Market Commentary 6/30/20

It's either Sadness or Euphoria

Billy Joel spent much of the summer of 1975 in upstate New York as he worked on his third album, “Turnstiles”. While he was inspired by the beauty of that area, the music on that album reflected the pressures and frustrations of his nascent music career. One of the tracks from that album, “Summer, Highland Falls”, described his feelings of “sadness or euphoria” accompanied by an upbeat piano that ebbs and flows in the background. 

During the first half of 2020 the economy and financial markets certainly swung between sadness and euphoria. The onslaught of the novel corona virus and the economic shutdowns imposed to stop its spread disrupted a strong economy, ending the longest expansion on record. Stocks dropped 34% in just 23 trading days (the fastest decline of this magnitude ever). Yields dropped dramatically as the 10-year US Treasury yield dropped from 1.92% at year end to 0.67% by the end of March, while the 2-year US Treasury yield dropped from 1.58% to 0.26% over the same time period. The selloff reflected the severe damage inflicted by the virus and resulting lockdowns. More than 20 million jobs were lost during the early days of the lockdown , pushing the unemployment rate to almost 15%. Housing starts and permits dropped, industrial production collapsed, and consumer spending and confidence plunged. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell 4.8% in the first quarter and could decline by as much as 40.0% in the second quarter.

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