Yet at Thursday’s close, the S&P 500 was up 25 percent from its recent low on March 23. It is down only about 14 percent this year — and is up from its levels of just 11 months ago. There are answers as to why (more on that below). But that doesn’t take away the extremity of the juxtaposition between an economy in free fall and a stock market that is, in the scheme of things, doing just fine.
Two powerful forces are pushing in opposite directions. Commerce is being disrupted to a degree that seemed impossible just weeks ago. But simultaneously, stock investors are betting that powerful interventions out of Washington — including an additional $2.3 trillion in lending programs from the Federal Reserve announced on Thursday — will be enough to enable major companies to emerge with little damage to their long-term profitability.
It’s a battle between collapsing economic activity and, to use a silly meme from finance Twitter, the federal government’s money printer going “brrr.” In the stock market, at least, the revving of the money printer is winning.