Throughout history, the month of August has usually been one where investors take a break and the financial markets lose some steam. However, 2020 is far from being an “usual” period in time, and the month of August recorded one of the most aggressive upward trends in some of the global stock markets indices.
Looking back to July, the S&P500 and the NASDAQ continued to shine when compared to its peers, registering some substantial gains in the month. Following this, August continued on this same path and we saw the S&P500 record a 7% gain in the month, while the NASDAQ soared 11%, in this period of usual calmness in the markets.
Despite COVID cases continuing to be a problem, investors’ sentiment remained positive in the US, as economic data continues its strong rebound from the dismal figures reported in the first 2 quarters. Despite the reduction in unemployment benefits, the US registered an increase in retail sales and a sharp rise in existing home sales (+25% month-over-month), supported by (near) record low mortgage rates in the country. In the meantime, further stimulus to the economy are still being discussed, but the early signs of recovery are a welcomed development.
Outside the US spectrum, the FTSE 100 rose by a modest 1.1% in the month, continuing to underperform in 2020. Despite good numbers coming out of the UK, regarding manufacturing and services figures, and a good prospect of a strong recovery in Q3, the country’s main stock index is still lagging in comparison to its peers, and it has become apparent that, unsurprisingly, investors are largely in “wait and see mode” as Brexit becomes closer and closer to its final deadline and there are still many significant topics to be agreed upon with the EU. More recently, there has been increasingly more rumours regarding a “no-deal” Brexit and as these should intensify as we get near the finish line, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see more volatility coming from the UK, in the coming weeks.
Overall this is how the major stock markets performed in August and year-to-date:
Periods of extreme uncertainty are undoubtedly unsettling. Yet if you’ve no immediate need for your spare cash, and some set aside for emergencies, investing for your long-term future may provide a focus. At a time of worldwide turmoil, this could give you some sense of control over your long-term financial future. For clients with existing portfolios, now can be a very good time to review the risk strategy and weighting of the portfolio.