Sometimes, when I sit down to write News & Views, I wonder what I might find to write about, but this time my problem will be not writing too much, as there has been so much in the news over the last 2 weeks.
The two significant talking points are the positive vaccine developments with Pfizer and the outcome of the US Presidential Election.
Whilst both are major news items, I think it is appropriate to talk about the Covid 19 vaccine developments first, which are in themselves a potential game changer. Markets certainly seemed to think so in the extremely positive reaction we saw at the beginning of this week. As I have often said, markets don’t like uncertainty and what the Pfizer announcement achieved, was telling markets that it is now highly likely that there will be an effective treatment for the virus, but if you simply followed the markets themselves, you could be forgiven for thinking that all the associated problems are over and that of course is not the case. However, markets, as always, are looking ahead and trying to determine where financial trends will go in the future, and in that regard, they are now starting to factor in the global economic upturn which will surely follow as the effects of the vaccine slowly work their way into our daily lives.
Of course, Pfizer is not the only vaccine being worked on and we are expecting to hear some results soon from the Oxford – Astra Zeneca solution and if they produce similar results, the world will be well on the way to damage limitation and an ability to move positively to a more stable position. I am deliberately avoiding the phrase “back to normal” because I do not believe that we will go back to exactly how we were prior to Covid 19 and nor should we! You only have to consider the very low rates of “normal ‘flu” for example which have been a fraction of previous numbers, which it is believed is largely down to hand washing, mask wearing and hand sanitisation – these are all disciplines we would do well to adopt as being normal practice going forwards.
I think we should also recognise the speed with which the pharmaceutical world is managing to bring these vaccines to market – the normal timeline for a new vaccine would be 10 years rather than the few months these results have been achieved in – well done indeed!
In the immediate term, England is of course in lockdown 2 and as ever, the arguments over effectiveness rage on, but now that a solution is in sight, with perhaps the majority of the over 50s and all vulnerable people having been vaccinated by Easter 2021, the “kicking the can down the road” aspect of lockdown, might well prove worthy in saving a few more lives in the interim. Patience is still the name of the game in this respect.
Turning now to the US, there is a saying that fact is stranger than fiction and that has to be the case when you consider the US Presidential Election. Whilst we knew we were unlikely to know a result on election night, who would have predicted the crazy situation which now applies. In theory, Joe Biden is a clear winner and any normal or reasonable loser would have conceded by now and offered their congratulations to the new President Elect, but there you have it – the words “normal” & “reasonable” do not appear to sit comfortably in the same sentence as “President Trump”.
Looking through the mass of reporting on the subject, it would seem that the cries of “foul” and “fraud” from Trump are largely unfounded and whilst there may well be some questionable cases, these are in the tens rather than the thousands that Trump would need to make a difference. With such high stakes, you can understand high tensions, but what we are seeing now is anything but “Presidential” behaviour and some of the people tagging along have really surprised me. One example being Rudy Giuliani, now Trump’s lawyer and key adviser, who previously was the Mayor of New York City from 1994 – 2001, during which time he oversaw the “civic cleanup” and then of course he dealt with the 09/11 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers, in such an effective way that he earned the title “America’s Mayor” in some circles and yet now he has become somewhat questionable in his more recent and current pursuits! For me, this is a big disappointment for someone I previously held in high regard.
We should also remember, that whilst he may have lost the Election, Trump is not a total loser as in excess of 70 million people did vote for him and I believe he has recorded the second highest ever total of Presidential votes – sadly for him, it is Joe Biden who now holds the new record. Surely those people deserve better than the display they are now seeing and perhaps even making some people question the wisdom of trying to return him to office!
In the meantime, Joe Biden is moving forwards with his plans for the transition of power, with his inauguration due to happen on January 20th and he seems unphased by the potential of having to remove “trespassers” from the White House along the way. Let’s just hope that eventually, Trump decides to go, (I was going to say quietly, but that’s too much to hope for) and America can move forwards and help to lead the world out of the recession caused by the coronavirus – that is the battle which lies ahead.
Speaking of battles, although the commemorations had to be somewhat muted this year, it was good to see that we were still able to observe some traditions on Remembrance Day, paying our respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the all too many conflicts there have been in living memory and beyond. I thought the ceremony in Westminster Abbey, marking the 100th anniversary of the laying to rest of the unknown warrior a year after the end of the first world war was particularly moving.
I have previously flagged Covid 19, the US election and post Brexit trade terms as the 3 big uncertainties impacting markets, and with 2 of those now starting to move in to the background as far as markets are concerned, it will not be long before I should be able to offer some thoughts on the one remaining topic. An early Christmas present perhaps – it would be nice to think so.
As always, stay safe and we will keep in touch.
Richard, Chris & Lesley