Now leaving ThriventFunds.com

 

You're about to visit a site that is neither owned nor operated by Thrivent Asset Management.

In the interest of protecting your information, we recommend you review the privacy policies at your destination site.

Financial Professional Site Registration

Complete this form to get full access to the entire financial professional site.

By clicking “Register”, you agree to our privacy and security policies and that you are a financial professional.

Access will be granted immediately, but the registration process may take up to 5 business days to complete.

Thank you for registering

You can now enjoy all financial professional content.

If your download does not start automatically, click here.

An error occurred

Please check back later.

Mark Simenstad
Chief Investment Strategist

3rd Quarter 2020 Market Outlook

The surprising market recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic

07/02/2020
By Mark Simenstad, Chief Investment Strategist | 07/02/2020

Financial markets staged a stunning recovery in the 2nd quarter, despite the swift economic recession wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Widespread, intuitive and highly logical expectations were that the markets would struggle in a best-case scenario and collapse in a worse case scenario. However, markets frequently do not follow intuitive scripts. The 2nd quarter results are an extreme example of markets going “off script.”  

Since the market low of March 23, 2020, the S&P 500® and Dow Jones Industrial Average indices are both up approximately 35%, while the technology-oriented NASDAQ index continued its dominating performance, up over 40%. Even long-lagging international stocks were up strongly, with the MSCI EAFE Index, which tracks developed-economy stocks in Europe, Asia and Australia, was up over 30%.

New bull markets begin well before the onset of economic recovery following a recession. However, an economic recovery and ancillary improvement in corporate earnings is required to validate a new bull market. Currently there is much uncertainty as to the shape and speed of a recovery.

Recession arrives…but for how long?

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) declared the U.S. officially in recession as of February 2020, ending one of the longest economic expansions on record. This was a relatively quick pronouncement compared to prior recessions. However, it should be noted that there were signs of economic weakness well before the arrival of a government mandated economic shut down. The question we now face is, when will it be over?

The best case is for a “V” shaped recovery – one in which economic activity (especially jobs) snaps back to previous levels. The financial markets have been acting in a manner consistent with expectations of a “V” shaped recovery.  Some recent statistics have suggested the “V” shaped option may be plausible.  

A significant turnaround in jobs, which is a necessary condition for sustained economic recovery, has shown signs of developing. Retail sales and consumer confidence have also been improving faster than expectations. 

Although these early signs of fundamental improvement are encouraging, it should be noted that the market recovery has been largely enabled by huge doses of “therapeutic” liquidity administered by the Federal Reserve (Fed), other central banks and the U.S. Congress.    

 A more prolonged or “U” shaped economic recovery still seems more likely given the slow normalization process that both consumers and businesses now face. The Fed appears to have an economic view that supports the “U” shaped recovery outlook. Its forecast is for sustained high unemployment well into 2022 as businesses and consumers adjust their behavior to the ongoing challenges of dealing with COVID-19. The Fed’s words and actions remain very cautious, yet are committed to providing every therapy measure necessary to foster a sustained and durable recovery. 

Where to from here?

Here is what we currently know – and don’t know:

  • Re-opening of economies in many states has led to a disturbing resurgence in COVID-19 cases.  But it is unclear how much of this is due to an acceleration in testing and how much is due to social distancing “fatigue.” Epidemiologists believe that longer term infection rates, either negatively through transmission or positively through vaccination, still need to reach approximately 60%+ of the population before community herd immunity is reached. It will take time for this to happen, barring a positive surprising breakthrough in vaccine or therapeutic research.
  • Corporate profitability, or lack thereof, will come into focus during 2nd quarter earnings reports that will be released in the coming weeks. There will clearly be a negative impact to profit margins. However, it is unclear how systemic and long-term the added costs of dealing with the pandemic will be. Only until businesses fully re-open will investors be able to assess longer term profitability.
  • Central banks, led by the Fed, will continue to provide support to the economy and to markets. The Fed has made it clear it will do “whatever it takes.” Congress too has stepped up with enormous economic support legislation. As a result, the consumer is flush with cash that could be spent in the coming months if they have jobs to go back to, and if they have confidence the virus is waning. Do not underestimate the fundamental power of central banks to influence markets, if not the economy.
  • There is an election coming up and its going to be messy. What will be important for investors is if the election causes a change in tax policy, particularly as it relates to corporate tax policy. If tax policy were to change, especially if the 2017 legislation were rolled back, it is logical that the boost to financial assets from the implementation of those policies would also be reduced. 
  • International issues, specifically as they relate to US/China relations and Brexit, remain to be resolved. China trade issues seem to have dissipated (although it is difficult to really assess this confrontation) and a disruptive Brexit approach now seems out of the question. Both are supportive of a modestly more positive outlook to international markets.  

