Turns out we never really stopped hoarding toilet paper

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Today's Agenda

When two carts isn't enough.

Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America

The Hunkering Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Back in the dark days of mid-March, Justin Fox wrote a reassuring column about how we weren't all going to have to shelter in place for 18 months, as one particularly dire forecast suggested. To everyone's relief, he was right. But now, eight months later, we're hunkering down again.

That's because the pandemic is now far more widespread than it was back in March, and vaccines or any sort of federal strategy are still months away. So instead of traveling for Thanksgiving or shopping for holiday gifts, many of us are still hoarding and nesting, writes Sarah Halzack. You can see it in the just-reported quarterly profits of retailers such as Walmart and Home Depot, who keep thriving as Americans build new kitchen islands and toilet-paper forts.

This behavior may be good for our big-box overlords and Amazon.com, but it isn't so healthy for the rest of the economy. Massive stimulus got us through the first and second waves of the virus (which were really just ever-higher humps on the same big wave), but that money is running dry just as the third, far worse wave begins, warns Michael R. Strain. The economy's rebound is already starting to lose steam.

The promise ofvaccines may boost the stock market, but it will be too long before actual vaccines rescue the actual economy. Congress and President Donald Trump should put aside their differences and post-election hurt feelings and deliver stimulus now. And the Fed should extend and expand the municipal lending facility due to expire Dec. 31, writes Bloomberg's editorial board. Otherwise the economic pain will last a lot longer than 18 months.

Further Pandemic Economics Reading:

Some Covid-Planning Advice for Biden

President-elect Joe Biden has been working on pandemic-fighting plans but can't put them into action for at least another two months — possibly longer, given how Trump is fighting Biden's transition harder than he's fighting the disease. One thing Biden could do now, however, is convince politicians and celebrities to launch a national messaging campaign, writes Jonathan Bernstein. Something's got to counter whatever garbage media it is people are consuming that has them denying the reality of Covid even as they're dying from it

The next president will also have to quickly figure out how to distribute vaccines both at home and elsewhere. Hal Brands writes this could be an opportunity to restore and enhance America's influence around the world. If the U.S. can distribute a better vaccine to developing countries, and with less strings attached, than China, then it will quickly gain an edge in the new Cold War. Oh and, you know, stop the pandemic. 

Further Covid Reading:

To Stock or Not to Stock

As mentioned, another dose of good vaccine news boosted stocks to record highs yesterday. A little less promising was news that Tesla will be joining the S&P 500. Is this a bell ringing at the top of the market? Maybe! We've seen it before when red-hot stocks join the stodgy old indexes, writes David Fickling. Think Yahoo at the peak of the dot-com bubble or various real estate companies during the housing bubble. At the very least, it is not a great sign for Tesla's status as an ever-soaring stock, especially when you consider how wildly overvalued it already is. 

A better sign, writes Tara Lachapelle — who also heroically wrote this newsletter yesterday — is the fact that Warren Buffett is buying stocks again, according to regulatory filings. You may recall he dumped them rather scarily early on in the pandemic. His newfound confidence in American companies is heartening. Or at least good timing.

Further Reading

Asset managers contribute to financial instability by letting clients yank money too quickly in panicky times. — Mark Gilbert 

Chinese banks are sitting on a potential mountain of defaults, the size of which is still unknown. — Anjani Trivedi 

Amazon getting into the pharmacy business is a threat to the big pharmacy companies. — Max Nisen 

Executive orders give presidents too much power and inflame polarization. It's time to rein them in. — Ramesh Ponnuru 

Biden will have to decide whether he wants Israel to keep sabotaging Iran as he tries for a new nuclear deal. — Eli Lake 

ICYMI

Judy Shelton will not be joining the Fed after all. (Here's Karl Smith on why that's good news.)

Trump is trying to jam through a bunch of policies before he goes.

George Soros regrets investing in Peter Thiel's Palantir.

We're not as addicted to fossil fuels as you might think.

Kominers's Conundrums Hint

If you still haven't solved our "Jeopardy!" conundrum, don't forget it's OK to use references to try and figure out the answers. But of course before you look anything up you have to figure out which word in the clue is most likely to be the misfit — which words look the most out of place?

And if you're stuck on the "Double Jeopardy!" round, maybe start by looking to see if there's any information in the puzzle you didn't use in solving the first part. — Scott Duke Kominers

Kickers

Racing pigeon sells for $1.9 million at auction. (h/t Zoe DeStories

News site accidentally runs dozens of celebrity obituaries. (h/t Ellen Kominers)

Earth has a new mini-moon, sort of. 

Raising kids changes dads' brains and biology.

Note: Please send pigeons and complaints to Mark Gongloff at mgongloff1@bloomberg.net.

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