Stocktake: Fed reminds markets of the long road ahead

Investors finally getting the message that pandemic has some way to go yet

Dr  Anthony Fauci: figures in more than 20 US states confirmed he  was right when cautioning the pandemic is “not close to over yet”. Photograph: (Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Dr Anthony Fauci: figures in more than 20 US states confirmed he was right when cautioning the pandemic is “not close to over yet”. Photograph: (Erin Schaff/The New York Times

 

You could have been forgiven for looking at last Thursday’s market sell-off and saying: about time too. The extent of the S&P 500’s recent rebound meant the index had crept into positive territory for 2020 early last week – a remarkable statistic, given this is the deepest global recession since the second World War.

Clearly, markets have been pricing in a V-shaped recovery, but Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell reminded investors last week that a “long road” lay ahead, with US unemployment likely to be well above pre-Covid levels even at the end of 2022.

As for the pandemic, rising coronavirus figures in more than 20 US states confirmed Dr Anthony Fauci was right when cautioning the pandemic is “not close to over yet”.

Donald Trump remains determined not to acknowledge this reality; this week, Oklahoma will be the venue for his first political rally since March – though, tellingly, attendees must sign a Covid indemnity. Critics’ pleas for social distancing may fall on deaf ears, given the lack of same during the Black Lives Matter protests. Clearly, it would be “prudent to expect the script on the pandemic to have a few more dark turns”, as Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics noted last week. Thursday’s sell-off, the worst since March, shows investors may finally be hearing that message.

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