Weekly Economic Update 10/19/2020

The Week On Wall Street

Stocks treaded water last week amid fading prospects for a stimulus bill, fears of a second wave of COVID-19 cases, and increasing political and regulatory pressures on Big Tech companies.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average added just 0.07% while the Standard & Poor’s 500 eked out a gain of 0.19%. The Nasdaq Composite index picked up 0.79% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, slid 2.08%.1

Rocky Week

The stock market began the week by posting strong gains on hopes of a fiscal stimulus bill. Also, investors were optimistic that earnings season would reflect an improving picture of corporate performance.

But stocks stumbled midweek on a mixed bag of early earnings results, and an increase in COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and Europe. Disappointing news on some key COVID-19 treatment trials also weighed on the market, as did a jump in new jobless claims and a continued stalemate on a fiscal stimulus package.

Stocks attempted to rally on Friday, emboldened by strong retail sales, but lost momentum as trading came to a close. 

Earnings Season Kicks Off

Earnings season began on an upbeat note as major banks mostly beat revenue and profit expectations. Banks attributed the strength to rising consumer deposits, a drop in the amount of money set aside for failing loans, and strong results from their investment banking and trading units.2

Airlines fared less well. Investors were disappointed with the quarterly reports even though the average daily cash burn at these companies generally improved. Airline management uniformly accompanied their earnings announcements with warnings of continued near-term weakness due to COVID-19.2

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