Stock futures open slightly higher

by Jonathan Adams
S&P 500

The Dow advanced nearly 11.9%, while the S&P 500 added 10.8%

Stock futures began the overnight session slightly higher Monday evening, reversing some of the regular session’s declines.

Equities are set to kick off the final month of 2020 on the heels of a record month, during which each of the three major indices made fresh record highs, and the Dow posted its biggest monthly gain since January 1987 with an advance of nearly 11.9%. In the S&P 500, the energy, financials and industrials sectors led the index’s 10.8% rise, as traders rotated back into many of the names that had been beaten down the hardest earlier on during the pandemic.

Many analysts believe equities will continue to ride the wave of vaccine-related optimism from November into December, after each of Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca reported promising efficacy data for their respective COVID-19 vaccine candidates. Developments in the race to create an inoculation against the coronavirus helped stocks shake off volatility from earlier on in the month.

In early November, when we saw the VIX spike to 40, it was because of COVID. It was because of surging cases, not just here in the states but really across the world, Alfred Eskandar, Salt Financial President, told Yahoo Finance on Monday. And conversely, you see the VIX coming down to the levels where it is today, by nearly half, also because of positive news on the vaccine. So the market is very, very sensitive to what is happening with COVID.

There’s definitely a lot of reasons to be exposed to equities now and into the near future, he added. The optimistic viewpoint is certainly alive and well.

Other analysts echoed this optimism. Fundstrat Managing Partner Tom Lee said in a note Monday he believed the S&P 500 would end 2020 at 3,800, implying another about 5% upside for the index.

We don’t see how stocks suddenly weaken in this final month, Lee said. Granted, the risk is that this is a consensus view, but we are in a seasonally strong period for equities.

But while equities melted higher in November, risks to the U.S. economy still remain at least in the near-term. In prepared remarks Monday for an appearance before Congress on Tuesday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reiterated that the economic growth will likely continue to be capped “until people are confidence that it is safe to reengage in a broad range of activities.”

Recent news on the vaccine front is very positive for the medium term. For now, significant challenges and uncertainties remain, including timing, production and distribution, and efficacy across different groups, he said. It remains difficult to assess the timing and scope of the economic implications of these developments with any degree of confidence.



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