It is time for another look at what has been going on over the last week and probably the biggest change we have seen is the progressive announcements easing lockdown in different parts of the world, which of course is a very positive thing, but it brings with it a whole new set of considerations. Once again, I find myself trying to sift through the information from various sources to try to form a reasonable view of things.
For example, the opening of shops, bars, restaurants and hairdressers in Italy and borders being opened for international travel, gives the impression they are taking much larger steps than the UK. Of course, they went into lockdown a lot earlier than the UK, so you would expect them to be ahead in the process now. My understanding is that strict precautions to maintain social distancing are being employed so it will be interesting to see what impact there is on the number of coronavirus cases and whether there is a significant increase.
Yesterday, I caught a small part of an interview with Sir David Attenborough when he was talking about the human race being a social animal and that is why social distancing can be difficult for people to maintain and I guess he has a point.
What we are also seeing is a potential “new syndrome”, which I have seen abbreviated to FOGO – fear of going out, and I think this could be a real concern with some people. This is certainly something Government representatives have made reference to and it could become a concern. As always, keeping things in perspective, taking sensible precautions and remaining vigilant are all important factors, but there are some people in our society who find it more difficult to deal with than others. In one of my earlier messages, I was talking about mental health and where there is support material available.
Actually, this week is Mental Health Awareness Week. We are all living through these very strange circumstances and all have a role to play in supporting each other. There are lots of support services available including Mind, the Every Mind Matters campaign, Mental Health Foundation and more. These links may be helpful if you know a vulnerable person. Just picking up the phone for a chat can go a long way to helping to lift the spirits of someone who may be feeling cut off.
Turning now to the financial considerations, we know there is going to be a severe impact globally and recession will be quite deep. That having been said, central Banks are still pumping eyewatering amounts of money into the system to support the global economy and in the US, the Fed have said that there is no limit to the amount of funding that will be employed.
Talking of employment, by now you will know that I am suspicious of statistics so when I heard the BBC yesterday reporting the unemployment figures for the UK and saying that we had now equalled the unemployment figures of 26 years ago and were presenting this (in my view) as part of their doom and gloom message, I just knew I had to have a look and logged on to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) website and sure enough, their latest report to the end of March 2020 was published on 19th May.
I am a realist and I know that there will be an increasing impact on unemployment and that this will in turn, play a part in the recession, but have a look at the ONS chart below which looks at the proportion of the working population in the UK who are unemployed. Whilst there will be worse news to come and the graph will inevitably continue the “up-tick”, I don’t see the position in the same way as the BBC clearly do! Before the “selloff” in March, the UK had record high employment and record low unemployment. This chart takes both factors into account and I think paints a more realistic view. I must remember to have a look in 3 month’s time to see how it changes.
As for the markets, it has been more of the same with broadly neutral news if you iron out the ups and downs. I believe it is a time to remain cautious and although there will be volatility for some months to come, I believe we will be able to look through that turmoil to brighter days ahead.
With best wishes and stay safe.
Richard, Chris and Lesley