Economists believe that investors should look through the latest spike in Covid-19 infections and the threat of a lockdowns across Europe, as some leading Wall Street strategists say the outbreak will not derail the equities rally.
"While the latest Covid-related headlines create some near-term uncertainty, they are unlikely to signal a meaningful change to the economic or earnings outlook," Morgan Stanley's Graham Secker wrote in a note. The fourth wave "is unlikely to be a material, or sustained, problem," JPMorgan Chase & Co. strategists led by Mislav Matejka concurred.
For its part, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. recommends owning cyclical equities led by stocks that benefit from the reopening of economies.
"While virus counts are now rising and weighing on reopening stocks, as the winter wave passes, declining virus and inflation headwinds should provide a near-term boost to corporate revenues and margins for the businesses most exposed to these challenges," David J. Kostin wrote in a note.
A huge number of reassuring reports are being heard as countries across Europe impose ever tighter restrictions - up to and including full lockdown - to curb a spike in infections and hospitalizations. European and US stocks have hit consecutive records this year, with the virus having dropped beneath the radar of equity strategists and fund managers alike.
All three of Wall Street's main investment banks believe that European stocks will continue to rise next year and that the recent flare-up in infections will prove only a temporary blip. Some European asset managers, such as UBS Global Wealth Management, are also bullish.
"It is clear that the large gap that opened up between cases and hospitalizations is holding, due to vaccines, which is a big positive," the JPMorgan strategists wrote. "Most importantly, this could end up the last winter when hospitalizations from Covid-19 are significant enough to drive mobility restrictions," they said, citing the imminent introduction of antiviral pills from Merck & Co. Inc. and Pfizer Inc.
Obviously, not everyone is so sanguine. "Covid-19 is turning into a more persistent drag on growth," Fidelity International's Romain Boscher wrote in a note Monday. "Vaccines are proving effective in breaking the link between infections and hospitalizations but not in stopping cases altogether - the virus is here to stay."
It is likely that Wall Street analysts greatly underestimate the danger of the impact of restrictions on local economies. Vaccination is likely to reduce the number of deaths, as well as the number of hospital admissions. But no one can be absolutely certain of this. A serious outbreak could wipe out all the bullishness the markets have witnessed since this spring and erase all the gains.
As a result, the statements of the bank representatives look as if they are trying to hide their failures under an outward calm. However, as long as the Fed and other central banks do not hike interest rates, stock markets will be in high spirits.
There is no doubt that investors with an abundance of dollars to invest somewhere will tend to be optimistic about the market signals. What will happen after the rate hike, and whether developing countries can withstand another year of rising government debt, is a big question. Perhaps the hardest thing is overcoming the effects of the coronavirus.