Monday Morning Quarterback (01/04/2021)

January 4, 2021

“Not Where We Want to Be”

Since December 14, over 4.2 million people have been vaccinated, far short of Trump’s goal of 20 million by the start of this year. The U.S. has averaged “about 500,000 [vaccinations] a day,” explained Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. While “not where we want to be,” he’s confident that it is possible to expand daily vaccinations to 1 million a day.

Chart of New Coronavirus Cases Reported per Day

COVID Death Toll Hits Daily Record

U.S. vaccinations have begun accelerating after a slow start, despite early shipping and storage issues. Nonetheless, health experts explain that the virus’ infection and related death rates still threaten the economy’s health. On Wednesday, the U.S. pandemic death toll hit a daily record of roughly 3,860, as coronavirus casualties amounted to nearly 18,400 last week. As of January 3, more than 350,000 Americans died as a result of the virus.

Chart of New Reported Coronavirus Deaths per Day

$900 Billion COVID-Aid Bill Passed

On December 27, President Trump signed the $900 billion COVID-aid bill. The president initially refused to sign the bill stating that Congress needed to augment the payments from $600 per adult to $2,000. In a rare show, Trump teamed up with Democrats, calling for a stand-alone vote on the direct payment amount. Still, Senate Republicans have so far halted those efforts.

Economists Project Robust Growth in 2H21

With the recent surge in COVID cases, experts suggest that U.S. economic improvement will likely slow down in early 2021. Many economists have pulled back their job creation and economic growth projections for the first quarter. However, experts expect an acceleration in vaccinations will lead to stronger growth in the back half of the year. After contracting an estimated 3.5% in 2020, Moody’s Investors Services’ latest economic projections show GDP growing 4.2% in 2021, while Goldman Sachs estimates a more significant growth of 5.8%.

Stacked Economic Calendar

After a lull in economic data during the holidays, this week will be busy. Both manufacturing and services PMI will report their findings on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. The FOMC minutes will be released on Wednesday. On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the December jobs’ report. A Wall Street Journal survey found that economists estimate that the U.S. only added 68,000 jobs last month, a decline from 245,000 in November. If true, December will be the slowest month for employment growth since May 2020.