The COVID-19 vaccines will have a tremendous impact on the economy and stock market. Despite a slow initial rollout, MIT data scientist Youyang Gu estimates that by the middle of February, the U.S. will be vaccinating more than 1 million people per day, reaching herd immunity by early summer. Let’s think about what will happen to our economy as the need to stay sheltered in place goes away. As we get out of the house and get back to living our lives, it seems clear that the companies and stocks that benefited most from a COVID world will fade in 2021, along with the pandemic. Don’t get me wrong, we will still see huge wins in tech, but overall, I think we will see more traditional companies getting back in the game.
This year, valuation and price matter. Right now, the overall S&P 500 is trading with a Price to Earnings (P/E) multiple of around 23x. Historically, this puts the market into “overvalued” or rich territory and quite frankly, should make any investor question what’s happening. However, much of that lofty valuation is driven by that handful of technology companies that have been our lifelines during the past year. In fact, the six largest companies in the S&P 500 are technology companies, and they are trading at an average P/E north of 60x. Lofty by any standard. However, without these six companies, the 494 other companies that make up the S&P are trading at a more reasonable 15x P/E multiple. This is where a number of dividend-paying stocks reside. In fact, there are many dividend-paying companies that still boast attractive valuations and solid dividends that make us optimistic for 2021.
In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, consumer confidence in the U.S. dropped drastically and we saw U.S. personal savings skyrocket to more than 30%. For context, this rate has lived at less than 6% for most of the past two decades. As we enter 2021, there are a variety of factors we believe will turn this tide and reinvigorate the U.S. consumer. As I mentioned earlier, the COVID-19 vaccines combined with the near $1 trillion in new economic stimulus beginning to hit the U.S. along with more that’s likely to come is likely to reignite the U.S. consumer and economy as a whole.
As the economy improves, we should also see an uptick in employment. More than 10 million Americans have already returned to work, and more jobs will be created as hard-hit sectors rebound. That would naturally lead to positive financial returns for more companies in a broad range of market sectors.
And we can’t underestimate the value to our psyches and sanity, as we recover our ability to see one another in person, hug, travel and get back to celebrations like graduations, weddings and reunions.
As investors, it’s impossible to separate markets from the soul of America. After all, investing doesn’t exist without faith in the very system that provides us with strength and opportunity. As we transition into a new political era and we continue our battle with COVID, it’s important to hold on to the belief that America will recover. For those investors who stayed in equities, the recovery has already been significant and may still have fuel left in the tank. There’s no need to chase the shiniest object in the market. I’m a strong believer in companies that are fundamentally sound, and have earnings growth potential and the ability to pay shareholders increasing cash dividends.
Stay the course and remember that investing is personal. You are working toward achieving your goals and purpose in the world. You want to enjoy the happy retirement you’ve been dreaming about and planning for over decades. Whether that’s a steady monthly income, a house on the beach, or a legacy you leave behind for your family, church or alma mater, let those goals be the beacon that keeps you on a steady course of investing in the year ahead.
Wes Moss has been the host of “Money Matters” on News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB in Atlanta for more than 10 years now, and he does a live show from 9-11 a.m. Sundays. He is the chief investment strategist for Atlanta-based Capital Investment Advisors. For more information, go to wesmoss.com.
This information is provided to you as a resource for informational purposes only and is not to be viewed as investment advice or recommendations. Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal. There is no guarantee offered that investment return, yield, or performance will be achieved. There will be periods of performance fluctuations, including periods of negative returns and periods where dividends will not be paid. Past performance is not indicative of future results when considering any investment vehicle. This information is being presented without consideration of the investment objectives, risk tolerance, or financial circumstances of any specific investor and might not be suitable for all investors. This information is not intended to, and should not, form a primary basis for any investment decision that you may make. Always consult your own legal, tax, or investment adviser before making any investment/tax/estate/financial planning considerations or decisions. Investment decisions should not be made solely based on information contained in this article. The information contained in the article is strictly an opinion and for informational purposes only, and it is not known whether the strategies will be successful. There are many aspects and criteria that must be examined and considered before investing.