Investors had a lot to be enthusiastic about last week.
Major stock indices in the United States soared, finishing the week higher and setting new records along the way, reported Al Root of Barron’s. There was plenty of other good news to fuel investor optimism as well:
- The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan was signed into law. The plan provides $1,400 payments to most Americans. It also delivers child-tax credits, health-insurance subsidies and extends unemployment benefits into September, reported NPR. Funds were also committed to schools, states and vaccination efforts, as well as tax relief for people receiving unemployment benefits.
- The spread of the coronavirus appears to be slowing. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that the 7-day average number of cases in the United States dropped 11.2 percent week-to-week. More than 20 percent of Americans have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and more than 10 percent have been fully vaccinated. As circumstances have improved, several states have begun easing lockdown restrictions.
- Inflation remained low in February. Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, in the 12 months through February 2021, the Consumer Price Index rose 1.7 percent, which is well below the Federal Reserve’s usual target of 2 percent. However, food and energy prices increased significantly more than the index average.
Despite last week’s positive news, Ben Levisohn of Barron’s cautioned:
“The combination of trillions of dollars of fiscal stimulus, ultralow interest rates, and a newfound sense of liberation means the U.S. economy in coming months will be unlike any the country has experienced in decades. Growth will be faster. Inflation will run hotter. The job market could bounce back more speedily than even the Fed expects. This environment won’t be easy for investors to navigate…For those who can pivot as the market shifts, however, multiple opportunities await.”
There is another concern, as well. COVID-19 continues to mutate, and it remains to be seen whether vaccines will prove effective against new strains.
The one-year numbers in the performance table below are noteworthy and reflect the strong recovery of U.S. stocks from last year’s coronavirus downturn to the present day.
BIG PLANS FOR THE MOON. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 set forth principles making space – including the moon and celestial bodies – the province of all mankind. It confirmed the exploration and use of outer space should benefit all people. Many nations have big plans for the moon:
- International Lunar Research Station. Last week, China and Russia signed a memorandum of understanding. The two nations plan to build a research station on the moon. LiveScience explained, “…the base will be self-sufficient enough to work without constant resupply from Earth. It will exist either on the lunar surface, in orbit, or both. And it will be a launching point for basic science, exploration, and "utilization" of the moon's resources, as well as a proof-of-concept for the technologies required to sustain human life so far from Earth.”
- Lunar fish farming. The European Space Agency has plans for a Moon Village where settlers may be able to “boldly farm fish where no one has farmed fish before,” reported Hakai Magazine. Researchers at the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea have found that European sea bass and meagre (stone bass) are strong candidates because their eggs can withstand the brutal shaking that accompanies the launch of space vehicles.
- Solar-powered Lunar Ark. The movie Titan A.E. may have inspired researchers at the University of Arizona. They have proposed building a modern-day ark to hold “cryogenically frozen reproductive cells from 6.7 million species on our planet.” Popular Mechanics asked, “…what's the next best use for a nearby celestial body with a stable environment that only takes about four days to reach on a supply mission? Turn it into a storage locker of sorts for the most precious data on Earth: our own reproductive cells.”
The moon is not the only part of space that nations on Earth plan to explore more fully. According to The Washington Post, the United Arab Emirates put a scientific satellite into orbit around Mars in February. The new space race is here.
Weekly Focus – Think About It
“I would like to die on Mars. Just not on impact.”
--Elon Musk, entrepreneur and businessman
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