March Investment Bulletin

Bill Norris
March 05, 2020

Stay current on what’s happening in the economy to help you better understand how the financial news relates to your investments.

February Key Drivers

  • During the early part of February, improving macro economic data as well as slightly better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings reports helped to boost U.S. equity markets to new highs. That all changed with the emergence of the coronavirus that started in China and has now spread to more than 60 countries, as communities and businesses shut down in an attempt to contain the spread. In about a week, the S&P 500 lost over 11% of its value, while the 10-year Treasury traded to a yield of just above 1%.
  • The threat of a substantial global economic slowdown drove risk assets lower, pushed yields in the U.S. down to record levels and has investors extremely nervous around the financial impact. With the S&P 500 trading into correction territory in a very short time, fiscal and monetary policy actions started to be discussed to offset tightening conditions.
  • With companies beginning to assess the impact of the virus on their operations and forward earnings, analysts have begun to revise earnings for 2020 lower, according to FactSet. As of month-end, the bottom-up earnings estimates for companies in the S&P 500 for the first quarter were lower by 3%, but we expect to see further decreases in estimates.

Global Asset Class Total Returns Through 2.29.2020

Global Asset Class Total Returns Through 2.29.2020

What to Watch in March

  • We believe the ongoing spread of the virus will remain the key driver of markets in March. Investors will most likely want to see a slowing pace in the number of new cases, and the economic toll on the global economy should start to become clearer. Projections on the impact to the Chinese economy as well as the rest of the developed world have begun to emerge and will be factored into markets. Volatility in equities is expected to remain elevated.
  • The Federal Reserve surprised investors with an emergency rate cut of 50 basis points on March 3 in reaction to the economic impact of the virus. This is the first rate cut in between scheduled meetings and of its size since the 2008 financial crisis. Odds for an additional rate cut coming soon appear likely.
  • We’ve seen the Democratic primary race heat up in early March with the Super Tuesday primary on March 3. The frontrunner has seemed to change overnight with betting odds initially favoring Bernie Sanders. However, a Biden victory in South Carolina, and several members of the party dropping out including Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Bloomberg and Warren, has put Biden at the forefront. We think it is safe to say it’s still too early to tell.


Bill Norris is chief investment officer and head of asset management for CIBC Bank USA. In this role, he oversees investment management, trust and estate services to individual and institutional clients of CIBC Bank USA. Bill also serves as a member of CIBC Private Wealth Management’s Asset Allocation Committee with more than 35 years of industry experience.


CIBC Private Wealth Management includes CIBC National Trust Company (a limited-purpose national trust company), CIBC Delaware Trust Company (a Delaware limited-purpose trust company), CIBC Private Wealth Advisors, Inc. (a registered investment adviser)—all of which are wholly owned subsidiaries of CIBC Private Wealth Group, LLC—and the private wealth division of CIBC Bank USA. All of these entities are wholly owned subsidiaries of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

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