The Standard & Poor’s 500 closed up 0.64% today to a new closing high and ended the year ahead more than 16%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average also closed in record territory after a gain of 0.65% on the day. The Dow is up about 7% for 2020. The NASDAQ Composite managed a gain of 0.14% to bring its gain to 40% for 2020.
Today’s advance in the Santa Claus period–which historically also includes the first two trading days in January so it’s not quite over yet–is a good omen for 2021. Historically, according to Jeffrey and Yale Hirsch’s Stock Trader’s Almanac, the absence of a rally during this end if the year period often forecasts a down year ahead. Looking somewhat further ahead, the trend in the first five trading days of January has strongly correlated with the trend for the year ahead.
I think these patterns provide a read of investor sentiment toward the year ahead. I don’t think you need a crystal ball to tell that the market is looking forward to 2021 and the mass vaccination of global populations putting an end to the coronavirus pandemic and its economic dislocations.
But trading today showed a certain amount of caution about that forecast–only reasonable given the steady beat of bad news about delays in the rollout of the vaccine in the United States and the continuing climb in rates of infection and deaths.
Today, for example, saw major selling in some of the most speculative SPAC and IPO stocks with post-SPAC IPO battery darling QuantumScape (QS) falling 14.29% and AI IPO C3.ai (AI) dropping 5.51%.
China’s big tech companies gave back some of the recovery of the past two days with Alibaba (BABA) down 2.36% and JD.Com (JD) off 1.81%. In contrast food delivery giant Meituan (MPNGF) gained 1.02%. (The company changed its name from Meituan Dianping in October.)
U.S. big techs couldn’t manage to extend gains with Apple (AAPL) off 0.77% and Amazon (AMZN) lower by 0.88%.
So where were the gains that powered the indexes?
In financials where the Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLF) gained 1.20%. In utilities where the Utilities Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLU) claimed 1.49%. Tack that gain onto the 4.93% gain in the last 3 months as of yesterday’s close.
Stocks dependent on an economic recovery in 2021 continued their recent win one day/lose one day pattern with American Airlines (AAL) dropping 2.35% today (after gaining 1.83% yesterday.) MGM Resorts International (MGM) kept climbing with a 0.96% gain today after a 1.36% pickup yesterday.
Chip stocks continued strong with Qualcomm (QCOM), for example, adding 1.59% today, December 31.