AAfter the markets collapsed on Monday and the Dow and S&P 500 lost 2.1% and 1.6% respectively, investors and experts agreed on the cause: the spread of the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.
“The advent of this higher transferable Delta variant has challenged the sustainability of this reopening and recovery,” said Candice Bangsund, Portfolio Manager at Fiera Capital. said The Wall Street Journal after Monday’s session ended.
The spread of Delta is worrying: 83% of new Covid-19 cases in the US are now Delta infections. The more transmissible variant, combined with widespread vaccination hesitation, has meant that new US Covid cases have increased by 55% in the past week. As the variant pervades the rest of the world – especially in less vaccinated countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa – it is becoming more and more likely that Covid-19 will last for years.
But despite this dire forecast, US stock market investors turned back in the days that followed. Markets rebounded on Tuesday, with the Dow up 1.6% and the S&P up 1.5%. Shares were unchanged on Wednesday. It was as if the Monday slip that Delta had driven had never happened.
What explains the mood reversal?
For one, investors might be wise to a point many epidemiologists and virologists have been saying since the pandemic began, long before Delta emerged as the dominant strain: that Covid-19 is likely to become endemic. Governments around the world are preparing for this reality. Many have begun encouraging their citizens to return to pre-pandemic behavior as they relax restrictions on the economy, such as masking requirements and restrictions on gatherings. “The mantra is increasingly the same” wrote the New York Times this week. “We have to learn to live with the virus.”
Second, despite feeling nervous and déjà vu after a weekend of headlines about rising coronavirus cases, investors may have calmed down, reminding themselves that vaccines do their job of protecting against serious illness, even with breakthrough infections and the Delta variant. According to a recent comment by Dr. Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, over 99% of recent deaths were unvaccinated and more than 97% of hospital admissions were unvaccinated. Undoubtedly, US hesitation and the difficulty of global vaccination remain major barriers to a post-pandemic economy and full recovery. But with vaccines that have been developed and are now being rolled out (albeit at an Ice Age pace around the world), those hurdles are not forever insurmountable.
Three, and perhaps most importantly, economic data shows that the U.S. economy is already past pandemic conditions. For example, US unemployment data released this week shows the number of Americans who received unemployment benefits in July fell retail sales are at their lowest level since the pandemic began risen the last three months. Even inflation concerns are comforting in some ways as supply recalibrates to meet rising aggregate demand.
In short, US investors should feel good about where things are at Delta, too. The markets reflect that.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.