May 12, 2020
How quickly the world can change. A few months ago, the stock market had just delivered a banner year. At the time, I was somewhat concerned about stock valuations and geopolitical skirmishes with Iran. A global pandemic that would bring commerce to a screeching halt was not in my forecast.
As of this writing, the US financial markets, measured by the S&P 500, are down 10% YTD, considerably better than the low on March 23 when it was -30% YTD. We can thank government intervention for stopping the bleeding for now. Unprecedented monetary and fiscal policies were enacted with lightning speed. The Federal Reserve dropped interest rates to zero and its chairman, Jerome Powell, stated the Fed is prepared to do whatever it takes to provide liquidity to the markets. As jobless claims soar, Congress responded by getting money into the hands of small businesses and individuals through the $2.2 trillion CARES Act. Fortunately, the US economy came into this crisis on firm ground. Unemployment was at 50-year lows. Stock prices were at all-time highs and corporate earnings were poised to leap as lingering trade conflicts de-escalated.
Suddenly, all of that has changed. The entire world is now focused on the war against COVID-19. People are dying, many businesses are closed, and our normal lives have been put on hold. Certain countries and some US states are slowly reopening their economies while citizens continue to practice social distancing. Treatments and vaccines are being developed with hopes that our lives will return to normal sooner rather than later. Volatility in the financial markets will likely remain high as investors react to tragic news and glimmers of hope. What is unique about this financial crisis is that it was not caused by greed, as most are, but rather preemptive measures to save lives. We may have already seen the bottom for the markets and the economy. I expect both will continue to improve over the next several years.
You may have heard the quote, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” In the coming months, ingenuity will create a major advantage for certain businesses that adapt quicker and better to a world with COVID-19. History has shown societies advance most quickly after periods of crisis. Trends already in motion will accelerate. Digital payments, e-commerce and working remotely will become more commonplace. Medical breakthroughs will happen at a faster pace. Global supply chains will be reconfigured and diversified. Demand for local production will foster advancements in factory automation.
Our Marks Group investment strategies are built to weather these storms well. Our commitment to owning high-quality stocks and bonds has paid off and positions us well for the eventual recovery. During times like this, adhering to your financial plan is imperative and will help avoid emotional decisions.
We recently launched a campaign to help investors that also supports local restaurants. We are offering families a free portfolio review and a $100 gift certificate to the local restaurant of their choice. If you are interested, please reach out to us, or visit http://www.marksgroup.com/restaurants.
Everyone at Marks Group is healthy and has adapted well to our new work routine. With most of us working from home, small children are frequent guests at our weekly team video conference, bringing a whole new meaning to a family-friendly workplace.
Please do not hesitate to contact us with your questions or concerns.
Be well and stay strong,
Ben Marks, Chief Investment Officer
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results.
Investing involves risks including possible loss of principal.