The bulls are firmly in control as the global markets open for 2021
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 and Happy New Year, Bull Sheeters.
Global stocks are hitting record highs again today on what is the first trading day of the year for much of the world. That’s despite a surge in new COVID infections and worries that the global immunization effort is off to a slow start.
The big investment story to start the year is Bitcoin. The cryptocurrency is edging down this morning, but it’s been hitting new records daily as institutional investors pile in, pushing its market cap to more than a half-trillion dollars and triggering a tsunami of tweets from crypto bulls crowing about their crypto net worth.
Let’s check in on what’s moving the markets.
- The major Asia indexes are mostly higher in afternoon trading with the Shanghai Composite up 0.9%.
- India is set to start a mass immunization campaign in the coming weeks after public health officials yesterday granted emergency approval to two new COVID vaccines, one from the AstraZeneca-Oxford University team and the other from India’s Bharat Biotech.
- COVID-19 wiped out a staggering 21 years of global air traffic growth, with passenger numbers down 67%, “levels last seen in 1999,” a new report shows.
- The European bourses were higher out of the gates with the Stoxx Europe 600 up 0.9%.
- Shares in AstraZeneca were up 1.7% a half-hour into the trading day as distribution of its COVID vaccine in the U.K. is imminent and regulatory approval is mere days away in the EU.
- British sports betting firm Entain Plc, owner of bookmaker Ladbrokes, is in play. MGM Resorts has teamed up with billionaire mogul Barry Diller to offer $10 billion for the firm, the Financial Times reports. The share was up nearly 28% in early trading.
- U.S. futures are starting the year where they left off in 2020: chugging higher. That’s after all three major averages, led by the Nasdaq (up 43.6% last year), closed out 2020 in the green.
- And now for the grim news… the U.S. has surpassed 20 million recorded COVID-19 cases, breaking new daily records over the weekend. Health officials fear the Christmas holidays will have triggered new super spreader events, similar to what happened over Thanksgiving.
- Shares in Tesla were flat in pre-market trading after the EV stalwart disclosed this weekend that it had delivered a record 499,550 vehicles in 2020. That was ahead of expectations, but nearly a half-million shy of its full-year goal (in fairness, a forecast made well prior to the COVID outbreak).
- Gold is up, trading around $1,930/ounce.
- The dollar is down as futures rise.
- Crude is climbing, with Brent futures trading near $52.50/barrel even as OPEC+ warns there are risks ahead for oil’s recovery.
- Bitcoin is off 2.5% this morning, but who could complain? (Well, maybe climate hawks worried about the sheer energy consumption going into the mining of virtual coinage.) The digital currency is trading near $32,700, up 42%—42%!!!—since my last Bull Sheet update on Dec. 18. Even a cryptocurrency named after a dog has more than doubled in value since the start of the year… Has anybody thought of a cryptocurrency named after a flying pig?
The big winners and losers of 2020
A pandemic. A global recession. A presidential election that the White House still won’t recognize. Brexit. Despite all that, we made it through a tumultuous year with our portfolios in surprisingly good shape.
How good of a year was 2020? On Friday, my year-in-review of the global markets went live. In it, I broke down the big winners and losers in equities, commodities and FX.
Tech stocks provided a nice lift to investors in Asia, Germany and of course the U.S. On the opposite end were finance and energy stocks, which dragged down the U.K.’s FTSE, which underperformed nearly every major exchange in 2020. I break it down in the chart here:
In the very first Bull Sheet last January, I was focussed on the Dow, as blue chip stocks were pushing the markets into record territory. I made little mention of Bitcoin or Tesla back then. The dollar was also in a fragile state a year ago at this time, but nobody was predicting it would bomb so low. And who could have predicted crude futures would go negative last April?
What can we expect in 2021? In short, more of the same, analysts say. As long as central banks continue to buy up assets and keep interest rates near (or below) zero, some of the best returns will continue to be from stocks. Yes, growth stocks are expensive, but nobody thinks that rally is dead.
We’ll cover all that and more this year.
It’s good to be back.
