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Markets at Record Highs as the Capitol Shudders

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Thursday, January 7, 2021

Market futures are up to new record highs this morning after a Wednesday close in the green on a sunnier outlook near-term for perceived further relief packages forthcoming from a Democratic-led Congress in two weeks, which happened as a dark cloud descended over the Capitol building Wednesday afternoon. An insurrection of protesters carrying flags supporting President Trump invaded the Capitol while both the House and Senate were in session certifying the electoral results to usher in President-elect Biden.

This sunnier outlook for the market also comes from the finalization of the balance of the Senate. Although Democratic control carries the specter of higher tax laws being passed down the road, additional stimulus bills, of which Democrats on the Hill have long been in favor, may now hit the market sooner than later. Putting more of this money to work in the economy will help spur sales in a wide variety of industries, as would further assistance for small businesses and rent payment forgiveness. The markets appear to be pricing this boost in right now.

President-elect Biden will take the oath of office two weeks from this past Tuesday, scheduled to take place on the very grounds that were breached by yesterday’s insurrection. Based on the visuals from this unfortunate incident — in which four people lost their lives and more than 50 people arrested — there may be some alternative measures to ensure a peaceful transfer of power. This is the first time such a tenet of American society has been in question in its 244-year history.

Initial Jobless Claims came in at exactly the same number reported a week ago, 787K, though the week-ago revision raised by 3000 claims. This represents something of a plateau in new claims going back to last fall — still high, but not yet climbing to distressing levels we saw in the spring and summer. Yesterday’s ADP (ADP - Free Report) private-sector report brought a big negative in jobs growth for December; we’re not seeing that directly manifest in weekly new jobless claims.

Continuing Claims continue their steep descent, reporting 5.07 million long-term claims — roughly half what these figures were just three months ago. An important part of this metric is the existence of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which carries several millions of Americans left jobless due to pandemic conditions. Even still, the Continuing Claims chart is a pleasing thing to behold; hopefully tomorrow’s Unemployment Rate will gibe with these numbers. Currently, it is expected to remain around 6.7%.

Meanwhile, the Covid-19 pandemic rages on, with the second-highest single-day total of new cases having occurred just yesterday at more than 243K. The seven-day average is back above 200K after a small dip around the holidays, which may have to do with fewer people getting tested over that period. Dire expectations from healthcare authorities are for these numbers to go up from here in the next couple weeks, based on potential spread of the coronavirus due to millions Americans traveling over the holidays. Fatalities also saw their second-highest day ever, at 3793 American lives lost due to Covid-19.

Luckily for the market, it remains forward-looking. And because much of market activity relies on programmed algorithms and not human emotion, this bumpy road we’re currently on in the most important democracy in the world will not distract where our economic engine is currently pointed.

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