When I woke up this morning, I remembered it is a rather special day for 3 reasons. Firstly, it is News & Views day and then it’s the inauguration of the 46th president of the United States – oh, and it is Chris’s birthday – I did remember, and my order of priority was not as recited of course! In fact, I really pushed the boat out – a cup of tea in bed, what better way to start the day and earn a few “brownie points” too!
January always seems a month that drags on forever, and with storm Christoph starting to bash the UK as I write, it would be easy to be overtaken by bad weather blues and the general doom and gloom that appears to surround us at the moment.
Without a doubt, there are many challenges to be dealt with but at long last it looks as though the number of new cases in the UK is starting to subside quite dramatically. This will of course take some time to filter through to the number of people being treated in hospital and sadly, we recorded the highest one day total number of deaths this week.
However, there is good news though, and the benefits of this are just around the corner, as the rate of people being vaccinated, now significantly exceeds the number of new cases each day and remarkably, subject to supplies being maintained, we are on course to see the target number of vaccinations being achieved as the next group of over 70’s start to get their invitations through the post and the programme continues full steam ahead.
Our thoughts do go out to the frontline workers though and in particular, those people working in the NHS. I think it speaks volumes that a high percentage of them are now suffering with PTSD, akin to those who have been in the firing line in combat situations. Whilst we see the pictures on the TV, we cannot begin to imagine the levels of stress they must be going through every day as they try to care for the sick and save lives. Simply saying thank you just seems so inadequate somehow!
Whilst opinions differ, we are likely to see lockdown remain in place for a few weeks yet and probably beyond the next Government review date, which falls mid-February in England, but hopefully, we will also see some details begin to emerge as to how measures will then be eased and I would expect travel restrictions will start to be relaxed progressively, even though travel corridors to and from the UK are temporarily closed at the present time.
Boris Johnson seems to think that by Easter, which is early April this year, we will have a much clearer picture – that combined with a nice bit of Spring weather will be just what we need.
Turning now to the financial markets, they have been unusually quite over recent days, but all major markets are showing an increase since the beginning of the year. As I have said many times before, markets do not like uncertainty, and they are always trying to anticipate where fortunes are heading some months ahead.
They are therefore, already factoring in the positive impact of the vaccination programmes and anticipated outcomes, which is why we can expect to see markets move ahead of the recovery from the pandemic.
Regardless of the media speculating about double dip recessions and trying as always to look for bad news, the general feeling with the investment experts we talk to is that 2021 should be a positive year and that we should see sustainable growth for some time to come.
There is an expectation that the UK in particular will benefit and one commentator went as far as to say “We believe the combination of a Brexit deal and the fact that the UK economy has been one of the harder hit COVID economies, suggests that the UK’s bounce back will be sharper than other markets.” That having been said, they also went on to say that for the time being, they remain cautious and always they “have one eye on the potential for further volatility stemming from factors outside our scope.”
Slowly but surely the days will get longer, and as they do, I think we can become more optimistic on many fronts, but we should also be mindful of those around us who may be suffering more than we are.
Let me close with a couple of quotes from Abraham Lincoln that I think are relevant to today: “Folks are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” and “Whatever you are, be a good one.”
As always take good care
Richard, Chris and Lesley