Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the lead negotiator for the White House on an additional coronavirus stimulus package, emerged today, October 14, from telephone calls with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to say that the chances of a stimulus package before the November 3 election are virtually nil. “At this point getting something done before the election and executing on that would be difficult, just given where we are in the level of details,” Mnuchin said.
Which should be no surprise to investors and traders since that’s been the reality for weeks if not months. But today, it is clear to me, that the stock market has recognized reality and has moved on from pricing in a November 3 package (or the failure of a package by that deadline.)
Sure, stocks went down today–for a second straight day–but the drop was well short of the kind of sell off that greets surprising negative news.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 closed off just 0.66% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell only 0.58%. The NASDAQ Composite was lower by 0.80% and the big-tech-heavy NASDAQ 100 slid only slightly more to come down 0.81% at the close. The small cap Russell 2000 was down 0.65%.
I think the market has moved on from worry about will they/won’t they by November 3 (they won’t) to a focus on whether or not we’ll get a coronavirus stimulus package in November at all.
What the market isn’t yet pricing in is that the chance of a significant bill–something bigger than the pocket change of $500 billion or less (and way less if you look at how much of this proposal is new money) proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell–passing anytime in November is also just about nil. If the Republicans win and hold their majority in the Senate, its unlikely that McConnell can produce enough Republican votes to get anything through the Senate that would pass the House. (And you can expect that Democrats in the Senate in this scenario would not rush to help McConnell out.) If the Democrats win a majority in the Senate, I’d expect Republicans to use the majority they will have until January and a new Congress, to block even a vote on a new coronavirus stimulus package. There’s really no political incentive (whatever the real life pain that would be inflicted on American families) for Republicans to give a Biden administration a head start on fixing a coronavirus economic slowdown.
I wouldn’t expect this vision to get priced into the market until sometime in November when the results of the election are clear and the lack of progress is obvious.
Until then, I think the market will drift with the day to day action between now and election day determined by reports from earnings season and worries about the election itself.