Aug 7, 2020 - Economy & Business

A soaring Nasdaq is just one slice of the buy-anything market

An illustration of a bull pulling a kitchen sink
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Nasdaq closed above 11,000 for the first time on Thursday, ending the session higher for the seventh time in a row and eighth session in nine. It has gained nearly 10% since July 1.

Why it matters: It's not just tech stocks that have rallied recently. Just about every asset class has jumped in the third quarter, including many that typically have negative or inverse correlations to each other.

What's happening: Big Tech stocks on the Nasdaq have surged, but small-cap stocks also have gained with the Russell 2000 up nearly 8% during the quarter.

  • So-called reopening stocks — companies like airlines and cruise ships that benefit from consumers returning to normal activity — have gained but so have stay-at-home stocks.
  • Oil is up more than 7% since the start of Q3 and emerging market stocks and currencies have both jumped in value.

The intrigue: Stocks, oil and EM are typically favored when investors are in risk-on mode, but safe-haven plays generally sought in times of market stress also have delivered strong returns this quarter.

  • The benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury yield has declined 15 basis points from its July 1 level and 30-year bond yields have fallen by 23 points.
  • The German 10-year yield, considered the benchmark for safety in Europe, has fallen 14 basis points.
  • Precious metals, like gold and silver, have boomed, with gold rising to a fifth straight record high on Thursday, well above $2,000 per troy ounce.

Between the lines: The rally is happening as news about the U.S. and global economy worsens with the coronavirus pandemic claiming more lives and threatening more businesses across the globe.

  • Tensions in the U.S.-China trade war also have increased, and tariffs continue to weigh on company margins.
  • In the U.S., earnings are on pace for the worst quarter since 2009, according to FactSet.

The state of play: Many active investors are stumped by the market and are resigned to simply sit on the sidelines in cash while others are jumping into new products like so-called buffer ETFs, which function almost like annuities.

  • The buffer ETFs limit investors' losses but also cap their gains, making them a sort of "defined-outcome" fund, targeted toward retail investors and financial advisers, Karen Hube of Barron's writes.
  • Bloomberg's Katherine Greifeld notes that investors have poured more than $2.2 billion into buffer ETFs this year.
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