As Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States this Wednesday, a collective sigh of relief, at the return of civility, decency and a genuine interest in the wellbeing of all citizens, could be felt around the world.
As we wrote last week, there is a broad consensus that this year will see a strong economic rebound as mass vaccinations finally put an end to pandemic – even if we have to wait until the second half of the year to see it.
In official civil service communications, the word ‘Brexit’ has been mostly absent for nearly a year. According to Downing Street diktat, Brexit is an historic event that occurred at the end of last January (or was it March 2019?). Therefore, we never need speak its name again...
December usually has a ring of ‘Silent Night’ in the investment world and, in a year where practically all else has changed, at least this has stayed the same. In the UK, news that millions more would be placed under tougher restrictions over the Christmas period may have felt deflating, but it was hardly unexpected and failed to get a peep out of capital markets.
This week’s edition was meant to focus on our annual outlook for the coming year, while working under the assumption that the UK and Europe would by now be operating under a ‘skinny’ trade deal that would prevent tariff hurdles to trade while also dealing with the barriers to trade that come with operating under independent regulatory regimes.
As the world faces up to a not-so-jolly Christmas season, it may be surprising to learn that sentiment across the global economy was reported to be quite strong this week. Admittedly, this is mostly driven by strong manufacturing data and not the services sector, which relies so much more on social proximity. Nevertheless, the current economic environment combined with the announcement of COVID vaccinations becoming an imminent reality (if only for those vulnerable) had markets starting December on an upbeat note.
During a week when global stock markets continued their more gradual upwards trend, government policy was in full focus, but offered little in support. For the UK, it looks like ‘out of the frying pan into the fire’ when official lockdown ends next Thursday, with the vast majority of England under tighter restrictions than before – and for an indefinite period of time.
The November rally in stock markets finally petered out this week as it felt as if ‘November finally got the memo about 2020’. This was despite further positive vaccine news that bolstered optimism for next year. On Monday, US firm Moderna announced that phase 3 test results of its messenger RNA based vaccine had a 95% success rate, confirming that messenger vaccines work, after the Pfizer & BioNTech messenger vaccine – had also produced above 90% effectiveness a week earlier.
Investors have enjoyed another very good week. Optimism had already returned the previous week, with the US election eventually delivering a clear verdict. This week then brought the news that literally everybody had been waiting and hoping for, and which we had portrayed as probable in our ‘optimistic case’ forward-look on these pages two weeks ago.
Here we go again. Having had our fun, and eaten out to help out over the summer, the UK public is back indoors for the rest of November. What the government was keen to prevent still came as hardly much of a surprise last Saturday, given rapidly-rising hospital admission numbers, the tiered shutting of regions across the country and the European neighbours having already announced similar nationwide measures earlier in the week...
This week’s choppy markets are testimony that the US Presidential election next week could influence the long term more than the tough second wave virus restrictions across Europe. The period we are in just now is one where the short term does have formidable influence on the longer term, so it is perhaps not surprising that capital markets as a whole were choppy over the week.
Halloween is around the corner and markets had plenty to frighten them this week. Across Europe, the second wave of infections has risen higher than the first. While new lockdown measures are less stringent this time (schools and businesses can remain open unless social distancing is impossible), shutting down social interactions...
A noticeable winter chill is in the air this week. The threat of fresh lockdown measures has become reality, with renewed restrictions coming into force not just in the UK, but across most of continental Europe as well. But unfortunately, the UK – once again – is faring particularly badly in virus terms.
It may be the hundredth time saying this, but despite the all-dominating focus on COVID, it is now also Brexit crunch time, given the UK government rejected the offer of a further extension when the lockdown ‘sabotaged’ the already tight negotiation schedule.
Against all expectations, and despite considerable intramonth volatility, September turned out to be decidedly dull for investors. After a five-month rally had left global stock indices around or above their pre-pandemic highs, the turn of Autumn sent a chill through capital markets.
September continues to bite equity markets. Stocks everywhere wobbled again this week and even though they bounced back, the S&P500 is down around 8% in US Dollar terms for the month. UK investors might notice less of a fall, with global equities down just 1% in sterling terms. This is partly due to the fall in sterling itself, with the pound suffering yet again from adverse Brexit news.
Stock markets have stabilised and started trading sideways, in a sign of healthy consolidation following their extraordinary recovery rally since late March. Notably, the darlings of the recovery, namely US large cap tech and growth stocks, are no longer the leaders. This bodes well for a gradual sentiment shift among investors.
September has ended what now feels like a ‘goldilocks’ summer for investors, and political, societal and capital market frictions have returned to the stage with a bang. However, the fact that stock markets have not simply plunged on bad news, but have instead remained surprisingly stable, is a good indication that economic and market dynamics are not quite as simple as they may appear.
Markets’ summer holidays are over. Throughout August, risk assets made some impressive gains, while the global economy remained in its deepest ever recession. After equities were then catapulted to eye-watering valuation levels, the end of this week saw a sharp reversal. On Thursday, the US’ S&P 500 – which soared past its pre-pandemic highs in August’s rally – saw its biggest sell-off since June.
In a week where Donald Trump kicked off his re-election campaign in earnest, global investors showed it is indeed “America first”. US equities continue to push at all-time highs, having recovered everything lost in March’s frantic sell-off – and then some.