 100 days.

For the year, the S&P is up an impressive 4.9%. Being true bulls, I’m sure none of you dumped your shares in late March as things looked their bleakest. No, of course not.

The biggest take-away of this rally is more a reminder than a lesson. It’s a simple one: don’t ever, ever, ever fight the Fed. The central bank’s commitment to loose monetary policy, and to keep credit flowing on the cheap were pivotal moves in giving equities a fighting chance as the broader economy crashed into recession.

“Even the most optimistic people in March were unlikely to have expected the market to recoup all of its losses in less than five months,” Chris Zaccarelli, Chief Investment Officer for Independent Advisor Alliance, wrote to investors yesterday. “However, the massive amounts of liquidity that the Federal Reserve has injected into the system is as big reason for the stunning recovery that we have just witnessed.”

But the victory party has been a muted one. The economy is still on the slow road to recovery. Unemployment is skyrocketing. And lawmakers are at an impasse as to how to get aid to the hardest hit segments of the U.S. economy. This all adds up to a lot of pain for a lot of Americans.

It’s a disconnect that’s hard to ignore.

“Many continue to wonder why stocks are at new highs with 10% unemployment and nearly a million people filing for initial unemployment claims,” Ryan Detrick, Chief Investment Strategist for LPL Financial, wrote in an investor note. “The truth is economic data is backward looking and stocks are looking ahead to a much brighter future.”

“From a 34% bear market to new highs,” he continued, “2020 is record breaking and heartbreaking all at the same time.”

Record breaking and heartbreaking. That’s as good a description for 2020 as any I’ve read.

***

Have a nice day, everyone. I’ll see you here tomorrow. 

Bernhard Warner
@BernhardWarner
Bernhard.Warner@Fortune.com

As always, you can write to bullsheet@fortune.com or reply to this email with suggestions and feedback.

Today's reads

Overtaking the "wolf." Tesla's share price surge on Monday added $7.8 billion to founder Elon Musk's net worth. That burst vaulted him over France's Bernard Arnault, the luxury goods magnate nicknamed the "wolf in cashmere," on Bloomberg's Billionaires Index. 

On elections and stocks. What would happen to the stock market if America were to go through a good old fashion constitutional crisis in which the November presidential election were contested? Sadly, it's not as far-fetched as it sounds. Fortune's Anne Sraders talks to investment pros who lay out the good/bad/ugly scenarios for just such a possibility.

Buffett and the banks. Last week, Berkshire Hathaway revealed it had dumped its bank holdings for, among other things, a gold mining firm. Does that mean it's time to short Big Finance? Not so fast, says Fortune's Shawn Tully. There's plenty of value in the beaten-down banks, he points out.

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Market candy

Quiz time

Which of these Nasdaq-listed e-commerce specialists is the best performing stock of 2020?

  • A) Amazon
  • B) Wayfair
  • C) Shopify
  • D) Overstock.com

The answer is D. Overstock's share price is up more than 1,500% YTD, a rise that's made a lot of investors a windfall, with one notable exception: the Overstock founder. Here's why he's missed out on a rally of a lifetime