US equities kicked off a crucial week with a bang, but the move higher felt tenuous.
In addition to representing a narrower advance than last week’s rallies, gains were set against a backdrop of a stronger dollar and plunging crude, neither of which have been positive developments over the past several weeks.
The S&P has risen in four of five sessions. It was the first gain for the dollar in four days.
Virus news out of Europe was mixed. The pace of infection slowed in Italy, as did the death rate in Spain, where business leaders lashed out at the country’s decision to ban non-essential work and extend the national lockdown. “If you stop the country, we’ll have a huge social problem within five months”, an irritated Antonio Garamendi, president of Spain’s business association, seethed.
That may well be true, but Spain’s infection total topped China’s on Monday, and while the rate of fatalities slowed, the country still lost 812 people over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 7,340. So, with apologies to the Spanish business community, the country has bigger concerns right now.
In Moscow, nearly 13 million people were ordered to stay home. France had its deadliest day yet, with 418 hospital deaths.
Stateside, the news isn’t getting much better, despite myriad headlines around vaccines and possible treatments.
The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in California doubled over the past four days, while the number of ICU patients tripled over the same period, Governor Gavin Newsom said Monday.
In New York, the epicenter of the US outbreak, the US Navy hospital ship Comfort finally showed up, sailing past the Statue of Liberty, while onlookers on both sides of the Hudson River cheered. The city’s hospitals are overwhelmed, as are facilities across the country.
Both Maryland and Virginia issued stay-at-home orders on Monday.
In D.C., officials said the Capitol will be closed to the public through next month, in line with the extension of the social distancing guidance announced by Trump on Sunday evening during a press conference that found the president marveling at a worst-case scenario where the US would lose as many as 2.2 million people to the virus (according to a model). That’s if no containment measures were adopted and/or if the existing protocols were abandoned prematurely.
New York reported some 250 new deaths on Monday, up 26%, although the rate of infection fell and hospital discharges rose, Andrew Cuomo said. The state has more than 66,000 infections. It is entirely possible that New York could soon surpass the “official” number of infections for all of China, if you believe the numbers out of Beijing.
In Florida, a pastor was arrested for holding in-person services in defiance of a stay-at-home order, an act Hillsborough Country Sheriff Chad Chronister described as representing a “reckless disregard for public safety”.
So, if you’re wondering whether defying guidance from state and local officials can be grounds for an arrest warrant, the answer is “yes”.
In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy filed charges against everybody from a handful of guys who met to race their cars in a parking lot to 24-year-old Karley Rosell, who, according to a press release from attorney general Gurbir Grewal, left her home in defiance of the state’s “Stay Home and Stay Safe” guidelines to (and I’m quoting from the press release here) “throw a Molotov cocktail at her boyfriend’s residence”. It did not detonate, Grewal said, dryly.
“Painted a gleaming white and adorned with giant red crosses, the 1,000-bed converted oil tanker [was] accompanied by a flotilla of support ships and helicopters”, Reuters writes, describing the glorious moment when the Comfort arrived in Manhattan. “Some bystanders chanted, ‘Trump, Trump, Trump’, as the huge vessel neared the pier where it docked”.
These are surreal times, folks.