Before The Bell - Following a cumulative three-day loss this week of more than 1,800 points in the Dow Jones Industrial Average on the one-two punch of soaring COVID-19 cases in our country (we actually topped 90,000 yesterday) and the inability of Congress to pass a new fiscal stimulus package, the stock market opened lower again yesterday. But stocks quickly righted themselves after the first half hour of trading, with the Dow, the S&P 500 Index and the NASDAQ all heading back higher as the morning droned on.
What helped to turn things around modestly in the first half of the session was a report issued before the start of the trading day in which the government affirmed that the nation's GDP had surged by a record 33.1% in the third quarter. That was above consensus (32%), but below the so-called whisper number. The comeback from a 31.4% drop in the second quarter after a lesser drop in the opening stanza, was primarily launched by a 40.7% increase in personal consumption.
However, it should be noted that this jump in GDP recouped only about 65% of the economic losses to date in 2020. Moreover, with no additional stimulus checks coming at this point, with surging coronavirus cases, and with growing fears of a new round of lockdowns possibly on the horizon, such as France and Germany now are seeing, it is little wonder that many investors are still on edge. On top of that there is a bitter election on the way, with that event's myriad uncertainties.
All of that notwithstanding, the stock market did rally nicely during the afternoon, and this time, after a flattish performance by the blue chips in the morning, the Dow fully participated, with that composite surging by 380 points in mid-afternoon. The impetus for the market's recovery, though, was not the GDP report, but rather some buying ahead of key technology company releases after the close of trading yesterday, including Apple (AAPL), Amazon (AMZN), and Facebook (FB).
As for Facebook, the issue was up some 5% in late trading ahead of its release. Also gaining were shares of Netflix (NFLX) after the streaming giant raised monthly prices for its two top subscription tiers. Apple stock also continued to surge, up better than $5 in late dealings. As for the market, it held strongly in the plus column into the close, although some hesitancy did enter the arena during the final few minutes of trading.
Then, a batch of key earnings were issued to a mixed reception. On point, shares of Alphabet Inc. (GOOG) surged some 10% in extended trading on a clear earnings beat, as did the stock of Facebook. Conversely, Amazon, a big winner during the day, fell back, even though it blew past expectations. Finally, Apple shares retreated even after slightly beating forecasts.
So, after this nice comeback session, the market, still down sharply for the week, will try to end the five-day span on a positive note. At this hour, though, the futures are suggesting a weaker open, with the focus for the day likely shifting back to the raging pandemic both stateside and especially in Europe. – Harvey S. Katz, CFA