COVID-19 has been many things. It’s a historically destructive pandemic that’s killed over 1 million people. It’s forced the temporary or permanent closure of thousands of small businesses. The pandemic has impacted big business in a big way, too. One way of seeing this is through stock market fluctuations since the start of the pandemic.
March of 2020 was the most volatile month on record for the Standard & Poor’s 500. This index follows the stock prices for 500 large companies, including big players like Johnson & Johnson, 3M, Amazon.com, and Microsoft. Having that much volatility for that many significant companies is never good news. Immediately prior to this recession, the US was riding high. Stock prices in mid-February were more than healthy. The rapid decline in a full-on bear market is also notably concerning.
Recoveries from recessions can be difficult. It’s common for them to take years. For example, the Great Depression in the US was only really relieved when wartime production started. Over the past several months, the stock market has seen many ups and downs. Some geographical areas have re-opened and then retrenched. Companies like Disney have looked healthy, but the early re-opening of parks didn’t have the hoped-for effect. In September, Disney announced thousands of layoffs.
Also, as of September, analysts and journalists have been talking about a K-shaped recovery. This is worrisome, too. It raises questions about widespread income inequality in the United States. In a K-shaped recovery, different economic groups recover at different rates. The graphs branch off in two separate directions, creating a k-shape. Right now, the worry is that the wealthy are doing fine, while the working and lower-middle classes are entering into even more poverty.
Currently, there are good signs of recovery. Many companies that have been able to pivot and change the way they deliver their services have done very well. This is true for both large and small players. However, industries like airlines, hospitality, and retail still have a very long way to go. It could take years for them to recover. As of October of 2020, Congress is attempting to come to an agreement on another stimulus. This would include funds to help industries like airlines make their payroll obligations.