The S&P 500 Index was down 1% in January based on investors’ revised expectations of corporate revenue growth and earnings. First, the COVID-19 vaccine distribution and inoculation process is proceeding slowly while the virus is mutating. The new strains appear to be slightly more virulent and the vaccination timeline will take longer and delay economic normalization. Second, the peaceful installation of the Biden Administration with impactful policy changes have added uncertainty. New executive orders are being launched daily with an emphasis so far on changing carbon emissions, raising the minimum wage and bringing about social justice. Third, the expectation for further fiscal stimulus in the next 100 days is losing its enthusiasm. The passage of another $1.9 trillion relief package so soon after the recently passed $900-million package seems excessive even for the new Congress.
The Internal Revenue Service warns taxpayers to be alert to unscrupulous tax return preparers promising inflated tax refunds. This is a common scam tactic during filing season, so be wary if your tax preparer says he or she can get you more money than their competitors or boasts of refunds substantially larger than you have routinely seen.