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May saw several states and foreign countries ease restrictions put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As economies slowly picked up momentum, investors grew more confident in stocks, driving values higher. However, investor optimism was kept in check by sobering economic reports and growing tensions between the United States and China. 
 

 

 

The unemployment rate reached its highest level since the Great Depression while claims for unemployment insurance soared past 25 million. Economic output lagged in April as expected. Hardest hit were automakers, restaurants, and airlines. The month closed with a speech from President Trump condemning China over the pandemic, Hong Kong, and several other "broken promises."
 

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April began on a sour note for stocks as each of the indexes listed here lost value. Economic reports reflected the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. There were more than 700,000 jobs lost in March while total claims for unemployment insurance benefits soared to nearly 18 million. A cut in production didn't prevent crude oil prices from hitting negative numbers as demand waned and storage neared full capacity. Purchasing managers saw manufacturing hit lows not seen in more than ten years.
 

The federal government continued to try easing the economic strain on individuals and businesses. The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act replenished the Paycheck Protection Program, provided funding for additional small business loans, offered financial support to hospitals, and increased the availability for more virus testing. The Federal Reserve added trillions of dollars in funds to its lending programs for states, cities, and midsize businesses. But the economic strain prompted a few states to begin the process of easing lockdown restrictions and reopening a range of businesses, in lieu of stay-at-home restrictions.

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January was full of ups and downs as investors rode a wave of uncertainty. The month began with many of the benchmark indexes listed here losing value (except for the Nasdaq) only to surge ahead during the middle of the month. However, fears that a widespread outbreak of the coronavirus would impact global economic growth pushed investors away from stocks, which lost significant value by the end of the month.

By the close of trading on the last day of January, only the tech-heavy Nasdaq gained value, as each of the remaining benchmark indexes listed here fell, led by the small caps of the Russell 2000, which plummeted by more than 3.25%. The Global Dow dropped 2.75%, followed by the Dow and the S&P 500. Unfortunately, the momentum enjoyed in December didn't carry over to January for stock investors.

By the close of trading on January 31, the price of crude oil (WTI) was $51.61 per barrel, well below the December 31 price of $61.21 per barrel. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.506 per gallon on January 27, down from the December 30 selling price of $2.571 but $0.250 more than a year ago. The price of gold rose by the end of January, climbing to $1,592.70 by close of business on the 31st, up from its $1,520.00 price at the end of December.

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Stocks grew for the third straight month as each of the benchmark indexes listed here posted solid returns in November. Despite unrest in Washington as the impeachment process drones on, investors were encouraged by the possibility of favorable movement toward a resolution of the trade war between the United States and China. While inflation remained stymied, consumer spending remained solid and business fixed investment perked up.

By the close of trading on the last day of the month, each of the benchmark indexes listed here posted gains, led by the Nasdaq, which climbed close to 5.0%. The small caps of the Russell 2000 advanced nearly 4.0%. The large caps of the Dow and S&P 500 also posted solid monthly gains of well over 3.0%. Year-to-date, the Nasdaq is more than 30.0% ahead of its 2018 closing value. In fact, of the indexes listed here, only the Global Dow has not gained at least 20.0% for the year.

By the close of trading on November 29, the price of crude oil (WTI) was $55.17 per barrel, up from the October 31 price of $54.09 per barrel. However, as OPEC meets at the end of November, it is expected that major oil-producing nations will extend production cuts, which may impact prices moving forward. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.579 per gallon on November 25, down from the October 28 selling price of $2.596 but $0.040 more than a year ago. The price of gold fell by the end of November, dropping to $1,465.60 by close of business on the 29th, down from its $1,515.10 price at the end of October.

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Investors continued to buy stocks, pushing values higher in October. Each of the benchmark indexes listed here posted solid monthly gains despite signs that the economy is slowing, both domestically and globally. Businesses remain hesitant to invest in nonresidential structures, equipment, and software, exports are lagging in volume, and prices remain subdued. Manufacturing continues to wane, and residential sales have been erratic at best. However, there may be headway in the negotiations between the United States and China, as the two economic giants try to resolve their ongoing trade war (although rhetoric from either side changes almost daily). The labor market continues to add new jobs, although wage inflation was muted last month. Since the beginning of the year, interest rates have been reduced by 75 basis points to their lowest levels since May 2018. The last day of the month saw the House of Representatives pass a resolution establishing a framework for a new phase of the impeachment inquiry.

By the close of trading on the last day of the month, each of the benchmark indexes listed here posted gains, led by the tech stocks of the Nasdaq, which climbed more than 3.50% from its September closing value. The large caps of the S&P 500 and the small caps of the Russell 2000 each gained over 2.0% by the end of October, while the Global Dow was close behind. The Dow advanced on the month, but by less than 0.50%. The yield on long-term bonds fluctuated during the month, ultimately closing October about where it began.

By the close of trading on October 31, the price of crude oil (WTI) was $54.09 per barrel, down from the September 30 price of $54.37 per barrel. The national average retail regular gasoline price was $2.596 per gallon on October 28, down from the September 30 selling price of $2.642 and $0.215 less than a year ago. The price of gold rose by the end of October, climbing to $1,515.10 by close of business on the 31st, up from its $1,479.30 price at the end of September.

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