The wildcard

The most significant factor in the near-term outlook is the impact of reopening the economy. If there is an unacceptable continuing acceleration in infection, regardless of government policy, people will react, and economic activity will stall. Thus far, the economic evidence has signaled a more optimistic outlook.

Other risks will play out over time, but in the near term, one should not underestimate the power of central bank policies on asset values. Also, both monetary and fiscal policy makers have been following the “play book” that came out of the financial crisis of 2008. They have augmented the potency of specific policy levers to great effect.  

We remain cautiously optimistic that policy steps taken have been and will continue to strongly support economic growth, barring a severe resurgence in the pandemic.  

Generally, asset valuations are quite full, particularly in the context of the uncertainties caused by this unprecedented environment. The U.S. markets, particularly defensive sectors, remain “rich” relative to value, cyclical and small cap sectors.

However relative valuation alone isn’t enough to downplay the defensive, stable growth sectors of the market. They remain highly valued given their superior operating performance and business characteristics that have proven to be durable and successful in an environment of uncertainty. Value, small cap, and international markets are leveraged to a sustained acceleration in economic growth.  

There are some intermittent signs that these sectors may deserve more exposure in portfolios, but additional evidence is necessary to validate continued rotation into these economically sensitive areas. 


All information and representations herein are as of 07/02/2020, unless otherwise noted.

The views expressed are as of the date given, may change as market or other conditions change, and may differ from views expressed by other Thrivent Asset Management, LLC associates. Actual investment decisions made by Thrivent Asset Management, LLC will not necessarily reflect the views expressed. This information should not be considered investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or product. Investment decisions should always be made based on an investor's specific financial needs, objectives, goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance.

Any indexes shown are unmanaged and do not reflect the typical costs of investing. Investors cannot invest directly in an index.

Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.


Related Reading

August 2020 Market Update

August 4, 2020

Stock market keeps rising as GDP sinks
Stock market keeps rising as GDP sinks
Stock market keeps rising as GDP sinks

The U.S. economy experienced its biggest drop in history in the 2nd quarter as gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by 32.9% amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Unemployment began to decline from historically high levels in July, although nearly 4 million Americans filed new claims for unemployment in the final two weeks of July.

The U.S. economy experienced its biggest drop in history in the 2nd quarter as gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by 32.9% amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Unemployment began to decline from historically high levels in July, although nearly 4 million Americans filed new claims for unemployment in the final two weeks of July.

August 4, 2020

August 4, 2020

Remembering Darren Bagwell
Remembering Darren Bagwell
Remembering Darren Bagwell

Darren Bagwell, the Thrivent Chief Equity Strategist, recently passed away after battling a long-term medical condition. Darren was respected as a daring investment professional who pushed us all to deliver the best possible returns for our investors. Even as his illness persisted over the past few months, he elected the most aggressive treatment course. He refused to give up or give in.

Darren Bagwell, the Thrivent Chief Equity Strategist, recently passed away after battling a long-term medical condition. Darren was respected as a daring investment professional who pushed us all to deliver the best possible returns for our investors. Even as his illness persisted over the past few months, he elected the most aggressive treatment course. He refused to give up or give in.

August 4, 2020

July 28, 2020

Using virtual meetings to build your business now and in the future
Using virtual meetings to build your business now and in the future
Using virtual meetings to build your business now and in the future

During the era of social distancing, financial professionals have had to find innovative new ways to stay in touch with clients and connect with new prospects. But long after the pandemic fades away, the recent pivot to virtual get-togethers may still be valued as a timesaving, cost-effective strategy for interacting with clients and prospects.

During the era of social distancing, financial professionals have had to find innovative new ways to stay in touch with clients and connect with new prospects. But long after the pandemic fades away, the recent pivot to virtual get-togethers may still be valued as a timesaving, cost-effective strategy for interacting with clients and prospects.

July 28, 2020

July 21, 2020

Finding income in the current investment market
Finding income in the current investment market
Finding income in the current investment market

Searching for income in today’s market environment feels a bit like hunting for that cool oasis of water in a parched desert. It can be difficult to find, but not impossible. Learn more about the right kind of risk.

Searching for income in today’s market environment feels a bit like hunting for that cool oasis of water in a parched desert. It can be difficult to find, but not impossible. Learn more about the right kind of risk.

July 21, 2020