Writing on Monday 19th October still brings me a frisson of excitement. In 1987, this was ‘Black Monday’ when stock markets collapsed, the S&P 500 by 20% on the day.
London struggled to function in the aftermath of the hurricane that had devastated much of the South East over the weekend, trading was limited to a few hours on 19th, by the close on 20th October stocks had fallen by around 25%.
Back to 2020, where we have been facing a different type of crisis. Over the past five weeks, international equity markets gave the impression of ‘normal service being resumed’: American stocks were up, led by the NASDAQ, while European and UK stocks drifted down and the Japanese market was flat. US markets appeared to be coming to terms with the possibility of a Biden presidency and relief to be moving away from the ‘danger zone’ of a close Election result. On this side of the Atlantic, we were more concerned with a resurgence in COVID-19 and delays to a couple of the leading vaccine prospects.
The negative side of performance over the period had a drearily familiar feel to it, led down by the oil majors and banks. Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and Total all sank, Exxon Mobil suffering the indignity of its market cap falling below Nextera Energy. It has been reporting season for the big US banks and the best performance (their stocks were still down) came from Golman Sachs, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley, the rest, notably Citigroup and Wells Fargo, had a miserable time. The same was true in Europe where the Spanish banks, Banco Bilbao and Santander, had a rough time as did Deutsche Bank and UBS Group.
On the positive side, it was good to see an industrial company, Caterpillar, at the top of the list. Analysts have been busy upgrading their prospects in anticipation of big increases in infrastructure spending and the market liked their recent purchase of Weir’s oil & gas division. Nike stock jumped after reporting an excellent first quarter sales figure driven by a surge in on-line sales. In Europe, LVMH led a resurgence in the luxury good sector as they reported a return to double-digit sales growth in fashion and leather goods, led by Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior; Hermes, Kering and Moncler rose in sympathy. L’Oreal stock was also strong as they announced their new Chief Executive, Nicolas Hieronimus, a veteran of the company and currently deputy CEO.