What’s happening: Investors are turning their attention back to the pandemic — namely the search for an effective Covid-19 vaccine, which is crucial to projections that the economy will experience a strong rebound in 2021.
“Focus is likely to begin shifting back towards the vaccine and broader growth outlook,” Goldman Sachs strategists Dominic Wilson and Vickie Chang told clients over the weekend. The “likely delivery” of major vaccine news in the next few weeks, they said, is the “next key event.”
The race: Several potential vaccines are in large-scale trials in addition to Pfizer’s candidate. Last week, a top scientist from Oxford University, which is working on a vaccine with AstraZeneca, said there’s a “small chance” that results from its trials could be ready by Christmas.
Goldman Sachs said before the Pfizer announcement that a “safe, effective vaccine” could send stocks up by another 5% to 10%. Despite the pandemic, that would likely push top indexes to new records.
Of course, there could be stumbling blocks. “Significant delays” of a couple quarters could lead to declines of similar magnitude, according to Goldman, though the investment bank predicts investors would process this news more gradually. There could also be issues with distributing an effective vaccine on a mass scale.
Strategists at UBS told clients Monday that given the worsening virus outlook — the United States is quickly approaching 10 million Covid-19 cases —”quick approval of an effective vaccine” is a key ingredient for markets to keep rising.
“Unless a vaccine comes within a few weeks, slower [economic] data momentum is a real risk to the markets,” the bank said.
In the meantime, one constant that could keep boosting markets amid uncertainty about the pandemic and a vaccine is the strong response from central banks.
A better explanation for gains? “Repeated evidence of central bank support for asset prices.”
Business leaders congratulate Biden and urge unity
Over the weekend, even as President Donald Trump refused to concede, CEOs and top industry groups put out statements congratulating Biden on his win and urging him to act quickly to support an economy that’s struggling under the weight of the pandemic.
Here’s what they’re saying:
- Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg: “Congratulations to Kamala Harris on this remarkable achievement — shattering glass ceilings and norms around what leadership looks like — and to President-Elect Biden on this historic milestone.”
- American Bankers Association CEO Rob Nichols: The group and its members “stand ready to work with the Biden administration and lawmakers from both parties to bolster the economy, increase opportunity and create a brighter future for all Americans.”
- National Association of Manufacturers CEO Jay Timmons: “Manufacturers congratulate President-elect Joe Biden on being declared the winner of the presidential election. The American people have spoken, and they have chosen a leader who throughout this campaign spoke of healing and bipartisanship.”
- Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn: “Amtrak looks forward to working with President-elect Biden and Congress. To get the economy moving and help Amtrak and our employees through this unprecedented situation, Congress must act now on pandemic relief and economic stimulus funding.”
Others, like JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, didn’t mention Biden, but called for Americans to join together now that there’s a result:
- “Now is a time for unity,” Dimon said in a statement. “We must respect the results of the US presidential election and, as we have with every election, honor the decision of the voters and support a peaceful transition of power.”
What’s next: Executives care a lot about who Biden taps for key posts in his administration, which could indicate his direction of travel on policy. The president-elect’s choices for Treasury Secretary and Commerce Secretary will be particularly significant for the business community.
Not everyone is writing off a blue wave
The consensus among investors in recent days has been that President-elect Biden will face a divided Congress, limiting his ability to enact ambitious tax policies or bold new regulations. Wall Street has decided that’s good news, even though it means the next round of stimulus spending may be smaller than hoped.
But the makeup of the Senate isn’t a done deal. Control of the chamber could come down to a set of likely runoff elections in Georgia in January. Goldman Sachs is telling clients that they should be prepared for this to potentially give Democrats an edge.
“Although the likelihood that both Georgia Senate seats flip from Republican control to Democratic appears low, markets indicate that those probabilities are rising,” strategists led by David Kostin said in a research note.
If Democrats do wind up with control of the Senate, expect some of the trades that have paid out in recent days to reverse, Kostin said. Renewable energy stocks and a basket of equities that would benefit from infrastructure spending, which have recently taken a hit, could rise again, while tech stocks could lose ground.
Coming tomorrow: Is stimulus spending driving up inflation in China? New data arrives as economists closely watch global prices.
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