The week on Wall Street

Investor sentiment turned negative last week, amid an increasing number of COVID-19 cases in states where reopening has been underway as well as a subdued economic forecast from the Federal Reserve.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 5.55%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 lost 4.78%. The Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 2.30% for the week. The MSCI EAFE Index, which tracks developed stock markets overseas, fell 3.10%.1,2,3

Reality Bites

The optimism that drove stock prices higher these past several weeks slipped away on reports of a jump in COVID-19 cases, which sparked worries of a second wave slowing the economic recovery. A sober forecast for the economy by the Federal Reserve further dampened investor sentiment.

The week started upbeat with “reopening” stocks, e.g., financials, transportation, retailers, travel and leisure, and industrials, leading the way higher. But the momentum was soon lost as stocks turned mixed on Tuesday and Wednesday and then moved decidedly downward, with the S&P 500 losing 5.9% on Thursday.4

Amid a volatile week, big technology companies resumed their market leadership, with the NASDAQ Composite closing above 10,000 for the first time. Stocks pared their losses on Friday, but it wasn’t enough.5

Fed Forecasts Economic Growth and Interest Rates

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve said that it would keep the federal funds rate near zero and maintain its monthly purchases of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities.

The Fed also issued its forecasts for 2020-2022, indicating that it saw its benchmark federal funds rate remaining at zero, with inflation at 0.8% for 2020, increasing to 1.6% in 2021, then to 1.7% in 2022. Fed officials also expect the economy to shrink by 6.5% this year, with Gross Domestic Product growing 5% and 3.5% in 2021 and 2022, respectively. Their forecast for unemployment predicts a steady decline over the next 2½ years, from 9.3% by the end of 2020 to 5.5% in 2022.6

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