Market Update – 19 May 2020

I really enjoy writing these articles but it can be quite difficult to find appropriate topics and for some reason this week I really struggled.  As I searched for a subject matter,  as often happens,  inspiration was given to me this time by my daughter, Megan.

She reminded me that this week is Mental Health Awareness week which is organised annually by the Mental Health Foundation who work to prevent mental health problems. Each year they focus on a particular theme, having previously focused on stress, body image & relationships this years focus is Kindness.

I’ve taken the next part directly from their website as their words are better than mine.

Why kindness?

One thing that we have seen all over the world is that kindness is prevailing in uncertain times.  

We have learnt that amid the fear, there is also community, support and hope.  The added benefit of helping others is that it is good for our own mental health and wellbeing. It can help reduce stress and improve your emotional wellbeing. 

Looking beyond ourselves, inequality is rising in our society, Life expectancy is falling for the poorest for the first time in 100 years. As child poverty rises, children and young people in the poorest parts of our country are two or three times more likely to experience poor mental health than those in the richest.  

After the 2008 credit crunch it was the most vulnerable in our communities who experienced the severest consequences of austerity, with devastating effects on their mental and physical health. It is on all of us to ensure that the same mistakes are not repeated after this pandemic.  

Unfortunately kindness between countries seems to be in short supply.  Just yesterday we saw one of the worlds super powers China announce it had slapped punitive tariffs of more than 80 per cent on barley imports from Australia. The move came after more than 110 countries, including Australia, backed a push for an international coronavirus inquiry.  This will undoubtedly cause serious issues to the Australian economy and the real fear is that it’s just the start.

2019 & 2020 has been plagued with trade wars between the US and China and with the current war of words between two countries over ‘who’s to blame for COVID-19’ then there is real concern that any recovery will be blighted by tariffs.

However for the moment markets are focusing on the positives, firstly in the US there is palpable relief that the majority of the states are reopening their economies, including 75 percent of California, there is a growing hope that a vaccine will be available sooner, rather than later and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve  told investors over the weekend that the central bank’s cheque book  remains wide open, strongly hinting that more monetary policy stimulus is on its way.

The Trump administration’s senior economic adviser seconded that optimism in an interview Monday. “I think that definitely you’re looking at a very strong third quarter, a very strong fourth quarter and probably a great next year,” White House senior economic adviser Kevin Hassett said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box”.   Of course these comments are politically driven in advance of the US election in November.

In Europe yesterday the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed to support a 500 billion-euro ($546 billion) aid package to help the European Union recover from the coronavirus pandemic in a major step toward tighter integration.

Merkel said that Germany would accept a fund within the framework of the EU budget, financed by additional borrowing, that would make grants to member states that have been hardest hit by the virus. Crucially, she said the bonds issued by the European Commission would be repaid from the EU budget, the lion’s share of which is covered by Germany. Italian bonds jumped.

In the UK shares look set to hold onto yesterday’s significant gains on the back of hopes of a coronavirus bounceback.

The key factor behind yesterday’s rise was hopes for a vaccine from US pharma group Moderna, which said it appeared to have had a breakthrough which could go into the third and final phase of trials by July. That, coupled with further optimism about governments around the world opening their countries up for business again provided a strong backdrop to trading.

Stocks in China and Japan followed the European and US lead with strong gains. The oil price rally is hoped to continue as the covid shutdown ends, helped by the Saudis last week announcing production cuts.    Again markets are reacting to the positives and seem to ignore the negatives, the true test will be when the real economic data is available and the true cost of the pandemic is known.

In the interim I think the following quote from the actress Glenn Close, “What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation” could easily be applied to the current pandemic, market reaction and global outlook, what we all need is more sunlight, more candour and more conversation so that together we deliver a new tomorrow.

Stay Safe