It is no secret at all that 2020 has been nothing short of a crazy year. The COVID-19 pandemic wrecked the economy. It seems that half of the country is still working from home with no set date of returning to an office. Over 13 million Americans are still without a job, and the economic recovery has been so unevenly stacked that many industries are still deep in recession. The irony of it all? The stock market has managed to recover all of its losses from March and return to all-time highs.
While this may be a time when the economic irony became a paradox, the reality is that the market’s return to all-time highs has been an act of market mechanics rather than a broad-based gain that lifts all boats together. Until the peak of last week, the leadership from Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and other key darlings were the main culprits for the stock market’s return to all-time highs.
At the start of 2020, when the bull market was still raging onward and upward, the skies were pointing toward higher index values for the Dow Jones industrial index, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq. And that is exactly what was happening, at least right up until Americans figured out that “that flu-thing in China” was for real and would bring big problems to America and the rest of the world.
At the start of 2020, the 24/7 Wall St. official baseline model was for the Dow to generate a total return of 7.4% and rise to roughly 30,650 by the end of this year. While that is more than 10% higher than the 27,700 level now, this may still be very achievable before year’s end. After all, the Dow’s high is up above 29,500, and both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq managed to hit all-time highs again. Much of the great economic recovery has yet to be realized, and a very large portion of the value and base economy did not benefit as much as the top market darlings. The sell-off after September 1 may have even helped this possibility for a much higher year-end closing.
This bullish scenario may sound like ridiculous euphoria, like it requires rose-colored glasses. Yet, we know of no single investor who went on the record in public during the dog days of March after the most rapid bull-to-bear market in history who predicted that stocks would return to all-time highs any time soon (let alone a few months). A few trillion in economic stimulus and hopes of a vaccine in the coming months, and here you are.
Another big risk is that there is also the election coming in November. This absolutely will be a wild card that can play a huge role in how the year 2020 turns out. In fact, many technicians and fundamental investors already have warned that volatility will rise ahead of the election, and there are major concerns that a formal election winner won’t be known until weeks after election day.
There are of course no guarantees that the stock market will return to higher levels even, if the economic recovery continues. In fact, we would be even more surprised than most if the recovery were to get back in a straight line and lift all stocks with it. We have all been more than surprised by the massive comeback already seen.
Here is how the Dow can still continue to rise and hit that 30,000 mark by year’s end. Remember, the Dow is a stock price-weighted index rather than an adjusted market-cap-weighted index.
Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ: AMGN) is in a dead running tie with Salesforce.com over the #3 and #4 weighting in the Dow at about 5.8%. It trades at about $241 a share. It replaced Pfizer in the index and is the world’s first biotech stock to be a member of the Dow.
Amgen still has a $141 billion market cap, but its recent high of $264.97 is still barely higher than the consensus analyst target price of $262.76. The brokerage firm Jefferies went as high as a $300 price target over the summer, and Amgen offers a pharma-esque dividend yield of 2.6%.
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) recently concluded its stock split that caused plenty of mental excitement while changing literally nothing about its fundamentals. Now that Apple went down to $110, this stock has fallen from a post-split high of $137.98 before any recent attempts to recover. Its weighting has gone from over 10% and the highest weighting in the Dow down to 19th place and less than a 3% index weighting. That is even with close to a $2 trillion market cap as the world’s largest company.
Apple’s consensus target price is now closer to $116, but we still see $140 and $150 price targets from the bullish analysts.