Nothing can deter the bulls right now.
The market’s foremost index, the S&P 500, is set for its best 50-day rally ever, according to LPL Financial research. The index has recovered over 37.7% in the last 50 trading days, and is trading up over 1% in midday trading on Wednesday.
Historically, after the past seven biggest 50-day rallies going back to 1957, stocks were higher six and 12 months after the rallies every time, with stocks rallying an average 17% 12 months after the rally, according to LPL Financial research.
But it’s not just the S&P 500 that is on track for records. As of midday Wednesday, the tech-heavy Nasdaq-100 could close at an all-time high, less than 0.5% off from its record reached in February.
The Nasdaq 100 holds some of the biggest tech names, including Amazon and Microsoft, which have led the rally early on as the coronavirus quarantines have given their businesses a boost—Some, like Amazon and Netflix, so-called “stay at home” stocks, have even posted all-time highs while the overall market still trades down about 4% year to date.
Yet these historic rallies in the S&P and Nasdaq come against a backdrop of intense civil unrest, as protests against the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis have spread across the nation in recent days.
But the markets are often disconnected from reality, and stocks have a history of ignoring social upheaval. “The markets are taking in stride a lot of concerning political developments and an economy that is just emerging from a nationwide lockdown,” Edward Jones’ Nela Richardson told Fortune Monday. “One of the reasons is that markets are forward-looking, so they’re not just looking at present circumstances.”
Those present circumstances in the economy are grim—GDP fell 4.8% in the 1st quarter, and roughly 40 million Americans are out of a job. And as states begin to reopen, the threat of a second wave of infections is top of mind.
“While everybody is cheering the stock market right now, and we’re watching the mobility data and saying, ‘wow, things are starting to bounce back, states are starting to open up and confidence is coming back a little bit,’ let’s not take a victory lap just yet,” Deutsche Bank’s senior U.S. economist Brett Ryan recently told Fortune.
Additionally, a massive $2 trillion federal stimulus package and unprecedented action from the Fed have helped support market multiples. LPL’s Ryan Detrick wrote on his Twitter on Wednesday that “Historic bearishness at the lows, record fiscal and monetary stimulus, improving high frequency economic data, no new spikes in COVID-19 and optimism over a vaccine are all reasons” for the rally.
The S&P 500 has certainly come a long way from back in March, when it sank into the fastest bear market on record. But the rapid rise has made stocks much more expensive, as investors look beyond poor earnings in 2020 to brighter days next year. That’s lifted stocks to heady levels: the market now trades at a forward PE of over 20 (back in 2009, stocks traded at around 15 times forward earnings).
Since market lows hit on March 23, the S&P 500 has gained roughly 40%, the Dow has jumped 40% as well, and the Nasdaq 100 has recovered roughly 38%. Some of the stocks leading the rally in the S&P on Wednesday include airlines United Airlines and Boeing.
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