Sponsored Content by J.P. Morgan Private Bank
By David Nolet
It’s been nearly six months since the first pharmaceutical companies announced their vaccine breakthroughs in the fight against COVID-19, ushering in hope for the end of the pandemic, lockdowns, separation from loved ones and many hours of binge-watching. With this promise, markets have rallied, consumers have broadened their spending, and economic activity and growth have started to ramp up.
The vaccine breakthrough bolstered investors’ hopeful outlook for 2021, which was reflected in further multiple expansion for the world’s major stock markets. But as the global economic engine started revving again, corporate earnings began to pick back up. For example, since November, earnings growth has contributed to more than half of U.S. stocks’ +17.6% return (contrast that to the period between the market bottom in March and the vaccine announcement, when earnings contributed less than a fifth of the return). In the year ahead, we expect earnings to do even more of the heavy lifting for equity upside as activity roars back to life and consumers spend down excess savings.
Life isn’t fully back to normal, but mobility is picking up. As more of the developed world’s population gets vaccinated, case counts drop and the weather warms up, more people are transitioning away from the lockdown lifestyle. Google data tracking activity at everything from retail stores and recreation sites to transit hubs and offices has made a notable rebound from its lows.
Communities may not yet be bustling to the same degree as they were before the pandemic, but they’re getting there. Here in Fort Worth, it’s exciting to see events hosted at the Dickies Arena again. The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History should be opening its doors again this summer, and the Fort Worth Zoo recently debuted their new elephant habitat, Asian Falls.
Consumers have returned to spending with gusto. As the pandemic hit, consumers were quick to shift their preferences to all things DIY and electronics—so much so that the “goods-producing” part of the economy swiftly rebounded, and even flourished. But as the recovery continues on, that broader momentum isn’t slowing down. According to data from the JPMorgan Chase Institute, top line spending growth in Dallas-Fort Worth was 9.1% in January 2021, compared with January’s national average at 2.7%.
As you might expect, given the rebound in mobility, Americans are spending again on hard-hit services such as restaurants, lodging and entertainment. All this bodes well for the recovery—the consumer accounts for ~70% of the economy. On the hospitality side, there have been reports of difficulty in rebuilding the workforce, where restaurants do not have enough wait staff to support customer demand. There is a feeling of muted optimism that should only improve now that vaccinations are being made available to anyone 16 years and older, and we’re seeing that optimism impact spending. Spending by consumers aged 35-44 had the largest effect on growth in Dallas-Fort Worth, signifying the fastest growth in Dallas-Fort Worth at 13.6%, compared to all other age groups in the metro area in January 2021.
Even as some indicators continue to play catch-up, the economy at large is roaring back. A number of key growth gauges are consistently signaling expansion. Manufacturing is soaring and has cushioned the economic impact of further lockdowns, while services look set to surge. In a sample we track of developed and emerging market economies, 95% are expanding on the manufacturing front (compared to 62% for services). As the vaccine rollout enables economies to ease restrictions, that gap between manufacturing and services should grow narrower and narrower.
All in all, the world already feels different now than it did in November. We believe the ingredients are all there to make for a year of economic growth not seen since the early 1980s. Jamie Dimon, our Chairman and CEO, explored this point further in the JPMorgan Chase Annual Letter to Shareholders.
David Nolet is a Managing Director and the Fort Worth, TX Market Manager at J.P. Morgan Private Bank. David oversees a team of bankers, investors, wealth strategists and financial specialists that deliver guidance across investing, philanthropy, family office management, credit, fiduciary services, advisory services and more. To learn more about David Nolet and the Private Bank in Texas, visit www.privatebank.jpmorgan.com/fort-worth.
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