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Exploring the coronavirus’ impact on business in 2020

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As the year comes to an end, Yahoo Finance’s Adam Shapiro and Seana Smith recap 2020 - from the job market to the retail sector - and discuss the adaptations that business and people have taken to weather the coronavirus pandemic.

Video Transcript

- This is a Yahoo Finance Special, How 2020 Changed the World and Led to the COVID-19 recession. 2020 was the year of the retail apocalypse. Iconic names went bust, hit by the ruinous mix of COVID lockdowns, high unemployment, and a deep recession. But some prospered-- Amazon, Best Buy, Home Depot, to name a few.

And despite the gloom and doom, the stock market exploded to record highs, thanks to the Fed and a lot of bullish investors, many new to the market. Mortgage rates hit all-time lows, and the housing market shot to all-time highs. We lived inside the matrix. Everything was remote-- work, workouts, get-togethers, birthdays. And finally, capitalism at its best-- through investment, innovation, and competition, word of a vaccine. Join us now as we examine how 2020 changed the world and led to the COVID-19 recession.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Hello, everybody. I'm Adam Shapiro.

SEANA SMITH: And I'm Seana Smith. We want to start this special of how 2020 changed the jobs picture. And for that, we want to bring in Yahoo Finance's Emily McCormick. And Emily, when we take a look at the impact that the pandemic has had on the jobs market, I mean, it has been devastating. More than 20 million jobs were lost in the first couple of months of the coronavirus outbreak here in the US. As we stand now 10 months from that initial impact, I mean, how would you, I guess, characterize the impact that it has had on jobs?

EMILY MCCORMICK: Well, Seana, to really capture the virus's impact on the labor market, you really have to go back to the very beginning of this year. We saw the unemployment rate was at a 50-year low of 3 and 1/2% in February. And employers were adding on average nearly 200,000 jobs per month over the year prior.

Now all that progress was upended once the coronavirus pandemic hit. We saw the US economy losing a record 20.8 million jobs in April alone after shedding nearly 1.4 million jobs in March. And for context, the worst fall in payrolls during the global financial crisis had been by 800,000 in March of 2009.

Now, in this year, we saw the service economy was really the most deeply affected, especially among low wage workers. We saw leisure and hospitality industries lose a staggering 8.3 million jobs between March and April. And those losses still haven't been fully recovered. Now we also saw the unemployment rate hit its pandemic era high of 14.7% in April. That was a record in Labor Department data going back to 1948, but it did avoid reaching Great Depression era levels with that jobless rate reaching an estimated 25% in 1933.

Now, taking a look at those weekly unemployment claims, those also pointed to the historic levels of joblessness. We saw a record 6.9 million Americans filed new jobless claims in just one week alone in late March this year. Now, while this level has come down to a rate of just over 700,000 per week, it is still really elevated on a historical basis. So still a ways to go here in this recovery. Seana and Adam.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Emily, what about the states? Which states have been hit the hardest? Has anybody been spared?

EMILY MCCORMICK: No one has been spared, Adam, but when we take a look by region, really, the worst unemployment picture has closely tracked the spread of the pandemic. So that's meant states that rely heavily on tourism were hit especially hard. So we saw that in April, Nevada, which, of course, has Las Vegas, had an unemployment rate of 30%. So that was more than double the national unemployment rate at that time.

And we saw in Hawaii, the unemployment rate there was nearly 24%. And in Michigan, which is a manufacturing heavy economy, suffered a lot of auto factory shutdowns. And we saw that state with a jobless rate of 24% in April as well.

Now, we have seen unemployment rates come down across the board. The jobless rate nationally was at 6.7% in November. But taking a look a month prior in October, we still had Hawaii the highest in the nation with a jobless rate of 14.3%, followed still by Nevada at 12%, although we did see Michigan's fall to 5.5% or below that national average. So again, here, still seeing some regions hit harder than others, but still elevated across the board, across the country.

