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Goldman says COVID-19 vaccine approval could upend markets

Jim McNamara joined Goldman Sachs in 1998, became managing director in 2000 and made partner in 2006.
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Investors should consider the risk of a successful coronavirus vaccine unsettling markets by sparking a sell-off in bonds and rotation out of technology into cyclical stocks, according to Goldman Sachs.

The increased probability of an approved vaccine by the end of November is underpriced by equity markets, wrote strategists including Kamakshya Trivedi in a note Wednesday. Over the next few months, the ramifications of the U.S. election and the evolution of the virus — in part as schools reopen — are also likely to be key drivers of the market, they said.

Approval of a vaccine could “challenge market assumptions both about cyclicality and about eternally negative real rates,” the team wrote, adding such a scenario may support steeper yield curves, traditional cyclicals and banks, while challenging the leadership of technology stocks.

If this happened along with a change in the U.S. administration, emerging market equities could benefit “if trade policy risks diminish while U.S. tax risks rise,” according to the note.

While the strategists suggested it may be too early for investors to position themselves aggressively for such a shift, they recommended options trades as a way to play the theme. For example, some call options on the S&P 500 still look attractive, and Goldman sees upside to around the 3,700 level should there be an early vaccine.

That compares with a potential downside target of 2,200 should there be a significant reversal of activity from a second wave of the virus, the strategists added. The U.S. benchmark closed just under 3,328 on Wednesday.

The Goldman team was more forthright on keeping its bearish view on the dollar.

“The range of outcomes is wide and our highest confidence is still in ongoing U.S. dollar weakness,” they said.

Bloomberg News