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A Viral Market Update XIII: The Strong (FANGAM) Get Stronger!

When I started these updates on February 26, 2020, about two weeks after the markets went into free fall, my first six posts were titled “Viral Market Meltdowns”, reflecting the sell off across the globe. About half way through this series, I changed the title, replacing the word “meltdown” with “update”, as markets turned around. In fact, by August 14, the date of this update, US equities had recouped all of their crisis losses, and were trading higher than they were on February 14, the start of the crisis. In that six-month period, though, there has been a reallocation of value, from old to young, value to growth and manufacturing to technology companies, and I have tried to both chronicle and explain these shifts in earlier posts.

In this one, I plan to focus on a subset of these companies, the FANG (Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ: FB), Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), Netflix Inc (NASDAQ: NFLX) and Google Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ: GOOGL) stocks, younger companies that have soared in value over the last decade, and two other tech companies of longer standing, Apple and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT). These FANGAM stocks, which have dominated the market for the last decade, have become even more dominant during the crisis, and explaining (or trying to explain) that phenomenon is key to understanding both the market comeback and to assessing whether it is sustainable.

Market Outlook

My crisis clock started on February 14, 2020, and it is now six months since its start, and as with my previous updates, I will begin with a quick overview of financial market action over this period. I start by looking at selected equity indices, spread geographically, and how they have performed over the period:

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On August 14, the S&P 500 was almost back to where it was on February 14, which was an all-time high, and the NASDAQ was 13.46% higher than its February-levels, hitting new highs. In local currency terms, the Latin American indices were still showing double-digit declines, as of August 14, but the Asian indices have recouped much of their early losses. As equities have gone on a roller-coaster ride, US treasuries have settled into a holding pattern, with rates across maturities at much lower levels than prior to it:

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Almost all of the drop in rates occurred in the first few weeks of the crisis, but rates are now close to zero at the short end of the maturity spectrum, less than 1% for the 10-year treasuries and approaching 1.5% for the 30-year treasuries. The Fed’s two big action announcements, the one of March 15 on expanding quantitative easing and the other on March 23, on operating as a backstop in lending markets, have had only a muted effect on treasury rates, but they do seem to have caused a shift in corporate bond markets, as can be seen in the graph below, showing corporate default spreads for bonds in different ratings classes:
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