Dec. 31, 2020, 7:53 PM +0545By Martha C. White
The world might be waiting on a Covid-19 vaccine, but thanks to policy booster shots, the stock market ended 2020 seeming to be largely immune from the contagion that still threatens Main Street businesses.
It might be hard to recall now, but 2020 started off with an economy full of potential: The Dow Jones Industrial Average was on track to break through the 30,000 threshold and the unemployment rate fell to 3.5 percent — the lowest in more than half a century. But things were already starting to unravel as an ominous viral pneumonia worked its way around the globe.
The Dow closed at a record high of 29,551 on Feb. 12 — then the patient took a turn for the worse. On March 9, 12, 16 and 18, circuit breakers designed to halt trading if the S&P 500 dropped by more than 7 percent kicked in when markets plunged. The market hit its nadir on March 23, with the S&P closing just above 2,237 and the Dow Jones a fraction below 18,592.
The Federal Reserve issued a flurry of announcements detailing emergency measures it was undertaking to backstop a number of behind-the-scenes markets, pledging to buy bonds and keep interest rates near zero, as an event that began as a public health crisis threatened to metastasize into a financial crisis.
On March 27, President Donald Trump signed into law the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, a rare act of bipartisan Congressional collaboration that provided enhanced unemployment insurance payments, forbearance on debts, suspensions of foreclosures and evictions, loans and grants for small businesses and payments of up to $1,200 for individual Americans.
The enormous, multitrillion-dollar scope of the rescue efforts along with the speed of implementation steadied the economic underpinnings of the market, and assisted in calming investors.
“I think the original bailout had a huge impact on the market. I believe without that package, we would not have bounced back,” said Joseph Heider, president of Cirrus Wealth Management.