SEANA SMITH: Emily, over the past couple of months, we've seen this labor market recovery slowing. It continues to slow. As we look ahead to 2021 and even beyond that, how long is it expected to take to get back to those pre-pandemic levels?

EMILY MCCORMICK: That's a good question, Seana. And taking a look at what the Federal Reserve in particular has said, they predicted in their September summary of economic projections that the unemployment rate will end 2021 at 5 and a 1/2%, down from, again, 6.7% this past November, and then fall to 4% by 2023. So potentially going to see another several years here of recovery. We've seen the pace of the recovery actually slow down in the past couple of months.

But that said, the prospects of a vaccine next year have offered hopes of a strong recovery and one that does lead to longer lasting growth here in the labor market and broader economy. So something to watch here over the coming months and next couple of years. Seana and Adam.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Emily McCormick, thank you, from the labor market to the stock market. After the break, Yahoo Finance's Jared Blikre will join us to look back at the record setting year on Wall Street.

KRISTIN MYERS: You might have noticed a little bit of a different lineup.

JULIE HYMAN: This is a new combination for us and a new time.

- This week, we're going to be kicking off some changes in our programming.

- We're in a critical period right now with record cases.

- We want public health measures to be the gateway to safely and prudently opening up the economy again.

- My advice to any entrepreneur out there, you got to pivot, man.

- In this land of opportunity, anything is possible.

- It all comes down to business economics and safety.

- We can do this. I'm absolutely convinced.

- It's your portfolio. It's your retirement. It's your money. Isn't it time you trade up? With Yahoo Finance Premium, you can trade up to tools that let you go beyond the fundamentals, to exclusive access to proprietary data and pattern recognition. With industry leading insights and advanced charting, you can make the best moves for your money. Get started with your free trial today.

- Is my 2020 census data safe? After sending your census response, your personal information is kept safe. By law, it can't be shared with any other government agency, law enforcement, or landlord-- no one. So take your 2020 census with peace of mind. Shape your future. Start here. Visit 2020census.gov.

MYLES UDLAND: Morning.

- What are you doing?

MYLES UDLAND: Isn't it obvious?

- Nah.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: We're delivering live market coverage and offering expert analysis completely free.

MYLES UDLAND: We're helping you make sense of the markets from anywhere you are.

- I get that, but what are you doing here?

MYLES UDLAND: Nice pajamas.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Really? I say pajamas.

MYLES UDLAND: Well, pajamas, pajamas, whichever.

- OK.

- Yahoo Finance, watch today on Channel 604.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Welcome to the show.

MYLES UDLAND: Let's make finance make sense.

SEANA SMITH: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance's special presentation of how 2020 changed the world. Jared Blikre is here with the YFi Interactive Board. And Jared, what a ride it's been for investors over the past several months, especially since hitting those March lows.

MYLES UDLAND: Yeah, and let's take a look at the year in perspective here. What I have is a quarter to date chart first of the S&P 500. And it gives us kind of a more granular look of the recent price action. And this is what we've seen. November was a huge month of rotation. We'll talk about that. We got those three consecutive Mondays of incredible vaccine news. And that fueled a lot of the gains and the rotation there.

And then, in the month of December, it's simply been melt up. But yeah, let's take a look at what happened in late February and early March. Here's the year to date and the S&P 500. And this was, in fact, the quickest bear market in history. We dropped 35% off of those February highs. And it was very quick.

And one of the things we've been talking about, I've been kind of harping on, is, the transformation in the markets, where we see lower liquidity for a variety of reasons. Some of that has to do with the transformation from the old open outcry method into electronic trading. That only progresses. We now have clients. We now have brokerage houses selling order flow. So there is less transparency on it.

