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Investors ride the Big Tech rally even as COVID cases and unemployment spike

August 21, 2020, 10:10 AM UTC

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Happy Friday, Bull Sheeters. Lousy U.S. labor data can’t stop Big Tech. The Nasdaq yesterday hit yet another record and FAAMG stocks helped the S&P eke out a gain. Momentum from the tech rally, and some promising vaccine news are pushing global equities and futures higher this morning.

Let’s check in on the action.

Markets update

Asia

  • The major indexes are in the green, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng leading the way, up 1.3% in afternoon trade.
  • Jack Ma’s fintech powerhouse Ant Capital plans to file a dual-listed IPO in Hong Kong and Shanghai in the coming weeks. There’s increasing speculation it could break a record for must funds ever raised as the firm seeks a $225 billion valuation.
  • Australia’s PM has backtracked on his earlier words to make a future COVID vaccine jab mandatory. Australia is yet another country dealing with a recent surge in cases.

Europe

  • The European bourses were climbing at the open with Stoxx Europe 600 up 0.4%.
  • On the vaccine news front: Pfizer and BioNTech SE say the U.S. and German trials of their jointly produced COVID vaccine is on track for regulatory review as early as October, a development that’s lifting stocks and futures this morning.
  • Europe could use a shot in the arm right now…. “We want to avoid closing borders again at any cost,” Germany’s Angela Merkel said yesterday as Europe’s coronavirus cases continue to spike, and officials across the Euro zone mull new measures to control the rate of infections.

U.S.

  • U.S. futures are a tick higher as all three indexes closed higher on Thursday.
  • That’s despite a worse-than-expected reading on U.S. jobless claims yesterday morning before the bell.
  • Shares in Lyft and Uber took off after a California appeals court agreed they can operate as usual while challenging a judge’s order to comply with a state labor law on benefits for drivers.

Elsewhere

  • Gold is down slightly, below $1,950/ounce.
  • The dollar is flat.
  • Crude is in the red again, with Brent trading below $45/barrel.

By the Numbers

>1 million. Just last week we were cheering a weekly jobless claims number that came in below 1 million for the first time since March. Yesterday’s figure though climbed back above seven figures, far worse than economists’ estimates. The forecast was for 923,000. The markets—well, tech bulls, anyhow—shrugged off the disappointing number, sending all three indexes higher. But yesterday’s 1.1 million handle is bad news no matter how you look at it, signaling the labor market recovery will be gradual and choppy. And the IRS now projects that millions of these jobs will be lost for years.

23.4%. I continue to struggle to put into words the Tesla rally. So, let’s just stick with the numbers. Shares of the carmaker soared again in the past five trading days by more than 23%, or 380 points. Yesterday, it closed above $2,000 as investors bet the company will be added to the S&P 500; the five-for-one stock split is also driving up volumes. Tesla is up 378% YTD. If you’d bought 10 grand worth of TSLA on Jan. 2, your stake would be worth $47,853 today. This is today’s stock chart:

This is the chart I posted here precisely seven days ago:

***

Postscript

The news is quiet here in Amandola, which is probably what you want during a pandemic.

Yesterday morning, as I was wrapping up the newsletter, I got a bit distracted by some commotion on the street. A group of architects were surveying the nearby 15th-century convent, a sturdy structure my good friend Michael lovingly restored about 20 years ago.

Years ago, I helped Michael pour the concrete floors. And I grabbed a paintbrush every now and then; any excuse to restore a piece of history. Michael eventually turned the place into a spacious home, with a downstairs apartment for B&B renters and an artist studio for his real passion: painting and teaching courses to unlock our creative side. We used to sit around his stone fireplace, chatting about everything under the sun, wine flowing and Leonard Cohen playing somewhere in the background.

Michael called the place Sambuco—in Italian, elder flower, which runs wild on the hillsides here. In our little hilltop hamlet, Sambuco is the most historically significant structure. It predates the rest of the houses here—the road, the electric lines, the now ubiquitous wifi, too. Long before Michael came along, it was a kind of refuge or way station for pilgrims making the journey on foot to Rome. From here, the road to Rome involves crossing an arduous, but spectacular, mountain pass. Somebody named the crossing the gola del infernaccio (throat of hell), and the name stuck.

Under a shady oak on the hills behind Sambuco. The old pilgrim route headed straight up and over the mountains in the foreground. Original photo: Bernhard Warner.

Fast-forward to 2016. Michael had sold the place and moved to the coast a few years earlier. The timing was fortuitous. In August 2016, and then again in October of that year, two major earthquakes socked the region, leaving Sambuco and thousands of other historic dwellings uninhabitable.

The most recent owners, hailing from seismically stable England, gave up on the place. They’re literally selling it for a song, the architects told me yesterday.

Over the centuries, Sambuco has seen and survived all kinds of earth-shaking events: the odd pandemic, plague and seismic tremor. We imagine somebody will come and restore it again. Or at least, we hope.

Sambuco in the early morning light today. The place has been deemed uninhabitable since the August 2016 earthquake. Original photo: Bernhard Warner.

Things have been kinda stuck in neutral in these parts since the 2016 quakes. The coronavirus outbreak was just the latest setback, putting the larger re-build on hold. So we all greeted the architects’ arrival this week as a sign that things are finally starting to nudge back in the direction of normal.

In other words, it’s news.

Stop biting

I have a question to my dog-loving readers: How do you get a puppy to stop biting? Scilla, our Lagotto pup, is in that classic teething stage where she locks her teeth on anything she can. Usually my sandals. When I’m wearing them.

She’s pretty good with the girls. She won’t bite them. But she loves to nip at my ankles, even at 6 a.m. when only one of us is fully awake.

Can you recommend any good strategies to get the message across that she should stop biting the hand that feeds her?

And is it normal for a dog to so enthusiastically jump into the shower with you? Is that a water dog thing?

Have a nice weekend, everyone. I’ll see you here on Monday.

Bernhard Warner
@BernhardWarner
Bernhard.Warner@Fortune.com

***

Today's read

The engine of the economy. Consumer spending makes up, typically, 70% of U.S. GDP. When consumers start to cut back on spending, the economy usually takes a hit. That makes this new survey data, courtesy of Fortune and SurveyMonkey, so worrying. American households are cutting back on spending now that the $600 weekly unemployment supplement has expired, the survey found.

Build the wall...from a super yacht. That Americans would give some $25 million in their savings to a GoFundMe campaign that promises to build a border wall is not necessarily the most preposterous detail to emerge from yesterday's arrest of Steve Bannon and his associates. Here are the five craziest details to come out of the investigation so far.

The big match. The big Champions League final is this weekend, pitting some club from Munich against Paris Saint-Germain. But another French club, ESTAC Troyes, is getting a whole lot of attention from a different kind of crowd. Fortune's Jeremy Kahn explores why a potential blockbuster deal by City Football Group, the company that owns U.K. Premier League soccer team Manchester City, to buy ESTAC Troyes could literally shake up the world of international soccer.

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Market candy

Party's over

A new rule for Airbnb renters goes into effect this weekend: no more fun. Okay, not quite. But there will be no more parties. Anywhere. "Today we’re announcing a global ban on all parties and events at Airbnb listings, including a cap on occupancy at 16. This party ban applies to all future bookings on Airbnb and it will remain in effect indefinitely until further notice." Apparently, customers have been turning rental properties into club and party venues. "We think such conduct is incredibly irresponsible," Airbnb says. You've been warned.