2020 has been one of the most trying and memorable years in recent history.
Covid-19 was initially discovered in December of 2019 and spread to every continent by March of 2020.
Although the S&P 500 lost one-third of its value in March, the index recovered all of its losses by August 18th - the shortest bear market in history.
The Tech sector led the way in 2020 via a monumental rise in remote work, online shopping, streaming, and much more.
Pfizer announced a 95% effective vaccine on November 9th - the fastest produced vaccine in human history. Vaccines from Moderna, AstraZeneca and more would soon follow.
The year 2020 road in on high hopes for many across the world. This would be the start of a new decade in which any ills of the 2010s could be left in the rearview mirror. What unraveled in the first year of the new decade will undoubtedly leave a permanent mark on our collective psyche.
In addition to an enormous loss of lives, for many people progress on personal, career and school goals were put on pause. Family and friend gatherings and vacations were halted. Lives were paused.
No one can truly encapsulate the entire wild ride 2020 threw the world for, but some of the top events of 2020 are listed below.
What Happened In 2020?
Australia Faces Massive Bushfires:
Millions of Australians found themselves out of the fire and into the furnace when 2020 rang in. Fires across the wild Australian bush that had emerged in December 2019 grew into an environmental and humanitarian disaster. Although every state in Australia battled fires, the most devastating impact was reserved for the southern and eastern coasts of the nation. By the time the bushfires subsided in early March, over 186,000 hectares of land (roughly the size of Cuba) were destroyed along with 445 people and three billion animals.
February – Present
For most of the global population outside of China, the novel coronavirus seemed like an afterthought. China had been prone to coronaviruses every few years with each causing a brief scare before quickly being contained. The communist nation officially closed down the epicenter of Wuhan on January 23rd, but it was too late to stop the spread.
The first coronavirus death outside of China was reported on February 2nd and the virus known as COVID-19 was finally named on February 11th. The World Health Organization finally declared a pandemic on March 11th after the virus was officially discovered in every continent except Antarctica. At last count, there have been over 85 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and over 1.8 million confirmed deaths across the globe.
As much of the globe began to shutdown in late February to early March, it was only a matter of time before the markets took a nosedive. Panic selling spurred on by fear and uncertainty caused the S&P 500 to lose over a third of its value in one month. BEACH (Booking, Entertainment, Airlines, Cruises & Casinos, Hotels & Resorts) stocks were amongst the hardest hit due to their complete reliance on freedom of movement. On March 23rd, the Dow Jones fell to 18,591.93, its lowest point in years as cases continued to surge.
Here’s how each sector of the economy faired: (Source: jhinvestments.com)
Lockdown Begins Bringing Pollution Levels Down Globally:
At the height of the lockdown, more than 3.9 billion people stayed off the streets. Perhaps one of the only benefits to arise from the pandemic was global a decline of pollution levels. Thanks in no small part to billions of people staying home under lockdown orders and manufacturing screeching to a halt, CO2 emissions rapidly fell in major cities on every continent. Global greenhouse emissions dropped 7% from 2019 to 2020, the largest decline ever recorded. That 7% decline accounted for an estimated 2.4 billion tons of pollutant by products.
The CARES Act Passes:
On March 27th, the Trump Administration announced the passing of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, And Economic Stimulus Act. The CARES Act pumped $2T into the beleaguered American economy in the form of:
Health-Care: $153 billion for the beleaguered health care-system as well as $50 billion for hospital equipment, protective masks and clothing, medical training, research, and patient housing.
Direct Payments: An estimated $390 billion went directly to Americans that earn less than $150,000 per year. Single Americans who earn less than $75,000 received a one-time payment of $1,200. Married couples each received a check and $500 per child.
Unemployment: $260 billion was injected directly into unemployment payments. The act payed $600 per week on top of what state unemployment pays. For instance, a worker who receives $300 per week in state unemployment also collected $600 from the federal government per week for a total of $900 per week.
Freelance and Gig Workers: A 2016 study conducted by the consulting firm McKinsey found that the number of freelance workers has grown exponentially. To combat the massive loss of freelance layoffs during the outbreak, the CARES Act created a temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance that lasted through 2020.
