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Dow 15,000 very likely as coronavirus pandemic hits U.S. economy: strategist

Brian Sozzi
Editor-at-Large

Veteran markets strategist James McDonald, CEO of Hercules Investments, is staying with a call that he has had throughout the coronavirus pandemic fueled bear market, now going on two months.

That is, at least one more major course correction is ahead for equities as investors realize — once and for all — the U.S. economy is in a severe recession that won’t end anytime soon. It’s a call he has reiterated several times as a guest on Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade.

By McDonald’s math, he continues to see downside risk to the Dow Jones Industrial Average to 15,000 from its current perch just above 21,000. He thinks the economy could begin to show signs of life in the fourth quarter of this year — but until that starts to show up somewhere in the markets or economic data, he prefers putting on trades that profit from extreme volatility and downside.

Yahoo Finance highlights a call such as this because, well, McDonald has been dead right so far. Moreover, April has lived up to its billing in the early going as potentially lethal to stocks because of dreadful economic data nobody on Wall Street has ever seen before.

March non-farm payrolls plunged 701,000. The U.S. unemployment rate rose to 4.4%. The leisure and hospitality sector shed 459,000 jobs. Keep in mind this jobs data only reflects survey data up to March 12. The April employment report is widely expected to show a massive spike in job losses that reflects the 10 million people that have filed for unemployment benefits in the past two weeks.

After flirting between gains and losses in the morning, the Dow fell nearly 500 points by afternoon trading. The action in the markets today indicates investors haven’t fully grasped how much the coronavirus is derailing the U.S. economy.

Tyrone Keoton Jr., is handed an unemployment benefit application form by a security guard behind the glass doors of this state WIN Job Center in north Jackson, Miss., Thursday, April 2, 2020. The job centers lobbies are closed statewide to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The agency encourages residents to apply for their benefits on line, however, the system has been stressed by the large numbers of applicants. The local job centers are making paper unemployment applications available and applicants are filling them out and pushing them back through the mail slots or doors as well as they can. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Long-time economic forecaster Bethan Ann Bovino, chief U.S. economist at S&P, thinks the April employment report could show 8 million in headline job losses.

“We’re looking at close to 17 million jobs lost. So I don’t think it’s going to end in April,” Bovin said on The First Trade. Bovin adds she wouldn’t be surprised if there are 15 million jobs lost in April.

McDonald isn’t out on an island with his concerns on the market. Many strategists Yahoo Finance has talked with this week suggest the two-week long rally in stocks from the late March lows looks overdone. The pros point to not only souring economic data globally, but also the approaching earnings season as a source of downside risk.

“The market theoretically should be down even more when you lose over 700,000 jobs in one month with the worst yet to come. I think the market is braced for a lot of bad news. I don’t think the market is more or less pricing in a two-month shutdown,” BNY Mellon chief strategist Alicia Levine says.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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