When Italians speak of love, they use the word “story” (storia). You embark upon a storia with someone you care about. The story of my wife and I began on a train platform. Track 1, to be precise. It was the Ancona train station. A Friday night in November.
And I was running late.
I’ll be the first to admit, our story did not get off to the best start. But I showed up at Track 1 with a plan: I had snared a reservation for us at Osteria del Pozzo down the road, a block or so in from the Ancona port.
This osteria is nothing special from the outside. It’s a tiny family-run joint where locals, seated cheek by jowl, eat sumptuous meals. Osteria del Pozzo is famous for the brodetto all’anconetano, a dish so important to the coastal city of Ancona that the city fathers chose to dedicate prominent space on the local government website to it. The brodetto is as much a beloved meal as it an homage to the Adriatic Sea. The recipe, by tradition, calls for a Last Supper-like 13 types of fish.
If you’re a fan of the legendary food critic Mimi Sheraton, you may know something about the brodetto. She traveled around the Adriatic coast towns of Italy in search of the most sublime brodetto, a piece The New Yorker published in its annual food issue in 2008. Spoiler: Ancona features prominently in the article.
At Osteria del Pozzo, they serve the brodetto in a giant, deep-dish pan. Peering over the edge you can find a bounty of fish marooned in a thick, tomato-based broth. We laughed at the sheer size of the portion, and then dug in, occasionally pulling off a hunk of bread to mop up the brodetto—what the Italians refer to as “fare la scarpetta.”
If the brodetto has one drawback it’s this: it can get kinda messy. At one point, my wife excused herself from the table. A few minutes later she returned and put a tender hand on my shoulder. It was at that point that I knew: the brodetto had won her over.
Why am I bringing this meal up all these years later?
The pandemic forced families in Italy to break with Christmas tradition this year. Travel and home visits were essentially banned. And so, we stayed in Rome rather than celebrate with my wife’s family in Umbria. But this allowed my wife and I to take full control of the Christmas menu, something we’d never be able to do if my mother-in-law, an amazing cook, were in the kitchen.
For the night of the 24th, my wife and I made the brodetto (pictured below) for the first time in ages (though we sensibly stuck to fewer than 13 varieties of fish). As our girls slurped away, we recounted that night in Ancona, our first date. The girls are of an age where they’re fans of such stories—the mushy romantic stuff; they have little patience for their dad gushing over the virtues of a good fish stew.
Here’s to hoping 2021 will bring more occasions for brodetto meals—and even a return trip to the Osteria del Pozzo for the real deal.
Have a nice day, everyone. I’ll see you back here tomorrow… But first, there’s more news below.
As always, you can write to email@example.com or reply to this email with suggestions and feedback.
The "everything rally." Such descriptions get me nervous, but the true bulls among us remain unfazed. The S&P 500 finished 2020 68% above its March low, and, throughout the year, clinched an astounding 33 record highs. But there were also impressive gains to be found in digital currencies, bonds and plenty of commodities. “Investors can’t get enough risk—whatever it is,” Emily Roland of John Hancock Investment Management tells the Wall Street Journal, a sign investor enthusiasm will push a variety of asset classes skyward again in the first part of 2021.
Stimulus 101. Economists will be studying 2020 for years to glean insights into the relationship between stimulus, saving and stocks. The New York Times' The Upshot column from this weekend looks at how a flood of stimulus money, combined with rock-bottom interest rates and a near-record savings rate led to one of the greatest markets rallies of all time. It's not a completely unique analysis, but it's heavy in data and charts that really brings home the point.
Cheer for a bear market? Ben Carlson of Ritholtz Wealth Management shared in Fortune seven personal finance rules for surviving a pandemic. In the column, he covers the conventional—on the perils of credit card debt—and the not-so-conventional—why a bear market could be really good news for the younger generations. There are also really timely tips for those of you near retirement age.
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.
On Valentine's Day in 2011, an obscure financial asset—if you could even call it that back then—hit a buck-oh-six. It didn't stay there for long. It nearly halved over the next two months, Fortune's David Z. Morris recalls, the first of several Bitcoin bubbles to pop on investors. Morris takes us back through the past decade to highlight the crazy ups and downs of the cryptocurrency.