Review of the week: Thanksgiving may be a super-spreader; will vaccine news bring holiday cheer?

Thanksgiving may be a super-spreader event this year, as governments around the world try to plan their way through the upcoming festive season. But investors have been given a boost from good vaccine news.

By 23 November 2020

It’s official; the holiday season is upon us. Thanksgiving followed by Black Friday kicks off our annual Christmas shopping but this year it’s likely that most purchases will be made online. The US Center for Disease Control has advised against travelling over the holiday period, yet it’s predicted that millions will ignore the advice in order to enjoy pumpkin pie with their families, potentially turning an annual celebration into a super-spreader event.

COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the US and several states are tightening restrictions. Last week, New York Mayor Bill De Blasio announced that schools would close again and there are rumours of a second lockdown across the city. There’s still no movement on a second fiscal stimulus package, which seems increasingly unlikely before January, and the S&P fell -1.7% last week. On the plus side, US new jobless claims fell by more than expected to 709,000, albeit still an elevated level. Investors will be focused on Wednesday’s minutes from the US Federal Reserve (Fed), which could well signal further monetary support in December.

We hope Donald Trump’s legal team will be allowed the day off to spend Thanksgiving with their families. Mr Trump is persevering with his legal battle to overturn the election result, but evidence of fraud has been noteably absent. Pennsylvania is the latest state to strike his challenge down after an attempt by the Trump campaign to invalidate millions of mail-in votes. Officials in Pennsylvania can now certify the state’s results which put Joe Biden ahead by over 80,000.

More promising signs from vaccine trial data

Markets have started the week on a positive note after news that trial data on Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine, though of a lower average efficacy of 70%, was found to be as much as 90% effective with different dosages, as well as being more easily stored and distributed than the hugely encouraging Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna vaccines with their 90%-plus efficacy rates.

Still, there’s quite a way to go production and distribution and the path to economic recovery and a more normal pre-COVID existence will be slow. Jerome Powell, Christine Lagarde, and Andrew Bailey, respectively the chiefs of the Fed, the European Central Bank, and the Bank of England have welcomed the vaccine news, but none of them are showing any signs of changing policy in the short term. Mr Powell injected a dose of realism, saying “we’ve got a way to go” in reference to the roll out. All have emphasized the continuing high uncertainty in the short term.  The final quarter of this year could see economies across the developed world stall again and the more optimistic forecasts for a bounce in companies’ 2021 profits reined in.


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Source: FE Analytics, data sterling total return to 13 October  

These figures refer to past performance, which isn’t a reliable indicator of future returns. Investments can go up or down and you may not get back your original investment.

  Christmas is coming, but are lockdown restrictions staying?   

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has avoided adding the role of Scrooge to an already chequered image. Over the weekend it emerged that Christmas has not been cancelled but we must approach the festive season with caution; no government wishes to see new case numbers spike again in the new year. All four UK nations are set to allow some household mixing for a small number of days so that we can share a meal with loved ones.

But first, Mr Johnson will announce his new tougher three-tier lockdown measures, set to come into force when the national lockdown ends on 2 December. It’s rumoured that the 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants will be relaxed and that non-essential shops and gyms will be allowed to re-open. Mass testing is also set to be rolled out in the worst-affected regions.

A relaxation of rules is welcome as the impact of lockdowns across the UK was brought into sharp focus last week. November’s activity index fell to 57 from 64, hit by lower traffic congestion and public transport usage, while not surprisingly online sales have risen 10%. This data would suggest a 5% fall in GDP in November, which is nowhere near the hit to the economy seen in April when GDP fell 25%. But it suggests that UK Q4 will be lacklustre at best.

How will COVID impact Wednesday’s annual spending review?

The UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce his one-year Spending Review on Wednesday. It’s rumoured that Mr Sunak will highlight the devastating economic cost of the virus with claims that 2020 GDP will fall -11% and not return to pre-COVID levels until the end of 2022. Although infrastructure programmes are likely to be announced and the NHS is expected to receive a £3 billion package, there will also be a strong message that taxes will rise before the next election in order to pay for the COVID-related fiscal support. The Chancellor is facing a backlash after refusing to rule out a public sector pay freeze but has insisted that the UK will not see the return of austerity.

As noted above, there is good news for the medium term from successful clinical trials, but dreams of a vaccine this Christmas won’t be coming to fruition.

View PDF version of Review of the Week

UK 10-Year yield @ 0.31%
US 10-Year yield @ 0.82%
Germany 10-Year yield @ -0.58%
Italy 10-Year yield @ 0.60%
Spain 10-Year yield @ 0.07%

Economic data and companies reporting for week commencing 23 November

Monday 23 November 

UK: Markit/CIPS Composite PMI Flash, Markit/CIPS Manufacturing PMI Flash, Markit/CIPS, Services PMI Flash.
US: Markit Manufacturing PMI Flash.
EU: Markit Composite PMI Flash, Markit Manufacturing PMI Flash.

Full-year results: Carrs Group, Cerillion, Daily Mail.
Interims: Cake Box Holdings, Codemasters, LXI REIT, Mind Gym, NextEnergy Solar, Northern Bear, Sirius Real Estate, Sysgroup, Thruvision. 

Tuesday 24 November 

US: House Price Index, Consumer Confidence.

Full-year results: Compass, Greencore, Ten Life, Treatt, UDG Healthcare.
Interims: AO World, CML Microcircuits, Eckoh Technologies, Design Group, Pennon, Pets At Home, Record, Severfield, Trifast. 

Wednesday 25 November 

UK: 2020 Spending Review.
US: MBA Mortgage Applications, Personal Consumption Expenditures, Initial Jobless Claims, Continuing Claims, Personal Income, Gross Domestic Product, Wholesales Inventories, Durable Goods Orders, Personal Spending, New Homes Sales, Crude Oil Inventories, FOMC Minutes. 
EU: ECB Financial Stability Review.

Full-year results: Brewin Dolphin, Cambria Auto.
Interims: Alpha Financial Markets Consulting, D4t4 Solutions, De La Rue, Helical Bar, HICL Infrastructure, Liontrust Asset Management, Shearwater, United Utilities.  

Thursday 26 November 

EU: M3 Money Supply, ECB Monetary Policy Meeting Accounts.

Full-year results: Tracsis.
Interims: First Property, JLEN Environmental Assets Group, Motorpoint, NewRiver, Otaq, Severn Trent, XPS Pensions. 

Friday 27 November 

UK: Nationwide House Price Index, Mortgage Approvals, M4 Money Supply, Consumer Credit.
US: U. of Michigan Confidence Survey.
EU: Services Sentiment, Consumer Confidence Final, Economic Sentiment Indicator, Business Climate Indicator, Industrial Confidence.

Full-year results: Benchmark Holdings.
Interims: Carlco, HarbourVest Private Equity.