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The Year in Review: 2020 was an unprecedented year and The Transcript covered the economy throughout all of its twists and turns. Even though China was battling Covid in 2019, no one really knew what was in store for all of us in 2020. Technology, capital markets, and housing were three industries that boomed. While the stimulus was integral, the economic hero of 2020 was the US consumer. Optimism is high that 2021 will be a more normal year.

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The Transcript

Succinct Summary: Consumer spending remains strong and Black Friday was successful.  A third wave of COVID has made the near term outlook worse, but the medium to long term looks much brighter thanks to vaccines.  Tech spending continues to outpace overall GDP growth and probably will continue to surge after the pandemic is over. The driver of spending has moved from devices towards data infrastructure and management.

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Succinct Summary: Retailers reported strong quarters last week showing that the US consumer remains resilient despite high unemployment.  A new wave of Covid could slow the economy back down but vaccines are almost here.  It will be interesting to see what behaviors have been permanently altered by the pandemic and which ones will return to the way that they were.  Business travel is one thing that may be permanently changed.

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The Transcript

Succinct Summary: Pfizer announced that its vaccine is 90% effective and that gave a boost to market confidence. The vaccine could be great news for the industry and great news for society. Pfizer says that it will have over 1B doses ready next year. The vaccine could lead to some reflationary outcomes.

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Succinct Summary: Most parts of the economy have normalized and the economic winners are booming.  Technology, cloud service and e-commerce are leading the way and other industries are surging as well.  Financial service firms focused on M&A advisory, trading and restructuring are seeing strong business.  The housing market is also on fire with new home sales up 32% y/y.  This week’s election and a renewed wave of COVID could dampen activity, but for now, the economy is doing remarkably well.  COVID may have led to structurally higher productivity.

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The Transcript

Succinct Summary: The economy continues its two speed recovery, but there are some signs that growth may be slowing.  Even companies that benefitted from the pandemic, like Netflix, are seeing the after-effect of demand that was pulled forward to earlier in the year.  Elections will be a key source of uncertainty in the coming weeks.  And COVID infections are stubbornly high.  But consumers are going crazy at home.

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Succinct Summary: The economy has had a strong but incomplete recovery.  The worst seems to be over but there’s still a long way to go.  For many industries, this looks like a K shaped recovery.

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Succinct Summary: This has been an incredibly difficult operating environment but we’re all learning to live in a world with Covid.  Economic activity is much better than anyone expected and government officials are pushing for even more stimulus.  The Fed expects to keep interest rates at zero until 2023.

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Succinct Summary: The last week of summer before labor day is usually one of the slowest weeks of the year but this year it feels like things are moving at an incredibly fast pace.  Companies are looking to the future and beginning to permanently rationalize their cost structure.  Business travel budgets are likely to be cut for a long time.  Temporary layoffs are also becoming permanent.  In the near term economic activity is still very strong though.  We’re seeing a terrific end of the summer.  And the Fed is hoping it stays that way in the fall.

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Succinct Summary: The economy was rebounding in May and June, but the recovery seems to have stalled out as infections have rebounded.  CEO commentary was particularly negative last week.  Business leaders are rapidly losing confidence and do not see a V-shaped recovery materializing.  There’s a sense that government stimulus appears to be the only thing propping up the economy and it’s creating distortions in unemployment and financial markets.  Still (perhaps because of this stimulus) the hot housing market suggests that consumers may not actually be in such bad shape after all–just spending on different things.

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