The S&P 500 closed above 4,700 on Nov. 8, recording a fresh record high after Congress approved President Joe Biden’s infrastructure spending proposal. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq Composite also touched new all-time highs.
During a raucous Nov. 5 on Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives passed a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. The legislation, which received a final vote of 228–206, now heads to Biden’s desk for his signature.
“We took a monumental step forward as a nation,” Biden told reporters on Nov. 6. “We did something that’s long overdue … a once-in-a-generation investment that’s going to create millions of jobs modernizing infrastructure, our roads, our bridges, our broadband, all range of things.”
The infrastructure component of the president’s Build Back Better agenda includes $550 billion in new federal spending. The bill allocates $110 billion for highways and roads, $66 billion for passenger and freight rail, $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations, $25 billion for airports, and $65 billion to modernize the power grid.
Despite the back-and-forth between the moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic Party, the bill was passed, sending institutional and retail traders into a buying frenzy.
Investors poured into industrials and materials stocks to kick off the trading week. Caterpillar shares jumped 4.07 percent, asphalt maker Astec Industries soared close to 15 percent, U.S. steel picked up 2.7 percent, construction materials provider Vulcan Materials rose 4.95 percent, and steelmaker Nucor advanced 3.6 percent. United Rentals, the world’s largest equipment rental company also enjoyed a modest gain of 0.21 percent. ChargePoint Holdings, the biggest U.S. electric vehicle charging company based on market capitalization, surged nearly 12 percent.
Traders’ bets on the vast spending spree on America’s infrastructure also supported industry-related exchange-traded funds (ETFs), including the Global X U.S. Infrastructure Development ETF (PAVE), rising 1.29 percent. Year-to-date, PAVE has risen about 38 percent. The investment security’s top holdings consist of Nucor, Emerson Electric Co, Eaton Corp PLC, and Kansas City Southern.
Base metals also climbed during the Nov. 8 trading session. Copper on the New York Mercantile Exchange settled 0.86 percent higher, while London Metal Exchange aluminum finished up 1.9 percent. NYMEX palladium rose 3.29 percent, and platinum inched 1.99 percent higher.
This also fueled gains in commodity stocks, including Freeport-McMoRan, tacking on 6.45 percent. Alcoa, the world’s eighth-largest producer of aluminum, which operates in 10 countries, increased by 2.15 percent.
What Market Analysts Are Saying
Market strategists were bullish on the infrastructure package, predicting its broader impact on the U.S. economy.
“Investors have waited for a significant step-up in infrastructure spending for decades, and from Obama’s ‘shovel-ready projects’ to Trump’s ‘infrastructure week,’ they have largely been disappointed,” Citi analysts, including Anthony Pettinari, said in a note. “Accordingly, we view this generational investment as a significant catalyst for growth for a number of our stocks.”
Philip Ng, an equity research analyst at Jefferies, wrote that many infrastructure-related companies could enjoy strong earnings growth for many years, with some firms and investors poised for seven years of gains.
“The bill increases highway funding by 50% over the next five years, and we estimate it could increase [aggregate shipments of construction materials] by ~9% over five years from late 2022/early 2023,” Ng stated.
The measures inside the bill could further nudge American consumers toward greater electric vehicle adoption, too.
“The EV component of the Biden Infrastructure plan only buoys the EV adoption curve in the U.S. over the coming years,” Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives wrote in a note on Nov. 7.
But Chinese and U.S. inflation could threaten to derail benchmark indexes’ tremendous performances.
“U.S. indices continue flirting with all-time high levels following a surprise NFP read, the approval of Biden’s $550 billion spending bill, and the discovery of an oral COVID treatment from Pfizer,” Ipek Ozkardeskaya, a senior analyst at Swissquote, wrote in a note. “But inflation worries come to overshadow the Monday optimism in the run up to the most recent Chinese and U.S. inflation data release due Wednesday, which should reveal a further rise in producer and consumer prices.”
Rise of the Retail Investor
Financial markets in 2021 have been dominated by armchair investors, influencing the movement of many different stocks. The rally in infrastructure-related equities further highlighted how much of a significant role retail traders play in the current marketplace.
Typically, professional investors will load up on a stock before something bullish takes place and then unload those shares when the news breaks. This would cause newcomers who bought into the latest developments to suffer tremendous losses. In this marketplace, it has become different.
Jim Cramer, former hedge fund manager and host of CNBC’s “Mad Money,” alluded to Nucor as “too obvious for the pros.” However, as Cramer noted on Nov. 8, retail traders bought into the good news and could continue buying the positive trends.
“It’s a new world, more straightforward, less pessimistic, and you ignore this optimism at your own peril,” he said. “Individual investors have a lot of power.”
The rise of the retail army formed during the early days of the CCP virus pandemic, according to a Charles Schwab survey released in April. The poll found that 15 percent of current retail investors started their investing journey last year, prompting the financial institution to dub them “Generation Investor.”
Although retail investing has slowed during the economic recovery, Goldman Sachs analysts stated in June that they think the retail crowd will remain prevalent during the present boom.
“High cash balances and continued retail participation in equity markets should bolster household equity demand,” said the investment bank’s chief U.S. equity strategist David Kostin. “The tradeoff households face between equities and other asset classes favors equities through year-end given anemic money market and credit yields. Additionally, any signs of a sustained increase in inflation would favor equities over bonds or cash.”
Questions About What’s Next for US Markets
The U.S. annual inflation rate surged 6.2 percent in October, the fastest pace since late 1990, up from 5.4 percent in September. The market had forecast an increase of 5.8 percent. On a month-over-month basis, the consumer price index (CPI) rose 0.9 percent, topping market estimates of 0.6 percent.
The core inflation rate, which strips the volatile energy and food industries, advanced 4.6 percent year-over-year.
With inflation strengthening in October, speculation that the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates earlier than previously anticipated has been revived.
Last week, Fed Chair Jerome Powell told reporters during a news conference that the central bank can remain patient on interest rates, adding that it could respond if needed. However, as inflation swells amid growing wages and skyrocketing food and energy prices, market observers believe the first rate hike could happen in the second half of 2022, according to the CME FedWatch Tool.
During the November Federal Open Market Committee policy meeting, officials approved tapering the organization’s pandemic-era $120 billion-per-month asset-buying program. It plans to wind down the stimulus and relief initiative by summer of next year.
Analysts at the Bank of America forecast the Fed pulling the trigger on five rate hikes, beginning in the fourth quarter of 2022. A CNBC Fed Survey revealed that 60 percent think inflation is high enough to prompt the central bank to move on rates sooner than previously predicted. In addition, a Bloomberg News survey of economists between Oct. 22 and 27 revealed that the benchmark interest rates could rise to 0.75 percent in the middle of 2023.
The Federal Reserve’s dot-plot, an economic forecast of Fed Board members and presidents, will be updated in December. The previous dot-plot highlighted that half of the officials expected rate hikes late next year, while the other half anticipated rate normalization in late 2023.
“Although Chair Powell maintains the Fed can be patient with regards to rate hikes, with measures of underlying inflation and wages intensifying and broadening, the clock is ticking on how long it can hold that line,” ANZ analysts wrote in a note.
Could the U.S. economy endure rate hikes? Market experts are pointing to the strong October jobs report, growing automobile sales, and robust activity in the services sector.
“We are on the train to normal,” said Kristina Hooper, chief global market strategist at Invesco.