State and Local Governments: State and local governments received $339.8 billion, most of which went directly to combatting COVID-19. The rest went toward education.
Tax Day: The federal government extended the deadline to file 2019 tax returns until July 15th.
Insurance: The CARES Act mandated that private insurance cover COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. Testing is also free.
Emergency Grants: $10 billion was provided as emergency grants for small businesses. Grants of up to $10,000 went to small businesses in order to cover operating costs.
Forgivable Loans: The Small Business Administration provided $377 billion in loans, up to $10 million per business, to cover payroll, mortgages, and rent. The bill aimed to ensure that workers stay employed by their respective companies. Existing debt was forgiven provided workers stay employed through June. There is another $17 billion for small businesses already enrolled the SBA program to make payments.
Job Losses Mount:
As predicted, job losses in industries such as food, hospitality, entertainment, and travel mounted to a staggering degree. At its worst in April, over 22 million unemployment claims were made. That figure represents a rate 10 times higher than the previous record high in American unemployment. Leisure and hospitality have led the way with 3.5 million lost jobs since the pandemic began. That figure represents over double the next leader in lost jobs – the government sector. Many now fear that the harsh winter months will bring forth a third wave and with it, more lost jobs.
The Price of Oil Dips Below $0:
When the world enters a lockdown, there simply is no use for oil to run cars, power factories, fuel ships, etc. When China began turning away oil tankers on February 13th, the price of oil fell off the proverbial cliff. On April 9th, oil hit its lowest point since the 1990s and didn’t hit bottom until -$37.63 on April 20th. In essence, producers were actually paying traders to take their oil to the tune of nearly $38/barrel. Oil companies like Exxon, Chevron, and Occidental were walloped by the negative prices. WTI Crude has since rebounded since that April low point to over $45/barrel.
On May 25th, George Floyd died while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Floyd’s death, seemingly caused by Officer Derek Chauvin keeping his knee on Floyd’s neck for over 8 minutes even as Floyd begged for his life, sparked national protests reminiscent of the late 1960s. The social activist group Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project estimated there were over 7,000 Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of Floyd’s death. Nearly every city across the nation dealt with protests, armed conflict, looting, and widespread property destruction. The mammoth level of destruction will likely cost the insurance industry over $2B.
The Rise of The Remote Worker:
Remote work was already on the rise before Covid-19, but the pandemic certainly kicked things up a notch. According to research conducted by Upwork, 41.8% of the American workforce continues to work remotely. Although the number of remote workers will likely drop through 2021 as Covid-19 weakens its grip, a projected 36.2 million American workers will work remotely by 2025 – an 87% increase from pre-Covid levels! Remote work has been helped in large part due to a growth in technology, making remote work much easier. Zoom has been a clear pandemic winner growing over 800% from January to mid-October.
The Tech Sector Leads The Way:
Speaking of Zoom, the tech industry as a whole grew ever more valuable in 2020. Work from home applications have grown immensely in popularity during the lockdown as well as delivery applications like DoorDash, UberEats, and GrubHub. No-contact tech looks like it’s here to stay. Customers are also much more willing to purchase online rather than visit concrete locations. While online shopping companies like Amazon and Wayfair have flourished, once stalwarts of shopping – Macy’s and Kohl’s saw their respective share prices flounder during the pandemic, although Kohl’s has rebounded nicely.
S&P 500 Hits February High – The Bear Market Is Over
When the market tanked in March and millions filed for unemployment, few believed it would rebound as fast as it did. On August 18th, the S&P 500 not only returned to its February high, but has since surpassed that level by a wide margin. Tech stocks led the way back to the tune of a 20% S&P 500 increase in the second quarter. Even economically sensitive stocks in industries hard hit by Covid have gotten a boost from investor sentiment after multiple vaccine trials were found to be successful. Shockingly enough, through all the tribulations the index endured in 2020, it has increased 4.9% year-to-date.
The US Election Harkens Back To 2000:
The lead up to any American election is always a savage affair. Yet, this year’s election conveyed a sense of importance never before seen. Democrats made the 2020 election a mandate against the president’s actions and policies throughout the last four years while Republicans sought to label Democrats as anti-business and on the side of unlawful protests.
