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The Delta variant, originally discovered in India towards the end of last year, has recently caused an uptick in Covid cases around the world. Although the strain does not make people sicker, scientists are concerned because it is more contagious and can infect those who are fully vaccinated. According to the CDC, the Delta variant accounted for 83% of Covid cases in the US as of July 20th. As seen in the chart below, the total number of cases is still low relative to peak levels. However, many are still worried that mask mandates, social distancing requirements, and even quarantine measures may return, effectively slowing and endangering the economic resurgence.
Fed Turns Hawkish: Despite its pledge to avoid tightening financial conditions until the economy reaches maximum employment, the Federal Reserve signaled rate hikes may come sooner than previously expected in the June FOMC meeting. Fed Chair Powell acknowledged that inflation may come faster and last longer than anticipated. According to the updated dot plot projections, 7 of 18 committee members predict a possible rate increase in 2022. More notably, the forecast also indicated all but 5 committee members suggest the Fed will hike rates twice in 2023.
Biden's Infrastructure Plan: Last week, President Biden unveiled his $6 trillion budget for 2022 in reference to his agenda and aspirations for the next decade. In addition to his $4 trillion American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan, Biden aims to reinvest in research and development, education, public health, clean energy, and the social safety net. The budget will also be used to enhance and improve infrastructure through updating highways, ports, bridges, and airports.
April Performance: The S&P 500 Index was up 5% in April, driven by strong earnings and improving macro-economic data. Enthusiasm for stocks remains quite high with individual investors holding more equities than ever before, fueled by a blowout earnings season, the prospect of a strong economic recovery, and government stimulus. According to data from JP Morgan and the Federal Reserve, stock ownership among US households rose to 41% of their total financial assets in April, the highest level on record.
With all the hype around the recent GameStop saga and some of the questions we have already incurred, we wanted to address what happened and our thoughts and takeaways regarding this fascinating topic. While it may not have meaningful impacts on the broad economy for now, it is an example of the potential excesses brewing under the hood. Investors need to be aware of this risk and prepare rather than predict when it will end.