Markets

Stock Market Today: Stocks Close Stellar Q2 With a Flourish

A late Tuesday run sent the Dow to its best quarterly finish since 1987, the Nasdaq's top quarter since 2001, and the S&P 500's best Q2 since the index's creation in 1957.

It's difficult to cast these past three months in a positive light given the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, but, for the stock market, Q2 was in fact a quarter to remember.

A day of gains for tech- and tech-adjacent sectors led the major blue-chip indices to higher ground, capping their best quarterly performances in years.

Tuesday's gains came on little to crow about, mind you.

Joint testimony from Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell painted a mixed picture of America's economic recuperation. And Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious-diseases expert, said America's daily coronavirus caseload could hit 100,000 if current trends continue, warning that America isn't "in total control" of the pandemic.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq, led by the likes of Amazon.com (AMZN, +2.9%) and Nvidia (NVDA, +3.2%), still pushed 1.9% higher to 10,058, capping a 30.6% three-month gain that marked its most productive quarter since 2001.

The Dow, which closed with a 0.9% gain to 25,812, enjoyed its best quarter since 1987 with a 17.8% rally. And the S&P 500, up 1.5% to 3,100, posted a 20.0% quarterly return for its best Q2 since the index's inception in 1957. The small-cap Russell 2000 climbed 1.4% to 1,441, its best quarter since 1991.

What's in Store for Stocks in Q3?

Mercifully, investors will get a day off early in the quarter. The stock and bond markets will be closed Friday in observation of Independence Day, as July 4 falls on a Saturday this year.

More broadly speaking, we enter Q3 in a much different place than we entered Q2 … but in a nonetheless similar scenario. 

While stocks are in the middle of a heater, as opposed to in the midst of the quickest bear-market decline in U.S. history, the American economic horizon appears every bit as foggy now as it did three months ago.

How quickly will jobs return? Will Congress pass another round of stimulus? How will the evolving presidential race weigh on or prop up the stock market? Will we take the upper hand against COVID-19? These are just a few of the questions that, when answered, could take stocks for another wild ride between now and the end of September.

Wells Fargo Investment Institute analysts are somewhat optimistic, writing that "We expect a moderate recovery following a strong, third-quarter start" in a recent note to clients. However, "while the U.S. economy appears poised to recover, the timing remains unclear, and the path likely will be full of twists and turns."

Some investors might do well just to stuff their money into solid long-term holdings and wait it out. For some, that means highly rated blue-chip stocks and diversified funds with wallet-friendly fees.

For others with speculative money to spare, however, it's a chance to try to capture many of the wild swings that have peppered the stock market in 2020. Growth stocks in general might be enough to satisfy those whims, but some prefer to delve into Wall Street's figurative "bargain bin."

While cheap stocks with single-digit prices are a source of sky-high risk, these opportunities can nonetheless add alpha when traded in small amounts as part of a diversified strategy with strong core investments. These five names in particular have their blemishes, but each has the kind of potential that attracts the stock market's thrill seekers.

Kyle Woodley was long AMZN as of this writing.

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