COVID vaccines are coming—but it might be too late for the housing market

This is the web version of Bull Sheet, a no-nonsense daily newsletter on what’s happening in the markets. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.

Good morning, Bull Sheeters. It’s shaping up to be a risk-on Monday as investors cheer the imminent arrival of vaccine doses.

The shipments couldn’t come at a better—or, depending on your perspective, worse—time. COVID cases are spiking just about everywhere and, with less than two weeks before Christmas, new lockdown measures are being mulled, or being rolled out, in some of the world’s biggest economies.

Let’s check in on today’s roundup, where I get into BofA’s analysis of how the pandemic is likely to shake up the housing market. Oh, and I have a bit of a treat for all you gastronomes. Read on.

Markets update


  • The major Asia indexes are mostly higher in afternoon trading with Japan’s Nikkei up 0.3%.
  • China this weekend pledged to slash its 2030 carbon emissions by 65%, a move that, some climate hawks say, could put further pressure on the incoming Biden Administration to reciprocate.
  • Corporate boards, beware. BlackRock is putting companies on notice, saying it will increasingly vote ‘yes’ on climate-friendly shareholder resolutions, using its $7 trillion assets under management as a kind of cudgel to advance green initiatives.


  • The European bourses are higher out of the gates with the DAX up 0.8% despite news over the weekend that Germany, the engine of the Eurozone economy, will enter a tighter lockdown on Wednesday, lasting through early January.
  • British businesses and the public won something of a reprieve this weekend after the latest Brexit make-or-break deadline passed with—lucky us—an extension, sending the pound sterling higher; the FTSE is flat. Dear reader, I share your tedium. Brexit trade talks have become that leaky faucet, that slow leak in your front tire, that pebble in your shoe. It’s not going away any time soon.
  • Shares in AstraZeneca bombed 7.9% lower at the open after the pharma giant disclosed this weekend it was buying rare-disease specialist Alexion Pharmaceuticals in a cash-and-shares deal valued at $39 billion.


  • U.S. futures point to a solid open. That’s after all three major indexes edged lower for the week as—speaking of tedious business stories— stimulus negotiations fizzled out. If Washington is to get stimulus checks into Christmas stockings, Congress has to reach a deal this week.
  • They’re calling it the biggest mass mobilization effort since World War II. Pfizer on Sunday morning began shipping COVID vaccines from its Michigan factory; McKesson will handle distribution.
  • Fortune polled Americans, and found that the majority plan to wait to see how the vaccine performs before rolling up their sleeves, and taking a jab.
  • The U.S. COVID death toll is on the brink of 300,000 and the average daily number of infections is above 200,000, so this next data point might not surprise you: 58% of American adults support some kind of national stay-at-home order, a recent Fortune poll found.


  • Gold is down, trading below $1,840/ounce.
  • As is the dollar.
  • Crude is higher on vaccine hopes, with Brent futures trading above $50/barrel.
  • Bitcoin is flat, but it’s back above $19,000.


Home sweet home

I’m guessing you too have had a brief exchange over coffee that goes something like this:

My wife: Look at this. There’s a house in [X part of the country, or city] for sale. Look at all this space!

Me: I don’t want to move.

Wife: Just take a look.

I usually wiggle out of the conversation by reminding my wife she married the wrong Warner brother, the journalist.

Why am I bringing this up? Last week, a new housing report from BankofAmerica came out that showed Americans are increasingly getting the itch to change homes. Every month, BofA analysts ask Americans if the COVID outbreak is a factor making them “seriously consider moving to a different house or apartment.”

In June, 19% of the panelists said that yes, the pandemic was making them seriously consider a move. Last month, that figure had jumped to 28%.

That’s not exactly an exodus, but it’s still a significant data point. The U.S. housing market accounted for about 15% of GDP in 2018. All those people moving around the country would be a hugely positive jolt for the likes of banks, retailers, appliance makers and select local tax authorities.

Beyond that, it’s hard to determine the big winners and losers from such a potential housing shakeup. For starters, as the BofA table shows, the migration pattern looks to be fairly unambitious. A good chunk of the survey respondents said that if they were to move, it would be likely somewhere else within the city, or within the region.

And, survey respondents said, they’re not looking to bail on the city, prompting BofA to declare the urban exodus is amounting to something of an “urban legend.” (I totally get this point; I too am not mentally ready to move out of the city.)

Still, we could be seeing the start of a fundamental housing shift in the quarters to come, one that’s likely to happen regardless of whether or not the new COVID vaccines do their job.

I hope my wife doesn’t read today’s Bull Sheet.



While my wife is checking house prices, this time of year I’m typically monitoring the market swings in a certain species of edible, subterranean fungus, the white truffle.

This year has been a particularly volatile one for fans of the mighty tuber magnatum pico, the Italian white truffle.

While on break two weeks ago, I went foraging for truffles with my neighbor, Renzo, his dog, Luna, and my Lagotto pup, Scilla. I wrote about our little adventure, a story that we published this weekend, replete with photos of shaggy dogs, freshly unearthed truffles and a little video explainer of why prices for this exotic dish are soaring.

This is where we went, in the woods behind my place in Amandola.

The elusive white truffle can be found in scattered patches in the hills of Amandola, in central Italy. Original photo: Bernhard Warner
Original photo: Bernhard Warner


Correction: a previous version of Bull Sheet incorrectly characterized the mood of investors. It was a risk-on day before the opening bell in New York.

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

Bombing on bonds. 2020 has been a humbling one for many a trading legend. Count British billionaire Mark Coombs in that group. The investment firm he built, Ashmore Group, has lost roughly $15 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal, betting on bonds from Argentina, Ecuador and Lebanon this year. Clients, to say the least, are not happy

Is the IPO market running too hot? After the gravity-defying debuts of DoorDash and Airbnb last week, you'd think every tech unicorn would want to push up their listing date. But, instead, we're seeing a surprising bit of hesitation. In recent days, videogame maker Roblox and fintech Affirm Holdings pressed pause on their IPO plans as investors start to rethink the frothiness of the market. Consider this data point: "Investors this year have valued newly public tech companies at a median of 23.9 times the revenue they reported in the 12 months before going public," the Journal reports, citing IPO tracker Jay Ritter.  

Some of these stories require a subscription to access. There is a discount offer for our loyal readers if you use this link to sign up. Thank you for supporting our journalism.

Market candy


Last week's data dump detailing who benefited from the Paycheck Protection Program (and who was shut out) is creating all kinds of headaches in Washington. Among the glaring nuggets: "the program cost nearly $225,000 for each job that it saved," writes Fortune's Rey Mashayekhi. That's only the tip of the iceberg. 

Subscribe to Well Adjusted, our newsletter full of simple strategies to work smarter and live better, from the Fortune Well team. Sign up today.

Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet