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Why Westpac and the big four banks stormed higher today

The Westpac Banking Corp (ASX: WBC) share price was a strong performer on Monday.

The banking giant’s shares ended the day 5.5% higher at $16.35. This compares to a solid 4.3% gain by the S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO).

Things were equally good across the banking sector. The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ASX: ANZ) share price was up almost 5%, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA) share price rose 4% and the National Australia Bank Ltd (ASX: NAB) share price climbed 5.5% higher.

Why did the Westpac share price race higher?

Investors were buying Westpac and the rest of the big four banks on Monday for a couple of reasons.

One was improving investor sentiment due to Australia’s slowing COVID-19 infection rates.

While it may be a little too soon to get excited, recent data appears to show that the Federal Government’s initiatives have successfully flattened the curve. This means the country is currently on a very different trajectory to what was seen in Europe and the United States.

This certainly bodes well for the economy and ultimately the big four banks.

In addition to this, Australian shares were given a boost this afternoon after U.S. futures stormed higher.

At the time of writing, according to CNBC, futures contracts are pointing to the Dow Jones opening the week 3.7% higher, the S&P 500 rising 3.9%, and the Nasdaq climbing 4.2% higher.

This appears to have been driven by optimism on Wall Street that the market could soon turn a corner.

One investor that is becoming more positive is Bill Ackman, the founder Pershing Square Capital Management. On Twitter the billionaire investor said that he is beginning to get optimistic.

He tweeted: “I am beginning to get optimistic. Cases appear to be peaking in NY. Almost the entire country is in shutdown. Hydroxychloriquine and antibiotics appear to help.”

“Massive stimulus is being injected globally to backfill the economy and bridge us through the crisis. Most corporations, banks and consumers entered the crisis reasonably well capitalized. Rates are extremely low. There is no housing or commercial real estate overhang,” he added.

Though, it is worth noting that not everyone is as optimistic. The CEO of Chaikin Analytics, Marc Chaikin, has warned against rushing in.

He told CNBC: “Until the spread of the COVID-19 virus peaks and we are closer to a reopening of the U.S. economy, sell rallies and sit on your cash. If we are fortunate to see an effective treatment there will be plenty of capital gains opportunities. For me, capital preservation is more important than capital gains.”

Foolish Takeaway.

Personally, I’d be more inclined to side with Bill Ackman at this point. Especially in the local market, given the flattening of the curve. Overall, I feel there are a lot of attractive options for investors, like the banks, that could prove to be bargain buys this time next year.

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Motley Fool contributor James Mickleboro owns shares of Westpac Banking. The Motley Fool Australia owns shares of National Australia Bank Limited. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.