Markets Show Wary Response to Covid-19’s Second Wave

Peter Shamuelov, center, wears a protective mask as he gives a haircut to a customer at Ace of Cuts barbershop in New York on Monday. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

MANHATTAN (CN) — U.S. markets remained fairly quiet on Monday, opening to minuscule losses and closing with paltry gains, as one number continues to compound: confirmed cases of Covid-19.

To date, more than 9 million people have been infected by Covid-19 worldwide, while 469,000 have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. In the United States, 2.3 million people have contracted Covid-19, while roughly 120,000 have died.

Huge spikes in reported cases have hit several states, such as Florida and Arizona, while the World Health Organization on Sunday reported the biggest daily increase in global coronavirus cases at 183,000. 

With only a smattering of minor economic predictors released on Monday, Wall Street remained fairly stable. By the closing bell, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.6% points, with the S&P 500 enjoying similar gains. The Nasdaq outpaced the other exchanges, pulling down a 1.1% increase. 

Emphasizing increased testing and reduced fatality rates, the president and White House officials have tried to downplay the uptick in cases.

“We know how to deal with this stuff now, it’s come a long way since winter,” senior economic adviser Larry Kudlow said during an interview on CNBC on Monday. “There is no second wave coming. It’s just hot spots.”

During a press briefing Monday, spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said that initial projections has millions dying from the virus — though such projections assumed little or no social distancing. She also noted that on Sunday fewer than 300 people died from Covid-19. “We are trending in the right direction,” she said.

Some analysts are leery about the uptick in cases and are becoming increasingly vocal in opposing the White House’s official talking points on the virus.

“History won’t be kind to Larry Kudlow,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, tweeted on Monday. Kudlow had already predicted earlier this year that coronavirus containment was “pretty close to air tight” in February, and also predicted the U.S. economy would not falter due to the pandemic.

Other White House officials who had predicted a decrease in cases are leaving the administration. Kevin Hassett, the chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers who once claimed Covid-related deaths would reach zero in May, will leave later this summer.

Hassett caught flak for using a basic Excel spreadsheet function to create a “cubic model” that showed no coronavirus deaths in the United States after May 15. Roughly 86,000 Americans died from the novel virus as of May 15. Since that date, an additional 34,000 U.S. citizens have died.

Others say a second wave of deaths is a foregone conclusion later this year. “While death rates have declined, the sheer increase in new cases almost assures that the numbers will inch back up, especially if the disease turns wildly exponential once again,” Boris Schlossberg of BK Asset Management wrote Monday. 

“That’s why despite markets’ nonchalant attitude Coviddata may be the most important economic statistics of the day as it may force yet another wave of lockdowns or at very least retreat of economic activity,” he wrote. 

Despite the rise of coronavirus, however, some are staying optimistic. In an investor’s note, UBS analysts wrote that recent actions by the Federal Reserve would continue to prop up markets and fend off market volatility. 

“The global economy is starting to show signs of bottoming out, helped by surging money supply and aggressive fiscal stimulus,” UBS Chief Investment Officer Mark Haefele wrote in the note. “As earnings are likely to recover in the second half of the year and excess liquidity continues to support risk assets, we see further upside potential in global equities, in particular among sectors that have lagged the rally so far.”

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