U.S. stock markets finished the first week of 2021 with yet more gains as investors, still high on hopes of even more federal stimulus and a less tumultuous political landscape, managed to slog through several disquieting developments.
Daily COVID deaths on Thursday eclipsed the 4,000 mark for the first time, and the White House coronavirus task force warned of a “USA variant” that might be more contagious.
That comes as the Labor Department announced a decline of 140,000 jobs in December – the first drop since April and far worse than the 50,000 nonfarm payroll gains expected.
“Most of this drop was concentrated in leisure and hospitality, as new lockdown restrictions were introduced or expanded in different states,” says Gene Goldman, chief investment officer at Cetera Investment Management. And because the report only reflects payrolls through mid-December, before many restrictions were introduced, “the February report will likely reflect more of those job losses.”
“It appears the ongoing battle against the pandemic is putting pressure on the real economy once again and despite what financial markets are signaling, the labor market is indicating there is still a ways to go on the economic road to recovery,” says Charlie Ripley, senior investment strategist for Allianz Investment Management. “Overall, the ability for Congress to provide additional fiscal support has increased and today’s employment report simply beckons them to do so.”
But additional relief might not necessarily be on the way. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) bruised hopes for further stimulus Friday, telling The Washington Post he is “absolutely” opposed to a round of new checks, though he later clarified he would support stimulus targeting people in greater need.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average still managed to top yesterday’s record close, gaining 0.2% to 31,097. The S&P 500 (+0.6% to 3,824) and Nasdaq Composite (+1.0% to 13,201) also reached new highs.
Other action in the stock market today:
- The small-cap Russell 2000 took a step down from yesterday’s record heights, declining 0.3% to 2,091.
- U.S. crude oil futures notched their fourth gain in a row, jumping 2.4% to settle at $52.03 per barrel.
- Gold futures went in the opposite direction, declining 3.7% to $1,843.20 per ounce.
A Banner Day for Bitcoin
Also setting records Friday (and for the past month, for that matter) was Bitcoin, the digital currency that has once again captured Wall Street’s attention.
Bitcoin prices, which nearly reached $20,000 in 2017 before crashing into the $3,000s in 2018, reclaimed their old highs and plenty more near the end of 2020. The asset has more than doubled in less than a month, hitting a peak of $41,962 today before settling in at prices around $39,000. (Bitcoin markets don’t close; price taken at 4 p.m. ET.)
Bitcoin, as well as other digital currencies, remain highly speculative assets that only those with strong risk appetites should entertain; risk-averse investors may find themselves more comfortable with large companies profiting from these technologies instead.
However, institutional money and investment analysts alike are coming around to the idea that cryptocurrencies are here to stay.
Our 2021 outlook for Bitcoin can help acquaint you with the space. Learn more about what Bitcoin is, understand why more investors are piling in, and discover where the experts think its price will finish in 2021.
Kyle Woodley was long Bitcoin as of this writing.