There are decades when nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen. As I sit with clients and reflect on the year that was, I am struck by all that can happen in a short amount of time. The last year brought about a large array of things that were unfathomable just 12 short months ago. The most difficult part for a middle-aged person like me is to digest a lifetime’s worth of changes so rapidly.

So, I think it is worth some time to look back at all that happened. Sometimes we learn more about events and ourselves reflecting after the fact. Because of all that was happening around us, it was hard to absorb everything in the moment. I will try to limit the virus statistics and political events as much as possible and try to focus on the financial changes that have occurred over the last year. 2020 was more than a decade’s worth of changes, and they will impact us all for many years to come.

  • January 4th – WHO announces unknown pneumonia case in Wuhan, China
  • January 20th – First confirmed case of Covid-19 in the United States
  • February 19th – S&P 500 closes at a record high of 3,386
  • February 28th – S&P 500 falls into correction territory (-10%) due to Covid-19 fears
  • March 3rd – The Fed announced an emergency rate cut of 0.50%
  • March 6th – Ten states report their first case of coronavirus, including Nebraska
  • March 9th – The Dow Jones loses more than 2,000 points in a day
    • The 10-year Treasury Note falls to 0.40%
    • Oil prices fell 22%
  • March 12th – Total U.S. Cases passed 1,500
    • The S&P 500 fell 9.4% in a day, effectively shaving more than 27% off the index over 16 trading days
    • The NBA, NCAA, NHL, MLB, PGA suspend or cancel their seasons
  • March 15th – The Fed lowers the fed funds target rate effectively to 0%
  • March 16th – The S&P 500 falls 7% at open to again halt trading in U.S. equities
    • The Dow suffers its worst daily point drop in history, closing down nearly 3,000 points or 12.9%
  • March 17th – The Federal Reserve announces establishment of new initiatives:
    • Commercial Paper Funding Facility (CPFF) to help money markets
    • Primary Dealer Credit Facility (PDCF) to help banks and credit
    • Money Market Liquidity Facility (MMLF) to assist money market funds
  • March 18th – The IRS announces that tax filers can defer personal income taxes until July 15th
  • March 19th – California announces the U.S.’s first “stay at home order”
  • March 20th – Bond spreads widen to recent records over Treasuries
    • Investment-grade corporates nearly 4%
    • High yield bonds more than 10%
  • March 23rd – Federal Reserve begins to buy Treasury securities and agency mortgage-backed securities in “whatever amount is needed to support market functions.”  Also, the Fed expands money market purchases to municipal bonds
  • March 23rd – The S&P 500 index hits lowest point. Peak-to-trough losses(1):
    • S&P 500 fell 34%
    • Small caps (S&P 600) fell 41%
    • High yield corporate bonds fell 22%
    • REITs fell 41%
    • Municipal bonds fell 9%
  • March 25th – The Dow rises 2,113 points or 11.4%
  • March 27th – CARES Act is passed, and the government starts sending checks to taxpayers
  • March 30th – For the month of March, the S&P 500’s average daily swing was 5.3%
    • The prior record for any month was November 1929 of 3.9%
  • April 2nd – Covid-19 cases top a million worldwide
  • April 3rd – The SBA announces “Paycheck Protection Program” loans to businesses
    • The SBA processes 14 years’ worth of loans in 14 days to 1.66 million small businesses
  • April 8th – The S&P 500 index has a 12-day streak of 1% moves up or down
  • April 9th – Federal Reserve to provide up to $2.3 Trillion of loans to support the economy as well as purchase high yield bonds and other low rated debt
  • April 20th – Crude oil prices turn negative as producers paid buyers to take the commodity off their hands as fears that storage capacity could run out in May
  • April 22nd – AAII publishes investor sentiment survey that shows the lowest levels of the year
  • April 29th – Real GDP falls 4.8% in the first quarter of 2020
  • April 30th – The S&P 500 rises 12.7% for the month of April
    • This is the best April for stocks since 1938
  • May 8th – BLS reports payrolls fell by 20.5 million and the unemployment rate rose to 14.7%
  • May 11th – Federal Reserve announces the Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility will begin the purchase of exchange-traded funds
  • May 18th – Moderna reports positive results from its vaccine candidate in human trials
  • May 20th – CDC provides guidance as states begin to reopen
  • May 21st – Covid-19 cases eclipse 5 million worldwide
  • May 26th – NYSE reopens the trading floor
  • June 5th – BLS reports 2.5 million of job gains in May and a decline in the unemployment rate to 13.3%
  • June 8th – The National Bureau of Economic Research declared a recession began in February of 2020, ending the 128th month of expansion, the longest in the history of U.S. business cycles
    • The S&P 500 turns positive on the year after losing nearly 34% during the 21 trading days between February 20th and March 23rd
  • June 30th – The S&P 500 moves higher by 18.7% in the second quarter ended 6/30/2020
    • This is the best quarterly return for the market since December of 1998
  • July 21st – European Union leaders pass $857 billion stimulus package
  • July 28th – Gold rises to a level not seen since 2011, up 27% for the year
  • August 8th – The unemployment rate falls to 10.2% in July from 14.7% in April
  • August 27th – Fed Chairman Jerome Powell announced policy shift toward “average inflation targeting” to maintain maximum employment and price stability
  • September 23rd – The S&P 500 closed lower, falling 9.6% for the month of September
  • September 30th – Global equity markets experience first down month since March
  • October – Global Covid-19 infections rise dramatically
  • October 29th – U.S. GDP Booms at 33.1% annualized increase for the quarter but still down in raw percentage 9% from the level in Q3 2019
  • October 31st – The S&P 500 has its second consecutive negative month, falling 2.7%
  • November 8th – The U.S. surpassed 10 million infections
  • November 9th – The S&P 500 gains 7.3% week after the election
  • November 10th – Unemployment for October falls to 6.9%
  • December 11th – The FDA approves the first vaccine for emergency use from Pfizer
  • December 24th – 30-year mortgage rates fall to a low of 2.66% according to Freddie Mac
  • December 31st – The S&P 500 rises 12.2% for the fourth quarter of 2020
    • S&P 500 rises 16.2% on the year
    • 10-Year Treasury Note ends the year at 0.91%

