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These Terms & Conditions were last updated on 6th February 2019.
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Weekly Market Update April Sunday 5th 2020
Markets consolidate as the volatility of the last few weeks abates
Markets have consolidated over the past few days, after the wild gyrations investors have had to stomach in recent weeks. Whilst a short, very sharp recession is consensus in the market, with a very welcome bridge built to the other side by governments and central banks, the exit strategy remains elusive, as does the speed to recovery. Whilst this is the case, any recovery in equity markets is likely to remain on hold.
Wide dispersion in market returns
As of 12pm on Friday, London time, global equities for the week have fallen a relatively benign 1.2%, with US equities down 0.6%, European equities have given up 0.4%, whilst UK equities have fallen by 2.1%. There has been greater dispersion in Asia, with Japanese equities having tumbled 9.2% as rising coronavirus infections shook investor sentiment and the Bank of Japan’s support for the equity market levelled off. Australian stocks rose 4.7%, benefitting from a jump in crude oil by almost 30% for Brent and over 22% for US WTI (West Texas Intermediate) as following a Tweet by President Trump, expectations were raised for a massive cut in production by Russia & Saudi Arabia, since denied by Russia. Emerging market equities fell 0.5%, however, the dispersion at country level was high, with Indian equities falling by 7.5%, whilst domestic Chinese stocks fell 0.3%.
Haven assets were well behaved over the week, with the yield on 10-year US Treasuries currently trading at 0.59%, German Bunds minus 0.44% and UK Gilts 0.32%. Gold is currently trading at $1,630 an ounce, having fallen 1.4% over the week. The US dollar strengthened over the week, having weakened sharply last week, with the dollar index rising 2.4%. Sterling is trading at USD 1.22 and EUR 1.14.
US investment banks forecast one of the worst, if not the worst, recession on record
Goldman Sachs, the US investment bank, forecast a 6.2% decline in US GDP for 2020, with unemployment reaching 15% by the middle of the year, as economists try to gauge how long the current lockdown will last. Whilst Bank of America reckons that the US will experience its deepest recession on record, nearly five times more severe than the post war average. Initial jobless claims in the US jumped up to a record 6.6 million, with the increase more than doubling from last week’s initial claims. However, it should be noted that for some, the new benefits package on offer in the US will mean a pay increase, no doubt helping to exacerbate the situation.
European service sector activity collapses
The latest business activity released for the Eurozone services sector showed an unprecedented collapse, with the IHS Markit PMI reading coming in at 29.7 in March, a fall from 51.6 in February, the lowest reading since the survey began 22 years ago. Any number below 50 represents contraction.
Issues under discussion
Dire forecasts for the global economy, but constructive on markets following sharp losses
Despite investment banks forecasting one of the worst, if not the worst, recession on record, we are constructive on markets following their sharp falls. Why is this? Well, although the market falls experienced to date are not as severe as previous bear markets, the speed of the sell-off surpasses all previous bear markets. If we compare today to the global financial crisis of 2008/09, back then, in a financial crisis, it took two years for company earnings to get to the bottom. It then took a further two and half years for earnings to recover. It does not feel like that today. Central banks and governments have announced economic support programmes that dwarf those introduced in 2008/09, as they build a bridge to enable businesses to weather this storm and come out the other side. This event feels much more like a natural disaster, where economic activity recovers quite quickly once things begin to return to normal.
Exit strategy unclear
What is unclear today is the exit strategy. Those countries ahead on testing their population for the coronavirus look like they have an advantage, especially if a greater proportion of the population is proven to already have been infected and able to return to work. Looking at growth in trend death rates, not something that we would ordinarily choose to do, there are signs that countries such as Italy are potentially over the worst, one tentative step closer to being able to ease the lockdown. Different countries are at different stages, with arguably the US only having taken it seriously in the last week. Expectations of a ‘V’ shaped recovery are probably wide of the mark, especially as any easing of lockdowns is likely to be gradual. However, market prices are always lowest when things feel the worst, and the experiences of China, South Korea and Singapore is that this virus can be beaten, and we must not lose sight of that.
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