Retail spending is down, but kindness is up. Our weekly update takes a look at the latest economic data as well as Mental Health Awareness Week.
The week began with much of the financial press discussing the biggest ever drop in retail spending in the US, with revenue at stores and restaurants falling by a larger than expected 16% in April1. This figure was almost double the drop in March, the previous record holder. Other data out at the end of last week, however, suggested that April may have been the bottom for American numbers for now, with consumer sentiment and manufacturing activity picking up, albeit from a very low base2.
Germany, who was struggling as an economy even before coronavirus hit, has entered into recession with its economy contracting by 2.2% in the first quarter3 – the second quarter of economic decline, which pushes the country into a technical recession. With the lockdown restrictions only being lifted slowly, Germany’s economy is certainly set to suffer even more this quarter. This will no doubt have a knock-on effect with their European neighbours.
Continuing the focus on Europe, the European Commission has agreed on a $550 billion aid package. The money is to be raised by issuing bonds that would be repaid over time from the EU budget, of which the lion’s share is covered by Germany. Crucially, and differing from many of the other aid packages, all the funds will be distributed as grants rather than loans4.
Negative interest rates are the story form the UK, with the selling of three-year maturity bonds with a sub-zero yield. These bonds join the other $17 trillion of negatively yielding bonds which are available worldwide. Although this is another record-breaking event, it is unsurprising to say the least5.
On Tuesday the 19th of May, the Science Based Targets initiative, the UN Global Compact, and the We Mean Business coalition united 150 global businesses in a call to action. The statement has been backed by companies worth a combined US$ 2.4 trillion and asks governments to ensure that recovery policies are aligned with climate science6. We hope that the increasing pressure on global policy makers will generate renewed acknowledgement that the climate crisis cannot be ignored. We have written about the lack of climate conditions attached to UK government bailouts in previous updates7 and believe that this new step is indicative of a wider appetite for a resilient economic recovery which factors in social and environmental issues for long-term prosperity.
The 18th to the 24th of May marks Mental Health Awareness Week. Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, this year’s focus is on the importance of kindness. The benefits of behaving with compassion, through little gestures, are more important than ever during this period of enforced solitude. Not only do these acts of kindness help the recipient, they also help to boost the wellbeing of those extending the helping hand8. There’s no downside to altruism and empathy, so why not get in touch with an old friend (safely of course) and find out how they’re getting on? At Holden & Partners, we encourage all employees to reach out to others across the business, especially those they might not contact regularly – this helps us to build a sense of community amongst colleagues. Taking time to chat with others and listen to their lockdown experiences is a great way to relieve stress and feel more connected during this difficult time.
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