COVID-19 Continues to Weigh on Stocks

Stocks dropped on Wednesday as weak economic data—including retail sales and the New York Federal Reserve’s Empire State business conditions index—came in at record lows, reviving investors’ fears of COVID-19’s impact. In addition, a number of large banks reported poor earnings.

The S&P 500® Index declined 2.2% on Wednesday, and is down nearly 18% from its peak in February.

“Stocks are unlikely to experience a sustained rebound until the pace of new COVID-19 cases begins to slow and there are notable steps toward developing a vaccine,” says Schwab Chief Investment Strategist Liz Ann Sonders.

Some countries that experienced the novel coronavirus earlier than the United States are beginning to reopen their economies, and investors are watching closely to see how those re-openings progress.

“It will be weeks before we know how the re-openings are going in Austria, Denmark, and Norway, which are beginning this week,” says Schwab Chief Global Investment Strategist Jeffrey Kleintop. “China’s recovery has been V-shaped so far, but it may not be representative or sustainable.”

Short-term Treasury yields are likely to remain low as investors seek safety and liquidity, says Kathy Jones, Chief Fixed Income Strategist for the Schwab Center for Financial Research.

The Federal Reserve has taken unprecedented action in recent weeks to support the economy and provide liquidity to financial markets, which has helped to stabilize fixed income markets, Kathy says.

“Fiscal and monetary policy are providing support for most bond markets—particularly investment-grade corporate bonds and short-term municipal bonds,” Kathy says. “The Fed’s purchases of corporate bonds has helped bring yields down from peak levels and opened the door to new issuance. Direct grants to states along with Fed’s purchases are positive for the municipal bond market—although there is a good chance more will need to be done.”