After several weeks of solid gains and new records, the markets took a breather last week. The major indices all ended the week modestly lower (less than 1%).
The week’s dominant news stories centered on the elusive COVID-19 Congressional Relief Package and the FDA’s approval of a COVID vaccine. The prospects of a relief package deal were looking promising but as the week progressed talks again stalled. While lawmakers are seeking to pass a bill before the end of the year, disagreements over unemployment assistance, stimulus checks, and state and local stimulus remain. The impact of the continued shutdown was evidenced in a disappointing jobs report on Thursday: the weekly joblessclaims jumped to 853,000. That is an increase of 137,000 from the previous week and the highest number since September 19th.
On Friday the FDA officially approved the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID vaccine. It is anticipated that vaccinations may start as early as today. Talks are scheduled on December 17 to consider a second vaccine, this one from Moderna. January may see several other vaccines up for approval, including offerings from Johnson & Johnson and the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca. The approval of a vaccine brings the promise of an end to the pandemic, but concerns do remain around the quantity of doses available and the logistics in delivering the vaccine to all Americans.
This is the last full trading week of the year. It is hard to imagine another year where we have seen both “as bad as it can be” and “as good as it gets”. We have certainly experienced more than our fair share of volatility. Thanks for hanging in there with us. Now, more than ever, we truly appreciate your confidence and trust!