And overall, the algorithms, the technology is just so quick. Everything gets priced in very quickly. So at these lows, which we know in hindsight was an extremely good buying point, it seemed like the bottom was going to fall out. And it seemed a lot to me like late 2008, early 2009. But there are some interesting parallels to that period, 2009 in particular. Because in March of that year, similar to March of this year, we got huge announcements by the Federal Reserve that they were going to dramatically increase their balance sheet.

Now in 2009, almost nobody knew what that meant. Now we know what QE is. And it's been off to the races. Globally, something like $8 trillion in central bank stimulus, along with $12 trillion in fiscal stimulus. And all of that adds up, and we're seeing that reflected in the markets, despite the fact that we are in a lockdown right now, which is just incredible to think about. A lot of places in the second wave of the COVID pandemic. We have markets, the US markets, at least, at record highs. And we still see volatility a bit elevated here.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Jared, how much of the market gain that we've experienced this year is true fundamental growth versus stimulus and CARES Act and a big boost from Congress and the Fed?

JARED BLIKRE: Well, that's an incredibly loaded question, and I hope to be able to answer it as well as possible. A lot of it has to do with the interest rate situation. Interest rates were low coming into this. Now, we had the Federal Reserve raise rates four times in 2018. They had kind of take their foot off the brake there. But that was already in progress. They were already expanding their balance sheet with the repos before we got into the COVID crisis.

So, you know, you go back 10 years, we've only had the 10-year maybe at 3% at its highest. It's nearly 1% now. Benchmark rate of the Fed, those short-term rates, those have been low. So I think a lot of that has to do with the strength that we've seen in some of those growth names. Not just the pandemic ones, but Tesla, for instance, and then the big FAANG stocks. Those were attracting a lot of money because interest rates were low.

So that's been a big part of it. But there's also been some incredible disruptions in technology. And you go back to Tesla. Well, they're disrupting transportation here. So I think a lot of these moves would have happened eventually.

But because of the interest rate situation, because of the pulled forward demand of a lot of innovation that COVID, the response to COVID necessitated, I think that going forward, we're going to see more of the same. And I think it's going to persist probably longer than a lot of people think of. Even if we do get a lot of rotation, we're not going to see those big FAANG names fall out of favor any time soon, as long as we have those low rates.

SEANA SMITH: Hey, Jared, how about this rotation that we've seen, the change in leadership? I mean, people are rotating out of some of those growth names that were really sky high, the outperformers of 2020, and into some of those beaten down underperforming value names. In order for that rotation to stick, what are investors looking to see? What needs to happen?

JARED BLIKRE: Well, first of all, the vaccine schedule needs to stay on track. Now we've had a lot of announcements. Almost all of them have been positive. We only had one negative announcement. I think it was Pfizer news a week or two ago. And the Dow sold off maybe 200 points intraday because it was older news.

But going forward, we're going to have to marshal forces on a scale that we haven't done in a long time to get vaccine distributed. And any hiccups in that schedule in those distribution plans is probably going to weigh on the market. If it's a small one, a little hiccup will probably be a buying opportunity. If it's a major one, if, let's say-- let's try and anticipate some black swan event. If a vaccine had to be pulled from the market-- very, very unlikely. But if it had to, I think that would cause a massive disruption in the market. And there'd be a big sell-off in the indices in a massive rotation underneath the hood.

We also have the potential for a blue wave in January. It's small, but we've got those Georgia runoffs. That could easily change the calculus. I think we'd see a sell-off, maybe 5%, 10%, in the majors, but that's mainly to do with the reorientation-- the rotation that would have to take place. So let's take a look at the YFi Interactive here. We can take a look at the sector action over the last quarter. And you can see the standout right away is XLE. That's the energy ETF. Well, that's up 34.5%. Just incredible gains here for some of these value and cyclical sectors.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Jared Blikre, thank you very much. Up next, Yahoo Finance's Brian Cheung will take us on a trip down memory lane as he describes the Federal Reserve's drama filled year. We're back right after this.

ANDY SERWER: Welcome to "Influencers." I'm Andy Serwer.

