The continuing strength of the stock market, even as the coronavirus pandemic batters the U.S. economy, has baffled many investors. The Dow Jones Industrial Index fell some 35% in 20 trading days the first three weeks of March as COVID-19 began spreading rapidly globally, but it has since gained nearly 60% to levels above 28,650. At the same time, the Commerce Department reported the U.S. economy shrank 31.7% in the April-June quarter. Part of our job at Equitas is to research many areas of the market and the economy, analyze the current environment, and to search for the investment opportunities. While there are numerous views and theories, in this KnowRisk Report we explore and expand on why the stock market is so strong, while the economy is so weak. We start with Wharton finance professor Itay Goldstein who has boiled it down into two reasons: the long-term prospective of the stock market, and the unprecedented cash infusion of the Federal Reserve.
The First Reason
Goldstein says at all points in time “the stock market is meant to be forward-looking,” Indeed stocks have risen during seven of the past 12 recessions going back to World War II. “In general, the stock market is a bit different from the economy, in the sense that what you see right now in the economy is what is going on right now” such as production, employment and so forth, he noted. Even in “normal times,” stock prices and economic output would not move in tandem, according to Goldstein. In fact, we may have situations “where the stock prices may predict something that is going to be different from what we see right now.” The S&P 500, for instance, is driven more by manufacturing, while U.S. gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services