As of noon on Friday, global equities dipped this week despite US President-elect Joe Biden proposing a larger-than-expected $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. The plan is designed to garner bipartisan support, but with the proposal coming fresh on the heels of a recently enacted $900 billion program, Senate passage is far from assured. The yield on the benchmark US 10-year Treasury note was little changed at 1.10% on a net basis after reaching 1.18% early in the week. The price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude oil continued to advance this week, rising to $52.05 from $51.65 last Friday while volatility, as measured by the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), rose to 25.7 from 21.85.
US December retail sales disappoint Americans pinched pennies over the holiday season as rising COVID-19 case counts and restrictions resulted in a 0.7% decline in December retail sales, the third straight month of dropping sales. Economic activity is expected to remain sluggish in the coming few months while the coronavirus vaccine rollout gathers pace and government stimulus payments make their way into consumers' hands.
With just days left in office, Trump impeached again Ten Republican members of the US House of Representatives joined 222 Democrats in supporting a single article of impeachment against President Donald Trump for incitement of insurrection in relation to the 6 January breach of the US Capitol by attendees of a Trump rally. However, with Trump's term set to expire next Wednesday, it is unclear when (or if) the Senate will hold a trial. There has been speculation that any trial will be delayed for several months until confirmation hearings for President-elect Biden's cabinet choices have been held. If convicted, Trump would be barred from holding office again. Investors have largely ignored this year's tumult in Washington, instead focusing more on vaccine advances and stimulus measures, though even those factors failed to buoy markets this week.
One-shot, easy-to-administer vaccine on the horizon According to trial data published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, Johnson and Johnson's coronavirus vaccine candidate is safe and appears to generate a promising immune response. The vaccine does not require the elaborate logistical considerations that the mRNA vaccines do, making distribution easier. It is delivered in a single dose and can be stored for months under normal refrigeration. Emergency-use authorization of the vaccine could come as early as next month.
Biden unveils recovery plan President-elect Biden proposed a package of coronavirus relief measures totaling $1.9 trillion on Thursday evening, vowing to garner bipartisan support for it. The plan includes $1,400-per- person checks for individuals under a certain income threshold, enhanced unemployment benefits through September and hundreds of billions of dollars in aid to state and local governments. Earlier in the week, Biden said he favors setting aside deficit concerns, saying there is a dire need to act now. While additional fiscal support is expected, analysts expect the final package to be smaller in size than what the incoming administration has proposed.
On Thursday, US Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell tamped down speculation that the Fed would taper its asset purchases any time soon.
US small-business owners turned more pessimistic in December than at any time since the beginning of the pandemic, the National Federation of Independent Business reported this week while a survey by the UK Federation of Small Business showed that more than 250,000 businesses face collapse without further financial help. Worryingly, the survey was conducted before the latest lockdown went into effect.
The Fed remitted its $88.8 billion 2020 profit to the US Treasury this week. The central bank's profit soared this year as the rate it pays on excess reserves plunged during the pandemic.
After serving more than a decade, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte resigned today as a result of a scandal over the mismanagement of a child subsidy program.
The United Kingdom's economy contracted 8.9% year over year in November, less than the expected 12% decline. Lockdowns had a somewhat-less-negative economic impact late in the year as companies adapted better than they did in the initial phase of the pandemic.
The International Monetary Fund urged countries to continue strong fiscal and monetary efforts to support their economies after the resurgence of the coronavirus around the world.
With just 5% of the constituents of the S&P 500 Index having reported for Q4 2020, blended earnings per share (which combines reported data with estimates for those that have yet to report) shows that earnings growth is running at -7.4% while sales rose 0.4% compared with the same quarter a year ago, according to data from FactSet Research. Several large US banks reported strong earnings to close out the year as they released loan loss reserves provisioned during the depths of the pandemic-induced downturn.
The information included above as well as individual companies and/or securities mentioned should not be construed as investment advice, a recommendation to buy or sell or an indication of trading intent on behalf of any MFS product.
Securities discussed may or may not be holdings in any of the MFS funds. For a complete list of holdings for any MFS portfolio, please see the most recent annual, semiannual or quarterly report. Full holdings are also available on the individual Fund Summary tab in the Products section of mfs.com.
The views expressed in this article are those of MFS, and are subject to change at any time. No forecasts can be guaranteed.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Sources: MFS research, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Reuters, Bloomberg News, FactSet Research, CNBC.com.
This content is directed at investment professionals only.