- You can be an entrepreneur. I'm going to work my face off.

- Donald Trump.

- And I think he gets voted out or--

- Living in such a divided America.

- Presidents will come and go. The power of the US economy is pretty interesting.

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- To catch a criminal mastermind--

- Ah ha ha. I am the most nefarious villain the world has ever seen.

- This could lead to war between cats and dogs. It's up to you two.

- Cat nap! [SNORING]

- --they'll never--

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- --roll over.

[WHIMPER]

- We're doomed.

- "Cats and Dogs 3, Paws Unite."

- Rent or own the latest movies with Verizon Fios on demand.

- We're here in Jackson Hole sitting down with Kansas City Fed President Esther George.

ESTHER GEORGE: So I think the Federal Reserve's commitment has been to being as transparent as we can.

NEEL KASHKARI: The low inflation is a real challenge for us as central bankers.

JAMES BULLARD: It shows that we're data dependent, and it shows that we're sensitive to what is going on in the macroeconomic environment.

ERIC ROSENGREN: We certainly should be able to communicate what our policy is.

- Hi, future self of 2020.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

- Recording!

- Woohoo!

ADAM SHAPIRO: Welcome back to the Yahoo Finance special, How 2020 Changed the World. I'm here with our very own Brian Cheung, who covers the Federal Reserve for us. So Brian, as we take a look back at what we've all been through, let's start a little earlier. Let's go to December 2019. There was at least on Wall Street concern we might be heading into an economic slowdown. But the Fed was ahead of that well before the pandemic news, right?

BRIAN CHEUNG: Well, it was, but it's not because they knew the pandemic was happening, Adam. They were already doing what they call insurance cuts over the course of 2019, which feels so long ago. They did 75 basis points of total cuts.

Now if you remember, the biggest economic story at that time was the trade war that President Trump was waging on China. You'll recall that in August, that really came to a crossroads where right before the Jackson Hole speech, that yearly speech that we usually hear from the Fed chairman, President Trump had said that he was disappointed that the Federal Reserve didn't make an emergency cut in that meeting and then ended up ratcheting tariffs anyway.

So there was a president who had been saying at the time that he wanted to get a lot more cuts out of the Federal Reserve. He was calling Powell a golfer who can't putt. Things were really looking quite ugly at the time. But again, as we did head into 2020, the original question, before we knew that there was a pandemic, was going to be whether or not the Federal Reserve would continue to extend that if the trade war did end up getting worse. We got that phase one trade deal, which seemed to take some of that tension off the table, but that was the prevailing question before, obivously, we got that pandemic.

ADAM SHAPIRO: And so, let's start about-- go to that period, say, March, when lockdowns are now taking place in the United States. How did the Fed immediately respond? What did they do?

BRIAN CHEUNG: Well, the initial response was an emergency 50 basis point cut. You'll recall that that happened 30 minutes after the opening bell in the first week of March. And that was a really interesting situation, where the Federal Reserve had started to acknowledge that this was a risk. Now, up until February, it was already on many policymakers' radar that, hey, it's a possibility that this COVID situation, which was really flaring up in China at the time, could come stateside.

Now, if that was to be the case, the Federal Reserve officials said that they could adjust their policy stance, which they ultimately ended up doing with that first initial 50 basis point cut. Shortly after that, you'll recall that on March 15th, on an emergency announcement on a Sunday night, the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates to 0, as the cases in the United States were really starting to flare up, first on the northwest coast in the state of Washington. You'll recall that the Federal Reserve then apparently looked at that and said this is a situation that is getting financial markets in a bit of a tizzy.

A lot happened in those first few weeks of March, as was the case for everyone, as everyone started to go inside their homes and realize the gravity of the situation. But the Federal Reserve was also doing their part to try to make sure the economy didn't lock up as well.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Let's talk about those liquidity facilities because some of us who are old enough to remember the first time we went through this alphabet of different kind of lending facilities back during the Great Recession, here we go again. What specifically did they do, and did they work? Because now, I mean, today's headlines are, they're pulling back on the facilities and the deals with Treasury to provide the seed money for facilities. Well, that's going to end at the end of the year.

