That said, the insurrection, while terrifying and deadly, was also shambolic and pointless. Trump’s attempt to steal the election failed. Joe Biden is set to become president on Wednesday; Democrats will control the Senate as well as the House. That was the signal the markets seemed to be listening to, dismissing the violence as terrifying noise for now.
At the same time, the government’s policies have set up investors for an extraordinary run. When the coronavirus recession hit, the Federal Reserve dropped interest rates from their relatively low level all the way down to zero, making money cheap and borrowing easy. This move helped distressed corporations pick up inexpensive loans to shore up their operations, as the global markets seized and the economy froze. But it also helped less distressed businesses pad their profits.
Another major factor is stimulus. Congress acted much faster and with much more force to combat the coronavirus recession than it did the Great Recession. In fact, the United States spent more on stimulus last year than nearly any other wealthy nation. Congress’s direct payments to households and its expansion of the unemployment-insurance system buoyed incomes and propped up consumer spending despite the jobless rate’s surge. Many Americans were even capable of saving a bit.