Before The Bell - The second quarter concluded yesterday, and what a three-month stretch it was. On point, after a woeful first three months, which had been severely impacted by the fast-spreading coronavirus, the stock market righted itself from April through June, securing the best quarterly performance since 1987 for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. For the NASDAQ, it was the finest showing since 1999, or before the dot.com bubble of 2001 burst, with that composite soaring above 10,000 for the first time ever.
As to the final session of the quarter, the market started the second trading day of the week moderately to the downside, following a solid gain on Monday. But that retreat was short-lived. In fact, after the first hour or so of trading, the Dow would turn positive, where it would remain for the better part of the session. Stronger even than the Dow and the S&P 500 Index would be the tech-driven NASDAQ, which would add 185 points, to again climb past 10,000.
In the news, investors were bolstered by reports of improving economic data and by the expectation that further stimulus moves were on the way from Washington. However, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reiterated in comments yesterday that the path of the economy remained highly uncertain. Also, the U.S. Government's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that the COVID-19 virus could worsen materially in the coming weeks, suggesting that new cases could soon start rising by 100,000 a day.
On the economic beat, meantime, the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index survey jumped more than expected in June, surging to 98.1 for the month up from 85.9 in May. Expectations had been for a smaller increase to 91.0. The reopening of large swaths of the economy last month and relative improvement in unemployment claims data helped to lift the spirits of American consumers in the most recent month. Of course, in recent days, surging COVID-19 cases could mean that this pickup in confidence may not last.
Returning to the market, it clearly strengthened into the close, abetted, perhaps, by some last-minute window dressing as the quarter concluded. All of the indexes posted big gains for the latest period, including advances for June, a month that saw several sharp, albeit brief, pullbacks. Also rising in the quarter was gold, with an ounce of the precious metal crossing the $1,800 threshold in late dealings. So, with the second quarter now in the books, we turn to the summer, where the next few days will see key releases on manufacturing and employment.
As to the current session, and after some early modest selling last evening, the equity futures are poised to open the latest session to the downside when trading resumes this morning in some early third-quarter profit taking. – Harvey S. Katz, CFA