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MFS: Market Elevated by Hope of Relief


22.01.2021 - As of noon on Friday, global equities rebounded to a record high this week following the inauguration of US President Joe Biden, the issuance of multiple executive orders and expectations of a sizable COVID-19 relief package. The yield on the benchmark US 10-year Treasury note dropped slightly to 1.09% from 1.10% last week. The price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude oil advanced this week, rising to $52.43 from $52.05 last Friday while volatility, as measured by the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), sank to 21.7 from 25.7.


US executive power transitions from Trump to Biden Former Vice President Joe Biden became the 46th president of the United States after being sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. He completed the act only minutes after Kamala Harris became the first woman, the first person of color and the first person of Asian descent to become vice president after being sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Hours earlier, President Donald Trump boarded Air Force One with his family as they headed from Washington, D.C. to Palm Beach, Florida.

Biden hits the ground running President Joe Biden signed or expects to sign roughly 20 executive orders in the first days of his presidency to address challenges ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to the student debt crisis. Many of his orders reversed orders issued by former President Donald Trump, including the so-called Muslim travel ban and the construction of a southern border wall. President Biden's first order requires masks and physical distancing in all federal buildings and federal lands, while he seeks to tackle global warming by rejoining the Paris climate agreement. Biden will also ask the US Department of Education to extend the pause on interest and principal payments for direct federal loans until at least 30 September, and he has plans to get children back in the classroom. Included in Biden’s health-related orders is a reversal of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization, as well as a national mask mandate applying to planes, trains, ships and intercity buses. The president will enact the Defense Production Act to compel companies to prioritize pandemic manufacturing supplies, and he will issue executive orders to boost food benefits and bolster workers' rights. 

US treasury secretary nominee Yellen testifies Janet Yellen, former Chair of the US Federal Reserve and President Biden’s nominee for US treasury secretary, urged lawmakers to act big on the next coronavirus relief package, adding that the benefits of a higher debt burden outweigh the costs. Yellen told the Senate Finance Committee that the US could afford a higher corporate tax rate if it coordinates with other economies, with the caveat that any such rise must wait until the US overcomes the coronavirus. She also said that the country will not seek a weaker dollar to gain a competitive advantage and should oppose any attempt by other countries to do so.

China only major economy to grow in 2020 China reported that its economy grew 2.3% last year as the world struggled to contain the coronavirus pandemic. However, Chinese consumers remained reluctant to spend, as retail sales contracted 3.9% for the year, although online sales (25% of retail sales revenue) grew by nearly 15%. Economists thought China was going to be the only major economy to grow last year and predicted that GDP in 2020 would come in at over 2%. Chinese authorities have been trying to rely more on domestic demand and less on traditional growth drivers such as investment.


The S&P 500 Index on Wednesday posted its best first-day reaction to a presidential inauguration since 1937, hitting 3768. The 1.4% jump occurred as global stocks hit fresh all-time highs.

Italy averted further political chaos on Tuesday after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte survived a confidence vote in the upper house of Parliament.

The 13% gain in the S&P 500 since the US election was the best for any president since 1952, according to CFRA data. John F. Kennedy was the beneficiary of the second-best gain, an 8.8% jump from election to inauguration in 1963.

Jobless claims in the US totaled 900,000 for the week ended 16 January, which was slightly below the 925,000 estimate.

The European Central Bank kept its policy unchanged but reaffirmed a pledge to keep borrowing costs at record lows to help the eurozone economy withstand the impact of the pandemic.

The head of the World Health Organization said that the equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines is at serious risk.

The International Energy Agency cut its 2021 global oil demand forecast, citing soaring COVID-19 cases and renewed lockdown measures that will further limit mobility.

The British fishing port of Peterhead has seen an 18% drop in the volume of fish landed since the start of the year, reflecting difficulties transporting seafood to mainland Europe with the advent of new post-Brexit customs checks begun on 1 January.

The International Monetary Fund disclosed that government support is keeping afloat about 10% of German companies that would have otherwise gone under during the pandemic.

US homebuilding and permits surged in December as historically low mortgage rates supported the housing market, but homebuilder confidence fell from a record high due to a spike in US lumber and land prices.

The total market value of all cryptocurrencies fell more than $100 billion during the week.

Canada's housing and mortgage agency said it can withstand home price declines of as much as 37% and an unemployment rate of 24%, according to a stress test it conducted.


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.

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