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We’re halfway through the year. Amid pandemic, recession, protests


While it would be a stretch to view the second quarter as a “glass half-full” scenario, the United States managed to avoid economists’ most dire predictions as the first half of the year comes to a close.

On Tuesday, the last day of the second quarter, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed with a quarterly gain of close to 18 percent — its best performance since 1987. The S&P 500 was up almost 20 percent and the Nasdaq Composite rose by 30 percent, their best quarterly performance since the late 1990s.

Despite this apparent market confidence, small business owners and investors alike are facing the second half of 2020 with an uneasy mix of cautious optimism and trepidation. A Southern surge of COVID-19 could erode the gains eked out by the stock market — and force a reprisal of the shutdowns that brought households and businesses to the brink of insolvency.

“People were more interested in buying toilet paper and cleaning products than buying bags,” after the pandemic hit, said Sherrill Mosee, founder and CEO of MinkeeBlue, a brand of travel and commuting bags. She told NBC News her sales plunged by 90 percent when COVID-19 struck. “It was crickets around here.”

“We do believe the worst is past, but don’t have a high degree of confidence predicting the behavior of the COVID-19 virus,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com.

Although metrics on employment, real estate and consumer confidence look better than expected, the nation is by no means out of the woods yet, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

“The numbers have been a little bit better than anticipated. That just goes to the fact that businesses reopened sooner than expected,” he said. “It kind of pulled forward some of the job growth and the better numbers. I don’t think I take any solace in the better numbers than we’re getting right now.”

Brent Weiss, co-founder and head of planning at financial planning firm Facet Wealth, said the upheaval of the second quarter made many Americans realize that there were “cracks in the foundation” of their financial stability. “Clients were scared. This was the fastest decline in market history,” he said.

Main Street was similarly whipsawed. “It’s been a whirlwind for small business owners,” said Holly Wade, director of research and policy analysis for the National Federation of Independent Business.

In a survey, the trade group found that reopening the economy seemed to have a booster effect on sales, with 54 percent reporting either slight or moderate to significant growth in the month of May — but these fragile gains are now in jeopardy. “Over the last week, we’ve seen states start scaling back on their reopening and their phase-ins. So the level of economic uncertainty is still strong,” Wade said. “How states respond to increased cases of COVID-19 is very much up in…


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