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Can the Dow’s Big Tech makeover finally push the blue chip index above 30,000?

August 25, 2020, 9:47 AM UTC

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Good morning. Stocks and futures are again climbing. There’s finally some good news on the U.S.-China trade front, a huge sigh of relief for investors. And the Dow got a big tech-friendly makeover late yesterday as the bluechip continues its torrid August surge, up nearly 8% this month.

Here’s what’s moving markets.

Markets update

Asia

  • The major Asia indexes are mixed, with Japan’s Nikkei leading the way, up 1.35%.
  • Don’t write off the Phase 1 trade deal just yet. Top U.S. and Chinese officials pronounced they’re still committed to the trade pact following a phone call yesterday, the first dialogue between the two trading powers since May. Investors cheered the news.
  • TikTok parent ByteDance is suing the Trump Administration, hoping to block a pending ban on the social media network. In the filing, TikTok claims that nearly one-third of Americans use the platform. (Maybe it’s time for Bull Sheet to join up, and see what all the fuss is about.)

Europe

  • The European bourses were in the green again this morning, with France and Milan leading the way, up 1.1% in early trade. Both Italy and France reported a slight improvement in COVID cases in the past 24 hours. Still, Germany doesn’t want its citizens going to Paris or the French Riviera any time soon.
  • Germany revised upwards its Q2 GDP this morning. At a q-o-q decline of 9.7% it’s still a bad number, but an improvement over the initial reading. Stocks were up on the news.
  • Slowly but surely, France is clawing back delinquent tax payments from major tech companies. Yesterday, Facebook confirmed it was paying €106 million ($125.5 million) to settle its 2018 tax dispute with French tax authorities.

U.S.

  • The U.S. futures are climbing this morning, pointing to further record-setting gains for the Nasdaq and S&P 500. The Dow too closed above 28,000. (We may need to revive that Dow 30K wager I last mentioned back in January.)
  • After the Dow’s stellar close yesterday, S&P Dow Jones Indices announced a shakeup of the bluechip index. In are Salesforce, Amgen, and Honeywell International. Out are ExxonMobil, Pfizer, and aerospace company Raytheon Technologies.
  • GOP delegates formally nominated Donald Trump on Monday for a second term. In his speech to follow, the president pointed to the recent stock market bull run as one of his principal economic achievements.

Elsewhere

  • Gold is up slightly, but it continues to trade in a range below $1,950/ounce.
  • The dollar is off slightly.
  • Crude is flat, with Brent trading above $45/barrel.

***

The e-word

It’s official. “The economy is on the ballot,” Vice President Mike Pence declared yesterday as the Republicans laid out their messaging for the run up to Election Day.

In American politics, the economy is always on the ballot. But these are odd times. Campaign experts might be justified in telling the candidate to gloss over the economy-talk with the country in recession and unemployment skyrocketing. (There are real concerns that this economic destruction and the job losses we’re seeing are of the permanent variety).

A growing number of economists fear things could quickly deteriorate further if Washington continues to dither on a second coronavirus bailout package. As Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, recently told Fortune, Washington has some unfinished business to attend to.

“We fell into a deep dark hole early on, we have dug ourselves halfway out roughly, and that’s where we’ll stay until we’re on the other side of this pandemic,” Zandi says.

“The risk,” he adds “is we slide back into the hole if we don’t get continued, additional support from policymakers.”

Zandi is tapping into a bigger concern. The further you get from Wall Street, the deeper the dismay about the state of the economy. Americans’ satisfaction with the way things are going hit a nine-year low, Gallup recently reported.

Amazingly, in February, Americans were feeling incredibly bullish. The level of optimism hit a 15-year high then. The pandemic has laid waste to that outlook.

A lot can happen on the campaign trail, of course—even the virtual campaign trail. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that things can change dramatically, in the blink of an eye.

Usually, campaign pros talk of the “October surprise” that can swing an election. But this year, an October surprise will likely be too late for a lot of voters.

Zandi says the U.S. economy needs a September accord more than an October surprise.

“By the second, third week of September, if Congress hasn’t gotten [a stimulus package] together,” Zandi says, “I suspect very strongly we’re going to get a negative September job number.”

Mark your calendars.  

***

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

An Apple a day. Apple shares yesterday closed at $503, yet another record. Here's why analysts, including some big Wall Street names, think there's still plenty of momentum in this trade to keep soaring. 

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Market candy

Quote of the day

"This provides every opportunity of hyping a candidate and making it appear that one vaccine is better than another vaccine, when actually we don’t have the data to reach those conclusions."

That's Wayne Koff, the chief executive of the Human Vaccines Project, a nonprofit working to speed the development of vaccines for numerous contagious diseases. Koff is part of a growing community of scientists baffled at Wall Street's penchant for crowning winners in the COVID vaccine race. It's far too early, they tell Fortune's Jeremy Kahn. Here's why. Sorry Moderna and Novavax bulls.