BRIAN CHEUNG: So the Federal Reserve needed to decide, how are we going to target our response here? And the Federal Reserve responded in the middle to late March with this idea that they were going to open up basically bazookas on everything imaginable. So they reopened some old facilities that you recall were existing during the 2008 crisis, like the commercial paper funding facility to try to offer short-term loans under 90 days to corporates, in addition to that term asset backed lending facility.

But then they also opened up a number of new facilities that we had never seen before, things like the primary and secondary market corporate credit facilities, where they would say, we can commit to buying corporate bonds and holding onto them in exchange for loans to these companies. They had not done that. So companies like Ford, companies like Apple were able to sell some bonds to the Federal Reserve. Now the Federal Reserve actually did that in the secondary market. So they were actively going out there and purchasing it.

And then there was also things like the Main Street lending facility where the Federal Reserve was saying, we're going to try to extend credit to small to medium-sized businesses, in addition to the municipal liquidity facility, where they would be offering loans to state and local governments as well. All of these were new. Now the uptake of all of them was fairly low.

And whether or not you say that's a success or a failure depends on what side of the coin you are. You could argue, well, it's a low uptake because that means that those facilities were allowing private players to offer better rates. Or you could say that the uptake meant that the Fed was putting too high of a penalty on borrowing from these facilities. So a bit of a mixed bag, and I think history ultimately will tell in the future whether or not this response was appropriate.

SEANA SMITH: Coming up, Yahoo Finance's Brian Sozzi has the year's biggest winners and losers in retail. We're back with that in two minutes.

- Check out the Yahoo Finance daily podcast, "The Market Wake-Up." "The Market Wake-Up" is a smart, fun, and fast way to hear the top market and business news at the beginning of every morning. You can listen today on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

- Great play call.

- I don't know. I think Ed would have made that tackle.

- Always liked you, Sanchez.

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- It's your portfolio. It's your retirement. It's your money. Isn't it time you trade up? With Yahoo Finance Premium, you can trade up to tools that let you go beyond the fundamentals to exclusive access to proprietary data and pattern recognition. With industry leading insights and advanced charting, you can make the best moves for your money. Get started with your free trial today.

KRISTIN MYERS: You might have noticed a little bit of a different lineup.

- This is a new combination for us and a new time.

- This week, we're going to be kicking off some changes in our programming.

- We're in a critical period right now with record cases.

- We want public health measures to be the gateway to safely and prudently opening up the economy again.

- My advice to any entrepreneur out there, you got to pivot, man.

- In this land of opportunity, anything is possible.

- It all comes down to business economics and safety.

- We can do this. I'm absolutely convinced.

[PLAYING RECORDER POORLY]

- You could be watching football. Watch together for free on the Yahoo Sports app.

- Dah, nope.

- You could be watching football. Watch together for free on the Yahoo Sports app.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Welcome back. Brian Sozzi has been tracking this year's retail apocalypse. And Brian, let's start with, I hate to say the biggest losers of 2020 because I know who you're going to say. And the company does a lot, but go for it.

BRIAN SOZZI: Oh, it's more fun to start on the biggest losers there, Adam. It's just true disaster stories that perfectly encapsulates the retail apocalypse, which essentially is just doom and gloom spreading throughout retail, through a lot of store closures and bankruptcies.

But the biggest loser is absolutely Macy's. This company has been an absolute train wreck throughout 2020. It had same store sales demand down about 20% in the third quarter. They came out in February. Said they're closing 125 stores in the hopes to save $1.5 billion. A true disaster. They're hemorrhaging money. They have a lot of debt. It's not a good situation.

