Pre-market indexes are kicking off a fresh week of trading mostly in the red this morning, with the Dow -100 points, the S&P 500 -12 and the Nasdaq +3 points. This follows another strong week in the “Vaccine Rally,” whereby the first week of December has picked up where November had left us off: up, and strongly. We’ve set dozens of new all-time closing highs here in 2020, though today we’re looking at market participants taking a breather.
The big news for today will be whether Congress can finally agree on a relief package to keep those Americans out of work due to the pandemic from slipping further behind economically. Currently, there is a $908 billion bill being bandied about, initiated by the Democrats, that will extend unemployment benefits that are due to expire December 26th — the day after Christmas. In addition, funding for a moratorium on apartment evictions and allotments for vaccines and schools are being discussed in the package.
The sticking points reportedly are where liability protections lie, as well as State and Local government funding responsibilities and whether of not new stimulus checks will be cut in this latest round of stimulus. Adding a ticking clock to these proceedings, the House is scheduled to break for the winter holidays this Friday, giving Congress less than a full week to pull this rescue stimulus bill together in time to not have a devastating effect on Main Street right at the end of year 2020.
Fewer than three weeks before Christmas, the earnings reports have subsided mostly until next quarter, and the big week for economic data has just passed. A lot of future market trading in the interim will likely pivot on new vaccine developments — not just approval from the FDA, but logistics and delivery manifestations that vary based on the properties of each vaccine — and whether Congress is successful in passing new relief stimulus.
Beyond this, we may expect trading volume to dwindle a bit, especially after we see tax-related adjustments for capital gains here at the end of the year — a typical seasonal practice that helps investors avoid big tax hits. For all the difficulties the year 2020 has bestowed on us, the world over, the stock market has not been one of them.