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Market Attributes: U.S. Equity Indices Get Howard Silverblatt's take on the latest monthly performance of the U.S. equity market.
BY Howard Silverblatt

• The S&P 500® was down 12.51% in March, bringing its YTD return to -20.00%.

• The Dow Jones Industrial Average® lost 13.74% for the month and was down 23.20% YTD.

• The S&P MidCap 400® decreased 20.43% for the month and was down 30.03% YTD.

• The S&P SmallCap 600® returned -22.60% in March and -32.94% YTD.


There’s nothing new I can add; be safe and use common sense about going out. If there is something you can do for others, without putting yourself (or your family) at risk, do it. From an investment side, know what you can know—your portfolio, your liquidity and access, your current and expected needs, and your tolerance level for losses.

The only real March issue was COVID-19; the specifics were how long it would last and how deep would it go. The immediate impact was seen in the closing of much of the global economy. After a three-day rally, the Dow Jones Industrial Average posted over a 20% gain, which was classified as a bull run in a bear market. To be out of the bear market, the index needs to close above its previous high. Both the one- and three-month U.S. Treasury rates went negative for a short period of time, an event that last occurred in 2015. The bar talk is gone, since the bars are closed, but the web chatter is only God knows what to do now. And the market surely was not God, because it did not know, with the telling tale being volatility; the average intraday high/low S&P 500 price rate for 2019 was 0.85%, as 2020 was 2.57% YTD (2008 was 2.81%), with March at 5.34% (October 2008 was 6.92%).

In a televised speech from the White House, Trump stopped European entry into the U.S. for 30 days, as he pledged support (to work with Congress) for workers and companies hurt by the virus. The Securities and Exchange Commission said companies could request 45-day extensions to their filing due to the COVID-19 situation. After negotiating with General Motors, Trump also signed an order under the Defense Protection Act requiring the company to produce ventilators. Congress passed and the president signed new COVID-19 programs. The initial bill was for USD 8 billion for coronavirus response, including sick leave, enhanced unemployment payments, and medical assistance.

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