Market Pulse: Expectations, investors see better days ahead

David Vomund

Stocks have rallied 30% from the March 23 low and April was the best month for the S&P 500 in decades.

Did we miss good news about the economy, about the virus? No. So why the rally? In a word, expectations.

Investors expect to see better days ahead for the economy and corporate profits. They also anticipate an end to the virus crisis. In both cases they will be right.

A few months ago investors expected terrible days ahead, which is why stocks fell 34% in five weeks. They were right then, too, about the economic outlook, one in which GDP would collapse and the unemployment rate would surge toward 20%. Then expectations took a turn.

For weeks I’ve been saying investors don’t need to see positive economic data or good news about a vaccine or treatment. They just need to believe the bad data will not get any worse while signs point to the day when the economy will stabilize then grow. They began to believe that will be the case, which is why stocks started to rally in late March and then picked up steam.

There haven’t been any positives in the economic data, but the partial re-opening of stores and businesses now beginning in some states is reason to be optimistic. Again, we needn’t wait for hard data. Investors just need to expect it given Federal Reserve and Treasury actions and the release of pent-up demand.

Earnings are in the news every day, and in most cases they are as expected — weak with few encouraging signs. It is a rare company that can grow when the macro picture creates powerful headwinds. Some technology and healthcare companies can. I recommend Microsoft (MSFT) and Pfizer (PFE).

Many investors can’t understand why stocks rise when the news is terrible and fall when things look great the way we’ve seen this year. Those who make investments based on what they see, read and hear will always be disappointed. Expectations for the future — for stocks, rates and the economy — are what move the market and they are impossible to quantify.

So far there is no data to support the market’s surge, just as there was little to support the collapse in March.

My expectations? The economy will bottom in the second quarter and begin to recover, slowly at first then with increasing speed later in the year. I expect investors to be well ahead of the data. They already are.

David Vomund is an Incline Village-based Independent Investment Advisor. Information is found at or by calling 775-832-8555. Clients hold the positions mentioned in this article. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Consult your financial advisor before purchasing any security.

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