Ahead of the long weekend, here is our weekly analysis of the current crisis, with a look to the future.
Time seems a bizarre concept presently and, despite lockdown, it is far from standing still. The third week of isolation was no less astonishing than the previous and, yet again, what would usually be dumbfounding news whistles past us.
This week saw Boris Johnson admitted to hospital and then intensive care, as his case of coronavirus seemed to worsen. This resulted in him ‘handing power’ to Dominic Raab after several days of the nation wondering who exactly was in charge; a very British quirk of our unwritten constitution.
The death toll continued to hurtle up alarmingly and despite the rate seeming to slow in other badly affected European countries, studies are suggesting that the UK could be worst hit in Europe 1. Although it is still too early to tell, this is both worrying and upsetting and will no doubt lead to many unpleasant yet illuminating questions being asked once this is all over. Monday marks the three week anniversary of the lockdown and although we do not know for certain, we expect that it will be announced that restrictions will continue, certainly while the death toll is still rising 2.
Hard though it is at times, it is still important to consider the future. Many people are asking what the government’s plan is to get us out of this. They are stuck between a rock and a hard place; let people out too early and risk potentially huge increases in the infection numbers with the NHS unable to cope, but let people out too late and the economy will face even more severe consequences, not to mention the potential for civil unrest and the breaking of the social contract that is currently keeping us inside. As spring has truly sprung and the sun is beaming, it isn’t difficult to envisage the contract coming under strain.
The wild journey continues into markets and economics. Companies across the spectrum are cutting dividends, whilst Tesco takes government aid and then still pays huge dividends 3. The issues here are two-fold. With some companies cutting dividends, it is possible that those who invest for income may be impacted. We are monitoring this recent development as it unfolds, so that we can provide further information and guidance when necessary. Secondly, from a corporate and social responsibility point of view, it can be asked whether a large private company should be taking public money to hand to private investors. Issues like this are close to our heart at Holden & Partners and we continue to assess this type of corporate behaviour as part of our promise for a more sustainable future.
Despite the tragedy, some good will come from this crisis and we hope that it will force a rethink of how people such as NHS workers, shelf stackers, delivery drivers and public transport workers are viewed within society. These individuals were often taken for granted, but now are on the ‘frontline’, keeping our society going. This will also raise questions about the long term viability of industries such as aviation, oil and travel companies. It remains to be seen whether people will return to their same ways.
We are still some time away from the full picture, but wherever you look, there is evidence of an imminent economic slowdown. In Europe, new car registration numbers4 (an indicator of economic performance) have almost halved and this is likely get worse. Unemployment is already growing around the world, with dire predictions5. As more and more data comes out, we will continue to analyse and ensure we are doing all we can to weather the storm.
Be sure to stay safe and remember that it is times like these that require a calm and consistent approach to investment. If you need us, please get in touch.
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