And what I think Macy's executives still don't quite understand is that once humans get vaccinated, you know what? We actually like shopping online. We're not going back into your big giant stores with no employees for customer service. Bye-bye, Macy's. I think this company set up a very challenging 2021.

SEANA SMITH: But Soz, as we have clear losers, there's also clear winners from this pandemic. A couple of retailers have really outperformed their peers over the last several months. What's one, or is there one retailer that you would say is the big winner for this year?

BRIAN SOZZI: Big winner, Seana, is Lululemon. What you can't see on camera is I'm wearing joggers right now. And yeah, they're from Lululemon. It's just the new work from home attire. And you continue to see it in Lululemon's earnings. Now, their stores were closed in the second quarter. They only saw same store sales up about 8/10 of a percent.

But the company is going to report earnings on December 10th. And a lot of analysts that I talked to on the Street, they're looking for a blowout quarter. Same store sales potentially near 10% increase. That is huge. You're not seeing those gains anywhere else. Bottom line is this. The company continues to innovate. People continue to spend $130 on these pairs of joggers and various clothing from the company. And oh, yeah, in the middle of the year, they spend $500 million to buy a mirror. And you walk into a Lululemon store now, and you see mirrors start to be on sale. It's a good story right now and probably a good story for 2021, too.

SEANA SMITH: And Sozzi, I want to ask you about that mirror purchase because I think a lot of people were questioning whether or not that $500 million acquisition made sense, if it was going to outperform here over the next-- I mean, looking beyond 2020, beyond 2021, if it was going to be a winner. But it sounds like you think it actually was the right move, and it could be, even though there's a clear winner out there, and that's Peloton.

BRIAN SOZZI: Look at it now. Ever since Lululemon made that acquisition of Mirror during the early summer, Peloton's valuation has gone even higher. So it tells you that Lululemon, while they paid out through their nose for this to buy Mirror, it looks to be at a somewhat decent valuation, given where Peloton has come since. But the reason why they pulled the trigger is because a lot of Mirror shoppers, obviously, go to Lululemon. So there was a lot of overlap there, a lot of great data that will help them sell more tight joggers for $130 a pop and really expensive mirrors.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Brian, I know that Target was our company of the year last year. They're the most interesting story of the year. Why so?

BRIAN SOZZI: Well, Target is not-- it's not a new retailer, Adam. They operate 1900 stores. Yet, they have put up growth rates this year as if they have reinvented the wheel. Or there's some kind of new magical retailer selling magical products. But really, they had 155% same store online sales growth in the third quarter. Again, that's another-- that was another triple digit increase for this company. Same store sales up in the third quarter, 10%. You don't see retailers put up numbers like this, let alone a company that has 1,900 stores.

For them, it really boils down to two things. I like the new Ulta deal that they signed. You will see more shops opening up in Targets, all the shops opening in Target by the fall of next year. Also, too, they have just reinvented their business. I can order something right now from Target, drive up into the parking lot, Target employee brings me out my $200 in groceries, and call it a day. That's a great ease and convenience.

ADAM SHAPIRO: So let's look forward after we've dogged Macy's, we've praised Target. What's going to happen to big box stores? Are malls dead? Is there going to be a mall that anyone wants to go to?

BRIAN SOZZI: Malls are done, Adam. I hate to be the bearer of bad news and end this fine, fabulous special with being a Debbie Downer. But malls essentially no longer serve any purpose. I can go to Target. I can have now same day delivery through their ship service. And they could deliver me my clothes, my new Levi's jeans, which also is another win with Target because they're now selling Levi's jeans inside of Target. They can have it into my house for under an hour. Why do I need to go to the mall and risk getting sick?

SEANA SMITH: Less and less people are traveling to malls, especially these days, but also just before the pandemic, it already seemed like it was dying here. All right, Soz, thanks so much for joining us. Well, thank you all as well for watching us here. We'll see you again tomorrow, where we will turn to Washington and talk about how 2020 changed the world of politics and business. We'll see you then. Have a great night.