Stock markets hit their first records since the pandemic began, erasing a historic plunge during February and March.

The S&P 500 closed about a tenth of a percentage point above its previous high of 3386.15 on Feb. 19, making the pandemic bear market the shortest in history.

The record highs for the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq come despite the millions of people who are out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Many continue to wonder why stocks are at new highs with 10% unemployment and nearly a million people filing for initial unemployment claims. The truth is, economic data is backward-looking, and stocks are looking ahead to a much brighter future,” said Ryan Detrick, chief investment strategist at LPL Financial, according to Market Watch.

Shares of tech companies, which have been able to capitalize in many cases on mass social distancing, led the broader market to regain losses over the past five months.

“Markets are seemingly encouraged by a nationwide improvement in coronavirus data after a spike in various parts of the country last month,” Brian Price, head of investment management for Commonwealth Financial Network, told Yahoo. “Big Tech and certain consumer companies like Amazon continue to do well.”

Price added that investors will have to remain “vigilant” in the coming months for another resurgence in coronavirus cases similar to what the United States experienced over the summer. Other risk factors that could affect the market’s recovery include failure to pass another relief bill and the upcoming elections.

In total, about 5.5 million coronavirus infections have been confirmed across the U.S., and more than 171,000 people have died.

The number of known coronavirus-related deaths in prisons, jails, and other correctional facilities has reached 1,002, having increased by about 40% in the past six weeks, the New York Times reported. The actual death toll is probably higher than reported because jails and prisons perform a limited number of tests on inmates, despite evidence that prison inmates are infected with COVID-19 at a rate more than 5 times higher than the overall infection rate across the U.S.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said Tuesday that problems with coronavirus testing capabilities nationwide are “still not completely fixed,” according to CNN.

“The other thing that’s a problem — still not completely fixed, but fixed in many areas of the country, but not all — is the delay between the time you do the test and you get the result back,” he said.

Long delays in getting test results, he said, underscore the need for a more robust contact tracing system, as people can transmit the virus well before seeing the diagnostic test results. Fauci said about cutting test result delays that “we’re trying hard and we are correcting it in many areas.”

Fauci also said Tuesday that the federal government probably will not require the general public to get the coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available, adding that he would be “pretty surprised” if it were mandated for “any element of the general public.”

“They have the right to refuse a vaccine,” he said. “If someone refuses the vaccine in the general public, then there’s nothing you can do about that.”

France is experiencing a rise in COVID-19 cases, leading officials to expand mask requirements. At the beginning of August, France had an average of 1,056 new cases daily. That had risen to 2,322 on Monday, according to the New York Times. In Paris, mask-wearing requirements have been extended to crowded outdoor areas, whereas previously, they had only been required for indoor businesses and public transportation.

Still reeling from an explosion that killed 178 people in its capital of Beirut, the country of Lebanon is now facing a two-week lockdown to address rising coronavirus cases. On Monday, Lebanon had a record number of new cases at 456. Hamad Hassan, the interim health minister, said that the intensive care beds at state and private hospitals have filled up. “We are all facing a real challenge, and the numbers that were recorded in the last period are shocking. The matter requires decisive measures,” Hassan said.

A religious leader in South Korea tested positive for the coronavirus after gathering with thousands of South Koreans to demand the resignation of President Moon Jae-in.

Rev. Jun Kwang-hun, head of the Sarang Jeil Church, led followers during the anti-government protests this weekend, and health officials in the country confirmed on Monday that he tested positive for the highly infectious disease.

New research published on Tuesday yields more insight into why the coronavirus is highly infectious. In research described in an article in Science, scientists used a complex procedure that enabled them to see the virus attached to a cell using an electron microscope. A virus attaches to a cell using a protein called a “spike.” The spike connects to the virus via a slender “stalk.” Researchers found that the stalk of the coronavirus has three hinges on it, which give the spike “unexpected orientational freedom.” That allows the spike to “scan the host cell surface” for a suitable spot to attach.

Author: Cassidy Morrison

Source: Washington Examiner: Pandemic bear market is over as stocks hit record highs

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