Easing of lockdown measures
Equity markets have paused for breath over the last week as they weigh the positive impact from economies continuing to reopen but also consider the risk of a pickup in Coronavirus cases. The US epitomises this as many states have largely lifted lockdown measures, and New York – the country’s epicentre for the pandemic – took a big step on Monday by allowing non-essential businesses to reopen. But some 20 states, primarily in the south and west, have seen a rebound in infections.
Germany has also seen its Coronavirus reproduction rate – the R rate – increase to above 1, albeit from a low base and the scientific body, Robert Koch Institute, which is advising the German government on coronavirus has stated it is not concerned and they would only be worried if the R-value rose above 1.2 or 1.3 for several days.
This is a stark reminder to us all as the lockdown easing measures continue to come through, most notably in the UK but also globally. The hospitality sector has been in focus with detailed guidance due on how pubs, bars and restaurants can start gradually to re-open from July 4.
Cinemas, museums and art galleries will be able to begin re-opening their doors from next month in England. Prime Minister Boris Johnson also announced that the two-metre social-distancing rule is also being relaxed and we should remain 2m apart where possible but a “one metre plus” rule would be introduced.
This is also a global trend – on Sunday Spain lifted a slew of restrictions in a bid to get its tourism industry back up and running. As well as opening its land border with France, Spain also welcomed EU nationals, those from the passport-free Schengen zone and Britons at seaports and airports – without enforcing quarantine periods. Around 100 flights from European countries landed at Spain’s airports.
The big news from last week was from the Bank of England (BoE), as the supportive measures by global central banks to stimulate economies continue. The BoE unsurprisingly kept interest rates at all-time low levels of 0.1% but decided to increase Quantitative Easing (QE) and will pump an extra £100bn into the UK economy to help fight the “unprecedented” coronavirus-induced downturn. The Monetary Policy Committee voted 8-1 to increase the size of its bond-buying programme.
However, they said there was growing evidence that the hit to the economy would be “less severe” than initially feared. The BoE’s simultaneous decision to slow the pace of asset purchases means that it will no longer hoover up all the additional debt created by the UK government and will require private sector investors to finance the deficit again. The minutes indicated there had been no discussion of lowering interest rates into negative territory, with the issue still under review at the bank.
Chief Investment Officer
Luna Investment Management