On January 7, 2021, Elon Musk tweeted a recommendation that people replace the social media app Slack with Signal. Instantly, the stock for Signal Advance, Inc. began to climb. It finished the day up over 500%. Unfortunately, Signal Advance does not have a social media app.
Investors should have started selling the moment the mistake was publicized. Instead, the stock kept rising. In less than a week, Signal Advance rose 11,700%!
Let’s look deeper into what a number like this really means. An investor who owned $10,000 of this stock would have had nearly $1.2 million three days later. Of course, groups often move in irrational ways, but at some point, the truth begins to matter. On the fourth day, it had an epic fall, giving up most of the gains.
Behavior like this has happened before. In fact, it was common back in 1999. On April 1, 1999, The Wall Street Journal reported the story of AppNet Systems, which filed to have its stock publicly traded. That day, investors began buying up Appian Technology. Despite being described as an “inactive company,” the stock rose 142,757% in two days. Needless to say, it didn’t end well for most of these investors.
In 1999, online trading was new, and so were the internet chat rooms where investors could share stock tips. It seemed that nothing could stop the momentum.
Warning Signs from 2000
Technology stocks began to fall in February 2000, and the rest of the market began to fall in March. What triggered the decline? Were there any signs?
(1) Was it Yahoo’s addition to the S&P 500 on December 7, 1999, which signified the acceptance of technology domination in the investment world?
(2) Perhaps it was the symbolic show of a new world order when internet upcomer AOL purchased media giant Time Warner on January 10, 2000?
(3) Finally, could it have been that the S&P 500 price divided by future earnings was at an all-time high of 26 in February 2000?
(If you don’t remember or have never heard of AOL, well, that proves the point I am trying to make. Good investing is very different from speculation.)
Greater and greater stimulus from the federal government and the Federal Reserve have created an environment where some investors are only focused on return. They ask themselves, “How much money do I want to make?” Then, they invest accordingly.
Of course, there is no limit to how much money most people want, which is exactly why this won’t last forever. The stock market is not an ATM.
This bull market will end. However, it is difficult to accurately predict the timing of a falling market when in the middle of a powerful bull market. It could be in February or, with all the government support, it may keep going throughout 2021.
Government stimulus and all the new money that comes with it will have to go somewhere. This could be a great support for investors as 30% of the stimulus is not needed by its recipients and gets saved. Roughly the same amount is spent, and another part pays off debt. All of these help the stock market either directly or indirectly.
If even more stimulus comes in 2021, then we can expect more spending and more investing.
What could go wrong in 2021?
Unintended consequences are an incredible risk for the unprecedented government stimulus we have experienced. However, we have not seen any major negatives yet. Until we do, it is quite possible that the stimulus will continue to flow in 2021.
I will be keeping an eye on inflation. In the Great Depression, America had the New Deal. People were paid to work. In the pandemic of 2020, people were just paid.
As the money is spent, demand could outstrip supply, and prices could rise. If inflation somehow reaches 3% in 2021, then I believe the Federal Reserve will take the punch bowl away from the party. For now, Fed Chairman Powell says he is “not even thinking about thinking about” doing that. So, no reason to panic.
What could go right in 2021?
I expect a great rotation to begin at some point in 2021. This change could end what I would call the profitability of speculation. However, it does not necessarily mean a crash in the market. I’ll explain.
When the economy was barely growing over the last 10 years, it didn’t make sense to run from growth. This made it possible for technology, which was a poor investment from the year 2000 through 2008, to become a leader. Technology was the undisputed leader of 2020 as it was also well positioned for the stay-at-home economy during the pandemic.
Technology represents over 25% of the U.S. stock market, but this is not a fixed level. Just before falling out of favor in 2000, it was 30%. By 2008, it was only 15%.
Keep in mind that in 2020, technology only represented 6% of the U.S. economy and just 2% of employment. That means there is a massive amount of opportunity out there just waiting to regain strength. I believe that at some point in 2021, we will get that change of focus and market leadership.
International stocks, small company stocks, industrial stocks, and energy stocks have already begun to strengthen after years of lagging behind.
Only time will tell, but if the new trend continues as it has over the last few months, then we may be seeing new market leadership that will point the way forward for years to come.
*Research by SFS. Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal. The S&P 500 index is widely considered to represent the overall U.S. stock market. One cannot invest directly in an index. Diversification does not guarantee positive results. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the author and may not actually come to pass. This information is subject to change at any time, based upon changing conditions. This is not a recommendation to purchase any type of investment.