Why looting, protests and COVID-19 haven’t pounded the stock market

One of the biggest questions in some circles of Wall Street right now: How in the world is the stock market still climbing higher given rising civil unrest in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by Minnesota police, a health pandemic and an upcoming presidential election?

“That’s one of the single most asked questions I have gotten since early April, why why why are things doing this,” said Heritage Capital chief investment officer Paul Schatz on Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade.

Schatz is right to be getting peppered with such a question.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 notched gains for a second straight session on Tuesday, despite heart-wrenching images of protestors taking to the streets calling for the end of police brutality. Retailers such as Target, Walmart, Macy’s and Nordstrom have been looted.

Meanwhile, the robust crowds protesting have folks on Wall Street and health care pros worried about a second wave of COVID-19 infections that could return the economy to full shutdown mode. A total of 1.85 million people in the U.S. have been infected by the virus, while 107,000 have died. These numbers remain on the rise and there is no line of sight into a vaccine hitting the market.

Yet, the U.S. stock market continues to grind higher — powered by some of the most expensive stocks in Microsoft and Amazon — in the face of this incrementally alarming news flow. Even stocks in Europe have joined in on the momentum — equities there touched a 12-week high Tuesday.

“The reason the market is not paying attention yet is the market doesn’t believe it’s going to impact the economy nor earnings,” Schatz said, regarding the civil unrest dynamic to markets.

Financial services, stock analyst researching share price data of a company on the computer

Other strategists Yahoo Finance has talked with aren’t willing to predict an imminent plunge in markets to adjust for more negative developments on the civil and COVID-19 fronts. They collectively say the market momentum remains to the upside, fueled by cheap money from the Federal Reserve and the potential for fresh stimulus for households from the federal government. To this camp, stimulus from all walks of government have yet to be priced into equities.

“The social unrest came out of nowhere as most black swan events do. But we are still sitting in a market that as it looks forward to 2021 and 2022, is dominated by America reopening, is dominated by the liquidity being provided by the Fed, and businesses that are marginally getting better, not worse,” explained RiverPark Capital co-chief investment officer Mitch Rubin on The First Trade. “It is an environment where stocks don’t generally correct and test the lows without some other negative catalyst that would impact future earnings. And social unrest, as disturbing as it is, probably will be a short-lived event.”

Until it’s not. And there would go Wall Street’s rally.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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