- The number of new daily cases of COVID-19 has continued to trend down globally, as many governments have moved to toughen travel restrictions, particularly countries that have seen a second strain of the coronavirus like the U.K. There were around 500,000 registered infections worldwide on February 6, down from a peak of 843,000 in early January. The U.S. continues to lead with 27.6 million total cases, followed by India with 11 million, Brazil with 9.5 million and Russia with 3.9 million.
- Bank of England has maintained its interest rates at a record low of 0.1%, as it seeks to reach its inflation target of 2%.
- U.S. manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) remained in positive territory for February at 58.7, down from 60.7 in the prior month. The number still disappointed analyst estimates, which expected the gauge to come in at 60.
- The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Russia agreed to keep the supply of oil unchanged to underpin a rally in oil prices. Crude has recovered from lows reached during the acute phase of the coronavirus pandemic, partly due to supply cuts agreed by the Saudi Arabia-led OPEC and Russia.
- Oil benchmark Brent crude erased all losses experienced during the pandemic and now trades at around $60 per barrel.
- U.S. unemployment claims fell from a weekly 812,000 to 779,000 in the February 4 week.
- However, the U.S. economy added just 49,000 jobs in January, way lower than the 85,000 figure expected by analysts. At the same time, this represents an improvement from the negative 227,000 in the last month of 2020.
- On the other hand, the U.S. unemployment rate declined from 6.7% to 6.3%, beating economists’ expectations of 6.7%.
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U.S. Broad Indices
- U.S. equities have continued to appreciate these past two weeks, but questions are growing over whether the incessant rally is approaching bubble territory.
- Vanguard’s mid-cap index fund (VMCIX) is the best performer from the pack with an advance in viewership of 1.85%.
- At the other end of the spectrum is Vanguard’s large-cap index fund (VFIAX), which managed to post gains of 1.24%.
- Fixed income assets posted mixed results.
- In a sign investors rotated to riskier assets, Vanguard’s investment-grade bonds fund (VWESX) was the worst performer, with a decline of nearly 2%.
- Vanguard’s junk bonds fund (VWEHX), meanwhile, was the best performer with an advance of 0.34%.
- Sectors were mostly up, with only a few tickers declining.
- The Vanguard’s healthcare sector proxy (VGHCX) is by far the worst performer from the pack, posting a loss of 2%.
- Meanwhile, the T. Rowe Price’s telecommunications sector fund (PRMTX) rose by 3.92%, around 120 basis points more than the runner-up.
- Foreign equities were rather mixed.
- Matthews India fund (MINDX) was up by 2.54%, representing the best performance from the bunch.
- T. Rowe Price’s Japanese equities fund (PRJPX), meanwhile, was the worst performer with a fall of 1.79%.
- Alternative assets’ performance was mixed.
- Pimco’s commodities fund (PCRIX) was by far the best performer, surging by 4.46%.
- Cohen & Steers preferred stocks fund (CPXIX) fell by 0.14%, the only alternative asset that posted losses over the past two weeks.
The Bottom Line
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Fund returns data are for the two-week period between January 22, 2021, to February 5, 2021.