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These investments powered a record-setting month of stock market gains

September 1, 2020, 8:34 AM UTC

This is the web version of the Bull Sheet, Fortune’s no-BS daily newsletter on the markets. Sign up to receive it in your inbox here.

Good morning, Bull Sheeters. September is starting where August left off—global stocks and U.S. futures are mostly gaining this morning. That’s after Wall Street notched its best August since 1986.

Let’s see where investors are putting their money.

Markets update


  • The major Asia indexes are clinging to gains in afternoon trading, with Shanghai up 0.4%.
  • Some good news for the world economy: Global trade is heading for something closer to a V-shaped recovery, says Germany’s Kiel Institute for the World Economy, as the economic shock so far hasn’t been nearly as deep and severe as that of the global financial crisis a dozen years ago.
  • Facebook announced it plans to block its Australia-based users from sharing news on its platform as the government there considers a law requiring big digital firms to compensate publishers for their work. Dear readers Down Under: let me know if you have trouble posting Bull Sheet to your feed this morning.


  • The European bourses opened mostly higher with Germany’s Dax up 0.8% in the first hour of trade.
  • Germany will release its 2020 economic forecast today and the engine of the European economy is expected to show the recovery is proceeding better than expected.
  • AstraZeneca shares were up 1.2% in London this morning on news the UK drugmaker has begun a large-scale human trial of its coronavirus vaccine in the U.S.


  • The U.S. futures point to a positive open. That’s after the S&P 500 and Dow slumped in the final hour of trade on Monday, hurt by bank stocks.
  • Tech stocks again soared on Monday with Tesla and Apple leading the charge. Both companies are riding high on their respective share-splits, but there’s plenty of reason for investors to be cautious about future performance.
  • Speaking of tech…Zoom shares are up nearly 23% in pre-market trading after the video-meeting platform registered a monster beat on Monday, outperforming on revenues, EPS and users.


  • Gold, volatile as ever, is climbing, trading near $2,000/ounce.
  • The dollar is down.
  • Crude is higher with Brent trading just shy of $46/barrel.


What’s hot, what’s not

Welcome to September. Again, we’re going to look back at the past month to tally up the big winners and losers.

Last month at this time, we were hailing the bull run in gold and Chinese equities, and we were marveling at the dollar’s sharp sell-off. European equities were the other asset class in the dumps in July.

And then we turned the page on a new month, and, voilà, the script flipped with it. August turned out to be a truly risk-on month.

Let’s go to the leader board.

Tech stocks and blue chips led the way in August. In fact, equities across the board did pretty well with European stocks (with the exception of the FTSE, which was largely flat in August) having a late run. In fact, Germany’s Dax, which has been trading much like the Dow in recent weeks, is nearly break-even for 2020.

Advancing 7% in August, the S&P 500 recorded 16 “up” days, and two winning streaks of at least six days. That’s a first for an August performance.

And what about gold and the dollar? The shiny yellow stuff hasn’t been a great bet over the past 30 days. It’s been trading in a tight range, with a load of volatility. It finished the month up 0.4% (compared to an 11% surge in July). Gold is up strongly this morning, however.

And what does history tell us about the months ahead?

“Be aware September is indeed the worst month of the year on average,” says LPL Financial Chief Market Strategist Ryan Detrick. “But what caught our attention was both September and October have a negative return during election years, with October the worst month of the year. Could investors get election jitters again in 2020?”

Don’t get too worried about that. Goldman Sachs, for one, had warned back in July that the month of August is historically a low-volume dud.

History sure didn’t repeat itself last month.


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

Bernhard Warner

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

Today's reads

Turning Japanese. Warren Buffett's courtship with Japan had more than a few market observers shaking their head in confusion on Sunday night. But his $6 billion bet on a quintet of Japanese companies (mere months after bailing on U.S. banks and airlines) is not really all that outlandish when you consider recent market moves. Fortune's Eamon Barrett breaks down Buffett's rationale here.

Wood for the trees. Anybody who's gone to Home Depot and Lowe's recently has no doubt seen the crazy prices in the lumber aisle. In fact, the price of lumber has soared 134% year-over-year. Is this some kind of freak pandemic-pricing phenomenon? Fortune's Lance Lambert explains what's behind the price rise, and how much it's going to add to the price of a home renovation.

Trump's quandary. By a host of key indicators, the American economy is improving—from disastrously weak levels, of course, but it's still improving. But Americans are convinced things are still bad, and getting worse. That's according to the latest survey of Americans jointly produced by Fortune and SurveyMonkey.  

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Market candy

Quote of the day

We don't want it too high./ We don't want it too low./ When inflation is stable/ and predictable/ that's the way to go.

Every year, the Bank of Jamaica calls on local musicians to record a music video about the importance of stable prices for its public education campaign on inflation. And every version rocks! This latest one—featuring Denyque "and the low, stable and predictable inflation dancers"—I cannot get out of my head. Don't hate me. Just give a listen