July 4th, known as Independence Day in the US, is now set to be a significant day in the UK too, giving us a chance to look back and reflect.
We now, somehow, find ourselves in July – what a year 2020 has been already, and we are just about to start the second act.
This weekend will be a landmark event with the lifting of lockdown restrictions, and the government making the controversial decision to allow the opening of restaurants, pubs, hairdressers and cinemas1. We will also see social distancing rules decrease from two metres to “one metre plus”2. Many people are keen to enjoy a social life that resembles something like their pre-lockdown plans, with some even taking advantage of the lifting of travel restrictions to venture abroad for holidays3.
However, not everyone will be free to enjoy a pint in their local or get a much-needed trim – many are shielding and Leicester will remain in lockdown due to a localised spike in corona cases4. These local restrictions may be required elsewhere going forward, as a reaction to rising infection rates in some parts of the country.
This serves as a reminder that despite the weekend’s air of celebration, we’re not ‘out of the woods’ yet5 regarding the possibility of a second spike. Although we are not going to comment on whether this is likely to happen, it is important to consider the fact that all day, every day, we are assessing risk and making judgement calls, and this is no different. As it is with investments, never take a risk that you are not comfortable with and that you cannot quantify.
Next week will see the Chancellor give his summer statement. We expect jobs, and how we boost the economy, to be, unsurprisingly, the main topics. This is all surrounded by a huge swathe of job cuts announced across the world. In the UK alone, we have seen the likes of John Lewis, Rolls Royce, BP, British Airways, Harrods to name but a few6. These are sadly not unexpected, and we believe that the damage is likely to continue as the impact of the crisis unfolds. In our view, there is no hiding from the fact that we are heading for a recession – if we are not there already (albeit not technically). How deep and how long this may last for is difficult for anybody to call reliably7. What is important is to keep abreast of the economic data and stick to the fundamentals of portfolio construction, and this is part of the DNA of Holden & Partners.
With a lot of talk of inflation or deflation at present, it was interesting to see that the eurozone inflation figures rose more than expected in June. The eurozone saw inflation at 0.3% compared to the same month last year which was a pickup from May’s four year low. Although these figures provided some promise, there was nevertheless cause for concern as price rises in the services industry, such as bars and restaurants, were lagging behind food, tobacco and alcohol. With services making up 50% of the eurozone economy, the prospect of restaurants and bars working at much smaller capacity than usual is far from ideal8.
As we regularly write in these updates, it is important to look for the glimmers of hope during these times. On Thursday, data showed that the US economy added 4.8 million jobs9, which is certainly movement in the right direction, but doesn’t make up for all the jobs lost. Our best case at present is that the recovery will take some time and the list of casualties is only likely to increase.
With the tentative step of moving out of lockdown in the UK, comes an opportunity to reflect on how the events of the last few months have shaped us all.
Throughout our weekly updates, we have discussed the changes in environmental pollution, social dynamics and how businesses have been managed well (or less well) to steer themselves through the governance minefield posed by COVID-19. At Holden & Partners, we’re analysing these shifts to understand their long-term impact on how we view sustainability when making investment decisions. We are intending to discuss these issues, along with other important Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) risks and opportunities at future forthcoming online seminars. If you have enjoyed our updates, please consider joining us for these free online events. Further details will be announced soon.
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