Business

Investors are still in the dark as Trump returns to the White House

Posted October 6, 2020 7:59 a.m. EDT

— President Donald Trump is back at the White House. But a lack of quality information about his condition is putting investors in a tough spot, with little clarity on how to trade an intensely unpredictable moment.

What's happening: Trump, who remains heavily medicated, is still infected with the coronavirus. However, his physician Dr. Sean Conley said it had been 72 hours since Trump's last fever and that his oxygen levels were normal, insisting that the president met the criteria to be discharged.

Optimism about Trump's condition, along with stimulus hopes, drove a sharp recovery in stocks in Monday. The S&P 500 finished 1.8% higher, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 2.3%.

Yet tons of variables remain, preventing the momentum from spilling over into another trading session.

Investors don't have great information to work with. Conley — who has provided conflicting information on Trump's condition in recent days — acknowledged to reporters that the president "may not be entirely out of the woods yet" even as he supported a "safe return home."

Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues to be rocked by a growing number of coronavirus infections. Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was the latest senior staffer to test positive on Monday after a string of negative tests through the weekend.

Investors do feel they're getting increasingly solid data on the state of the November election, with polls giving former Vice President Joe Biden a substantial lead in the presidential race following last week's debate.

The latest CNN poll, which was conducted after the debate and mostly after the president's Covid-19 diagnosis was made public, gives Biden his largest lead to date, with support from 57% of likely voters. Just 41% of likely voters are backing Trump, a 16-point difference.

"Expectations not just for a Biden victory ... but also the possibility of a Democratic clean sweep continue to grow," Stephen Innes, chief global markets strategist at Axi, told clients Tuesday.

However, the outlook for stocks could remain wobbly while the health of the leader of the world's largest economy remains in question.

"It's hard to understand what the president's current condition is because there's been so much contradictory reporting," Bespoke Investment Group wrote in a research note. "Investors should understand that the president's health is likely to stay in the headlines for some time."

Wall Street is banking on a Biden presidency

Wall Street has become increasingly convinced that Biden could enter the White House next year with his party in control of Congress.

"The markets are pricing in a Democratic sweep of both the White House and the Senate," Alicia Levine, chief strategist at BNY Mellon, told CNN's Julia Chatterley on Monday.

That could be a positive for the country's economy, according to strategists. With Democrats in control of both houses of Congress and the White House, lawmakers would be able to push through a substantial stimulus package early in the year, Levine noted. (Democrats and Republicans have been trying for weeks to negotiate a new stimulus program, but it's not clear they can come to terms.)

Goldman Sachs said Monday that a "blue wave" would likely prompt the bank to upgrade its forecasts.

"It would sharply raise the probability of a fiscal stimulus package of at least $2 trillion shortly after the presidential inauguration on January 20, followed by longer-term spending increases on infrastructure, climate, health care and education," chief economist Jan Hatzius told clients.

Biden's platform includes $5.4 trillion in additional spending over the next decade, according to an analysis by Penn Wharton.

The former vice president's proposed tax policy could be a headwind for US stocks, Hatzius said. Biden wants to repeal elements of the 2017 Republican tax law that benefited high-income filers and he would raise other levies on the wealthy. He would also increase tax rates on corporations and foreign profits.

But higher spending, lower risk of trade escalation and a "firmer global growth outlook" would be "clearly positive" for stocks that benefit from a robust economy, Hatzius argued. Firms that pay most of their taxes outside the United States would also be fairly sheltered.

This startup is taking on big banks, and it's working

The economic forces triggered by the pandemic are crushing traditional banks. Yet Chime, a startup taking aim at Wall Street's top players, is booming — and it doesn't have a single branch.

Chime, which provides banking services via a smartphone app, has more than tripled its transaction volume and revenue in 2020, my CNN Business colleague Matt Egan reports. The company says it's signing up hundreds of thousands of new customers each month.

Scoreboard: While big banks such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America have lost tens of billions of dollars in market value during the pandemic, Chime's private market valuation has spiked by 1,015% to $14.5 billion in just 18 months, according to PitchBook.

It still has a ways to go to compete with the industry's biggest players. Bank of America has a market value of $213 billion, while Wells Fargo is worth roughly $101 billion, for comparison. That said, Chime is now more valuable than publicly traded companies including United Airlines and Whirlpool, as well as free trading app Robinhood.

"We've gone through explosive growth," Chime co-founder and CEO Chris Britt told CNN Business. "We're a company that's in the right place at the right time because so many Americans are feeling anxiety about their money."

This helped: Chime gave users access to its $1,200 stimulus checks five days early this spring. Given the current climate, that's one way to make a big splash.

Up next

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell will speak at the National Association for Business Economics' annual meeting starting at 10:40 a.m. ET.

Also today:

The US trade balance for August posts at 8:30 a.m. ET.Levi Strauss posts earnings after US markets close.

Coming tomorrow: Investors will pore over minutes from the latest Fed meeting for hints on future policy.

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