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Issue 15 - Mixed Message Of Lockdown Easing Here & Strengthening There!

Over the last few days we have seen a lot of activity with lockdown measures being eased to allow Pubs and Restaurants to open in the UK, whilst increased lockdown measures have been introduced locally as was the case with Leicester. I guess this really sets the scene for what we can expect going forwards, with a close monitoring of the situation and rapid local lockdowns when the statistics determine it to be necessary.

It is not only the UK of course as throughout mainland Europe, areas in Spain, Portugal and Germany have had to follow a similar path, and numbers of cases do seem to be climbing rapidly in the US and South America again.

Although the UK have relaxed their Foreign Office travel recommendations and have announced a list of countries from which people can travel to the UK without the need to quarantine, what a nonsense when you discover that some of the countries on the list, still have travel restrictions with the UK. Another question comes to my mind as well as I was speaking to someone in Thailand earlier this week who is planning a visit to the UK this month – the UK quarantine will still apply to them as Thailand was not on the list and yet there have been no new cases or any deaths there for over a month. I appreciate that the people responsible are doing a difficult job, but I am finding myself having increasing sympathy with those who suggest things are being “done on the hoof” and “made up as they go along”.

I think we really do deserve some more “joined up thinking” and clearer messaging so we can all understand  what we can and cannot do.

In the UK today, we have had the announcements from Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, which give details of the next steps that are being taken to encourage and maintain employment and to get people spending again. Even more mountains of funding are being promised and as unemployment is one of the major concerns, particularly for younger people, I think you have to say that the measures being deployed should help, but on their own, they will not solve the problem totally – they are however, steps in the right direction. As Rishi said in his presentation, whatever he announces, he will be criticised and already we have seen the comments from opposition MPs and commentators saying he has not gone far enough - oh to be a politician – it’s not for me, that’s for certain!

I did smile at the gimmick he announced right at the end of his presentation, with discount vouchers being available for meals at restaurants and other outlets in August on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays – 50% off up to a total of £10 each, including children at qualifying places. On a serious note, this must suggest some concerns that people will not be venturing out and spending the amounts that are needed to support the hospitality & leisure industry – time will tell on that one.

So, what has been happening in the investment world since I last wrote? More of the same really with markets bouncing up and down in a fairly volatile fashion as they respond to the latest bit of unexpected news and sentiment, but in reality, nothing of much consequence

to report!

Having reviewed the end of Q2 summaries from my friends at TAM Asset Management, I think it is worth passing on a couple of their thoughts:

  • Whilst stock markets have risen as lockdown measures were slowly lifted, and investor sentiment has turned more positive, we remain cautious and will stay underweight in stock market linked funds although we have partially increased our exposure since Q1.
  • Importantly, we continue to favour a high-quality approach, with a focus on companies with a strong Balance Sheet that will benefit from an improvement in the economic outlook, but would also survive should the health outlook deteriorate again.

In my language, that means that they continue to be very selective with their investment decisions, preferring a cautious approach, with a view to preserving value and protecting the longer term. I think that says it all.

In terms of RAFP news, I have now booked a trip to Spain and hopefully Portugal in September, which will enable me to meet with all our clients there as I have not seen any of them since May 2019, which is a much longer gap than usual. We are taking the boat from Portsmouth to Santander and driving down which will give me the greatest flexibility should things change and will keep us away from public transport as much as possible. Fingers crossed that goes ahead as planned. (I need Portugal to go on the UK list before then as well of course!)

I think that’s all for now so please, stay safe and we will keep in touch.

With best wishes.Richard, Chris and Lesley

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