It was a week of will they or won’t they. Both parties claimed to want another stimulus deal done before the election, but the proof is in the pudding and as of Friday, the plate is empty.
Investors may be coming to the conclusion that the latest negotiations between the Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Republican U.S. Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, was simply an election ploy. A way to set up the other side for failure, while making their own position look both caring and, at the same time, blameless. Both sides already knew that the GOP-controlled Senate had no appetite for another bail-out that was any higher than $500 billion.
In any case, the markets have been living on ‘hopium’ all week in anticipation that something might get done. I suspect that if there were to be a deal, most traders might “sell the news” at this point. The thinking is that in order to pass a pre-election fiscal package with only 11 days to go before the election, it would need to be so watered down that its impact on the economy would be minimal, and too late to deal with what will probably come next. Will it be a “dark winter,” as Vice President Joe Biden warned in last night’s presidential debate?
Cooler temperatures are almost upon us, while the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise. Today, we have been told that there are 77,000 new coronavirus cases in the U.S., which makes that the highest level since the beginning of this pandemic. That places the U.S. in an extremely perilous situation healthwise, according to just about every medical expert in the nation. Investors are worried that the doctors may be right, and that we are not “rounding the corner” as claimed by one of the presidential candidates. In which case, we could be headed for a reversal in economic growth that could sink the markets and the economy
For clues, investors are watching COVID-19 events in Europe, as I wrote last week. Europe appears to be a few weeks ahead of us in its increase of coronavirus cases. I listed some of the economic disruptions that this new surge was creating in places such as France, Germany, and the U.K.
This week, that wave of infections continued to rise with at least ten nations reporting record COVID-19 case numbers. Poland just announced that they are planning to all but shut-down their economy once again. The number of those hospitalized has reached the point where authorities are worried that they are facing a shortage of trained medical staff. The same situation could happen here in the United States.
In the meantime, the markets are uber-focused on the elections and the stimulus. By the look of what sectors are doing best in this choppy market (infrastructure, materials, alternative energy, China, and other emerging markets), it seems that investors are still expecting a blue wave to sweep the country. As for stimulus hopes, I fear nothing will come of it. Even if an agreement is reached by some miracle, it would probably not be voted on before the elections. In which case, I question whether anything would pass afterward in a lame duck session of Congress.