It’s a long list, and there are valid arguments for adding a dozen or more events. While an army of forecasters offered their predictions for what 2020 would bring, it’s unlikely anyone anticipated anything near the above timeline. So, it is oftentimes better to reflect than try to guess what will happen in the future. However, this certainly won’t stop them from trying again in 2021!

1. Source: Morningstar Direct. Peak-to-trough return calculated as the period between 2/20/20 and 3/23/2020. Asset classes were represented by the following ETFs: S&P 500 (VOO), S&P 600 (IJR), high-yield bonds (HYG), REITs (VNQ), municipals (MUB)


  • According to a report by the Wall Street Journal,  Saudi Arabia and Russia reached an agreement this morning that would maintain reduced oil production levels until March. Last year, OPEC and nearly a dozen other oil producers led by Russia, agreed to cut production to support prices as the pandemic response crushed oil demand. The initial reduction amounted to about 9.7 million barrels a day, roughly a quarter of which has already been restored. West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the US benchmark for oil prices, rallied nearly 5% on the news and briefly touched $50/barrel for the first time since last February. The group, referred to as OPEC-plus, decided to pause the production increase due to fears about more lockdowns and the slow rollout of Covid Vaccines.
  • The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) published its December Index of Manufacturing Activity, which showed an increase to a two-year high of 60.7 from last month’s 57.5 (anything over 50 signals expansion). Prior to Covid, the services sector was doing better than the manufacturing sector, but that has since reversed as a result of social distancing and government restrictions.
  • It’s a big week for economic data. Later this week, look for the minutes from the last FOMC meeting, an update on services sector activity, and jobless claims. Headlining the week of data releases will be the jobs report published on Friday.


Source: MarketWatch


Source: Morningstar Direct.

Source: Morningstar Direct.



Source: FRED Database & ICE Benchmark Administration Limited (IBA)

Source: FRED Database & ICE Benchmark Administration Limited (IBA)



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Josh Jenkins is the Chief Investment Officer at Lutz Financial. With 10+ years of relevant experience, he specializes in assisting clients with portfolio construction, asset allocation, and investment risk management. In addition, he is responsible for portfolio trading, investment research and thought leadership for the division. He lives in Omaha, NE, with his wife Kirsten.

  • Asset Allocation
  • Portfolio Management
  • Research & Data Analytics
  • Trading System Operation & Execution
  • Chartered Financial Analyst®
  • Chartered Financial Analyst Institute, Member
  • Chartered Financial Analyst Society of Nebraska, Member
  • BSBA, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE

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