When the dust settled a few days after Election Day, Joe Biden had seemingly won the presidency with the most popular votes garnered in presidential history at 81 million. Although the Democrats won the presidency, it did not come in the clear blue wave the party had hoped for and even expected. Biden narrowly won several battleground states by a mere few thousand votes.
The Democratic Party also lost 10 seats in the House to Republican challengers. Even as calls for election fraud became more and more widespread, the Supreme Court declined to hear cases brought before it by several states. Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States after winning 306 electoral votes.
A Third Wave Arrives:
The beginning of November brought forth an expected rise in Covid cases across the nation as temperatures dropped. Since mid-November, new cases have routinely crossed the 200,000 person threshold daily. By the end of November, 60 million new cases were discovered across the globe. State and local governments have initiated additional lockdowns in areas that have been hit hardest by this third-wave. Los Angeles announced lockdown measures in early-December and have not let up. Across the nation, lockdown orders have banned non-essential travel, enacted curfews, and banned indoor dining.
Pharma Efforts Produce Fastest Vaccination In Human History:
On November 9th, the pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced it was rolling out a 95% effective Covid vaccine. Other companies would soon follow. More than 13 million doses have been administered in 32 countries in the last month. The Covid vaccine marks the fastest vaccine ever developed in human history. Pfizer projects it will have nearly 8 billion doses of its vaccine available within the next year.
$900B Stimulus Bill Passed In Order To Deliver Critical Aid To Americans
The House and Senate approved another round of economic, Covid stimulus. Here’s what’s inside the new stimulus package.
$325B In Aid For Small Businesses: Small businesses that have been ravaged by the pandemic will receive a combined $325B in aid. Small businesses can also take advantage of $284B in loans through the Paycheck Protection program.
$45B In Transportation Aid: $15B will go to the struggling airline industry, $14B in aid for mass transit, $10B for state highways, $2B for airports, and $1B for Amtrak.
$166B In Direct Payments To Americans: Americans who make up to $75,000/year will receive a one time payment of $600. Couples who make up to $150,000 will receive a one time payment of $1,200. Parents or guardians will receive an additional $600 per child.
$120B In Unemployment Aid: Those who are unemployed will receive $300/week until March 14th.
$82B In Relief For Education: The bill will provide $54B for K-12, $23B for higher education, $4B for the governor’s relief fund, and $10B in emergency cash. The bill will also forgive $1.2B in student loans.
$25B In Rental Assistance: The bill will provide $25B in rental assistance to help landlords.
Farm Aid: The new bill provides $13B in food stamp benefits and $13B in farm subsidies.
$20B For Vaccine Relief: $20B in funding for the purchase and delivery of vaccines.
$2B For FEMA: FEMA will be allotted $2B spread across all state agencies to aid in covering funeral expenses for Covid victims.
Looking Ahead To 2021
2020 shall always be remembered, but it has passed and recovery has begun. 2020 demonstrated the strength of humanity. Frontline healthcare workers have been rightly lauded for their grueling work and rescue during this pandemic, personal assistance and charitable donations have increased nationwide, and governments and entrepreneurs have banded together to keep struggling individuals and businesses afloat.
Big Tech took a quantum leap over the course of the last year by nudging consumer interests towards remote technology and virtual reality. 2020 also saw the greatest voter turnout in American election history; a sign that more Americans are becoming informed on issues that affect them.
Americans can take solace in how prior generations have endured dark times. Lest we forget a Civil War that cost the nation over 600,000 lives, two World Wars, the Great Depression – which lasted for years, civil unrest throughout the 60s and 70s, and of course, the Spanish Flu of 1918-19 which caused the deaths of over 52 million worldwide.
Not only has every generation remained standing during tough times, nations have learned and implemented new ways of thinking and a newfound fervor in patriotism. 2020 has undoubtedly been a very difficult year, but advances in technology, a market recovery at a speed and level never before seen, and an increased spotlight on social issues will ultimately lead to a better society.
Like a wise man once said, “𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘯𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘪𝘴 𝘥𝘢𝘳𝘬𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘣𝘦𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘥𝘢𝘸𝘯”.