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The Top 5 Biggest Trends of 2020 as Told Through the Stock Market

The financial sector was treated to a radically unpredictable year aided and abetted by a global recession, the COVID-19 pandemic and other political antics. Looking past the grey of 2020, this year afforded us an opportunity to reflect and consider new trends, industries and innovations, which quickly captured the attention of bored, stay-at-home retail investors and institutional traders alike.

Bullish wanted to break down some of the biggest trends we saw on our Bullish Rippers, a tri-weekly list breaking down stocks making big moves in markets, this year. So, here’s a list of the big trends Bullish think deserve additional reflection:

E-commerce comes of age

E-commerce and online shopping are not a new industry. However, 2020 was a pivotal coming-of-age moment for digital commerce. Because of stay-at-home orders earlier this year, physical retail stores were made to offset their losses through e-commerce, online shopping and other direct-to-consumer sales. E-commerce sales surged over 36% year-over-year as of Q3 2020, well outpacing the growth from their retail counterparts.

E-commerce monolith Amazon ($AMZN) was joined by new kids on the block such as ($OSTK) and Etsy ($ETSY). $OSTK ran up an impressive 881% this year, $ETSY ran up 316% and $AMZN grew 70%. That’s just a shortlist for an industry which was no stranger to double- and triple-digit gains this year. If it’s any indicator, one e-commerce ETF, the Amplify Online Retail ETF ($IBUY) ran up over 123% this year.

Some of the indirect benefactors of the e-commerce boom are intermediaries fueling the flame. BigCommerce ($BIGC), an e-commerce solutions platform, had a super impressive 540% run this year. This was energized in part by integrations with Instagram’s new commerce API. Shopify ($SHOP), which offers a proprietary e-commerce platform for businesses building online stores, ran up over 189% this year.

The future of e-commerce looks bright. Not just because of the beacon of opportunity it has offered due to the pandemic, but because few fads last 25 years. The future of online and retail will pivot because of the pandemic and likely become more omni-channel.

CRISPR companies go global

The burgeoning field of genomics took center stage this year as the Nobel Prize was awarded to two female scientists who discovered a novel way of editing genomes. Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, or CRISPR, have opened up boundless opportunities for genetic editing, gene therapy and the like.

We covered a shortlist of CRISPR companies back in November after noticing repeat members of these companies on our Rippers lists. Every member of our list, including Beam Therapeutics ($BEAM), Editas Medicine ($EDIT), CRISPR Therapeutics ($CRSP) and Intellia Therapeutics ($NTLA), more than doubled this year. Even in the last month since we published our feature, all of these companies have gone on over 40% runs.

Despite the outsized growth, these companies have set forth on a long journey. In the last year, many of them began their first clinical trials, which traditionally can take upwards of a decade to conduct.

CRISPR companies were joined by a wide variety of genomic-centric companies, including Moderna. The vaccine producer company created its COVID-19 vaccine using mRNA. $MRNA went on a 648% run this year. 

The movement in CRISPR and the genomics sector is one indication that the future of medicine might be as easy as cutting a few strands of DNA here and adding a few there.

Gambling on sports betting

People really missed their sports when the economy shut down early this year. But when sports came back, they came back with a reckoning (at least for those gambling types out there). Two years after a federal prohibition on online gambling was lifted, 20 states have legalized sports betting and six others have passed bills to legalize it. 

The broader acceptance of sports betting enabled sports books to bring bets back to American shores. Investors placed their bets on players like DraftKings ($DKNG) and Penn National Gaming ($PENN). Their bets printed. $DKNG soared over 416% this year. $PENN, which acquired a 36% state in Barstool Sports in January, jumped over 250% this year. Roundhill’s Sports Betting & iGaming ETF ($BETZ), an ETF broadly tracking sports betting, has jumped 39% since its inception on June 4, 2020.

In the spirit of $PENN’s acquisition, media companies have jumped to make their own plans for sports book domination. FuboTV ($FUBO), an on-demand TV streaming service focusing on sport networks, hopped onto the Rippers list after announcing a plan to integrate sports betting in their digital platform. Sinclair Broadcast ($SBGI), a large regional broadcast station, minted a deal with sports book Bally’s ($BALY). ESPN, owned by the Walt Disney Company ($DIS), began a number of sports betting-related shows in an effort to shore up shoddy network ratings. They even dedicated a whole channel to live odds.

That said, the old days of betting on Bovada and off-shore gambling sites looks to be coming to a close. The legitimization of sports betting looks to just be kicking off.

Green energy and EVs seeing green

It should come as no surprise that a myriad of this year’s biggest Rippers were companies hailing from the green energy and electric vehicle (EV) sector. If you’re an avid reader of the Rippers list, you know that approximately every third SPAC this year was some sort of EV or solar power company. 

The biggest winner this year is Tesla ($TSLA), a company that needs no introduction. This $620 billion EV Goliath went on a 662% run this year and joined the S&P 500. But Tesla isn’t the only kid on the block anymore, nor on the Rippers list for that matter. Shares of Chinese EV maker NIO bested Elon Musk’s sexy cars. $NIO soared over 1,136% this year. This was fueled mostly by investors dreaming about investing in the next Tesla (we know how well that worked out for investors in Nikola).

Despite the predictable and robust gains made in the EV sector, there were some less obvious movers in green energy. Among them were companies like Plug Power, which is the kind of stock that Robinhood investors have sat on for so long – swearing that it’ll go up – only for it to go up when they sold it at a loss. $PLUG, which makes hydrogen fuel cells, went on a monster 843% gain this year. SunRun, a solar panel and home battery company, went on its own impressive 339% jump this year.

The clean energy and EV market shows no signs of slowing down under a Joe Biden presidency. Shares the clean energy ETF $ICLN jumped 114% this year.

SPACs… so… many… SPACs

Hopefully by now, the term ‘SPAC’ needs no introduction. For those who need a refresher: a special purpose acquisition company is a novel way of taking a company public. A SPAC looks for an ideal privately traded company to merge with and then creates an offer. If the offer is accepted, the privately traded company essentially “eats” the SPAC (a process called a reverse merger) and becomes a publicly traded company. It’s only a few thousand hours of paperwork and a ticker change away.

SPACs had a huge year. Last year, there were 59 SPACs. Among them were the SPAC that arguably made them mainstream: $IPOA, which acquired Virgin Galactic and became $SPCE. There have been 241 SPACs in 2020, which raised over $81 billion in proceeds. 

There have been a few standout SPACs from the Rippers list this year. Among them were some of our aforementioned players like DraftKings ($DKNG) and Penn National Gaming ($PENN). However, there have been plenty of other interesting acquisitions by SPACs,  including EV company Fisker ($FSR), AppHarvest (trading as $NOVS for now) and Nikola ($NKLA). The latter is arguably an L, but the others are pretty nifty and have had an interesting year.

Chamath Palihapitiya, the creator of $IPOA, also has plans to launch an alphabet worth of SPACs. Our friend and partner, Howard Lindzon, sat down to talk with him about the plan in this dope interview for Bullish.

Naturally though, this look back might provide some insight about the future. We’ll see what 2021 brings.

Noah Weidner

Noah Weidner is a restless self-starter with a vehement interest in all things that make the world go around: culture, politics, economics and all the people in between. He writes the Bullish Rippers series and covers other interesting trends and happenings at Bullish.

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