2020: A Galaxy Far, Far Away…

January 4, 2021

I think we can all agree that 2020 felt a little bit like living in a science fiction movie. As you may remember, January 2020 began not noticeably different from any other year, or the month previous. Most experts were pointing to the China/US trade war and the Trump impeachment trial as the most salient economic issues on the horizon. The unemployment rate was at a record low of 3.6%, and the market forecasts were calling for “moderate” weather ahead, predicting the US market to be up 6-7% by year-end. As we now know, what we got was anything but moderate!

By March 2020, the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak became a global pandemic and cities across the U.S. faced complete lock-down. As market volatility soared, millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in asset values were lost, and our way of living and thinking was changing. As I write this, the COVID-19 data repository, which is operated by Johns Hopkins University, reports 85 million global cases of the virus and 1.8 million deaths worldwide. As the numbers climb, it still seems like a miracle that the market has been able to recover.

The forced changes brought on by the pandemic have drastically transformed how some of us live and work. In our business, signing documents digitally became a necessity, and the company making it possible, DocuSign, saw its stock go up from $68 in early March to $225 by the end of the year. Video conferencing became a normal part of everyday life and vernacular. Just as you heard folks say “Just Google it” in the early 2000s, 2020 brought in newly minted phrases like “Can we just Zoom.” Not surprisingly, Zoom Video Communications (ZM) stock went from $70 to $351 during the year and saw a high of $588. Our homes, like time capsules, have become sealed, protected environments. Some parts are now offices or school rooms, while others have replaced our health and fitness clubs. With home now our entire reality, warehouse locations are more important than malls or retail stores, and the new expectation is same day or next day delivery.

This past year strikes me as one of those periods that will stay with us unlike other events that we have lived through. My 91-year-old mother still talks about growing up during “The Depression” of the 1930’s, while others talk about the collective hardships they faced during WWII. During my life there have been events that have marked history, but, as I reflect, nothing compares to this year. Perhaps the memories of 2020 will be life long and generational. 30 years from today, I can only imagine how today’s 10-year-old child will describe what 2020 was like to their children. Or, how the 30-year-old today will describe their wedding, or the birth of their child, or the death of a loved one to someone who did not “live through it” back in 2020. I expect a popular phrase may just be “you can’t believe how the world changed.”

Carl Gambrell

NHCO Weekly Market Update 
 12/31/2019% Wk Chg% Yr Chg 
 DJIA 30,606.481.35%7.25% 
 S & P 5003,756.071.43%16.26% 
 Emerging Mkts 1,291.262.87%15.84% 
 Gold 1,898.670.81%25.14% 
 Euro 1.220.18%8.94% 
 3m LIBOR 0.25%4.17%-87.05% 
 High Yield3.79%-6.42%-20.21% 
 Investment Grade1.04%-1.89%-54.78% 
 2 Year Gov’t0.12%0.00%-92.36% 
 10 Year Gov’t0.91%-1.09%-0.37% 
  Data: Bloomberg