Global Market Overview – March 2021
March marked the one-year anniversary of the first COVID lockdown. Although it might not feel like it, the end is very much in sight. The “third wave” COVID headlines will dominate, but we believe that the ongoing vaccine programmes still offer an overwhelming reason to be positive.
In the UK, cases are still falling and deaths are plummeting as most of those that are at risk of death have had at least one vaccine. On Sunday 28 March, London celebrated its second day this year with no deaths. In the US, Biden has announced that 90% of adults in the US will be eligible for the vaccine by 19 April. This is why COVID is falling away from investors consciousness.
On 3 March, Sunak delivered the UK budget. Although our portfolios are globally diversified, the overall message fits with our conviction that a strong economic recovery is on its way. The Office for Budget Responsibility predicted 4% growth this year, followed by 7.3% in 2022. The result of this would be that the economy would return to its pre-COVID level by the middle of 2022, much sooner than most economists expected this time a year ago. On top of this, unemployment is expected to peak at 6.5%, massively down from estimates of 11.9% from July last year. This means 1.8 million fewer people without a job.
Shortly after the budget, Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package won final approval in congress. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development then revised up their estimate of global economy growth from 4.2% in December to 5.6%, thanks in large to Biden’s stimulus package.
The recovery is already happening… The world has never seen as much coordinated stimulus as in the past year – and the impact is yet to come. We believe this sets the stage for a strong economic recovery across the world in 2021. The return to growth will occur at slightly different paces in different places – much of Asia is already back on track, the US should have a vibrant start to the year, with Europe finishing strongly.
The post-COVID consumer will make up for lost time… Vaccination rollouts make the end of lockdowns real, and people are making big plans. Through a combination of savings, government support and job growth, consumers have never had more firepower following a crisis.
Investors should try to focus on the fact that investing in the stock market over the long term, is a powerful tool to preserve the purchasing power of their wealth and on ensuring that they have an appropriate asset allocation for the level of risk with which they feel comfortable. A disciplined approach to asset allocation and identifying good active managers who can navigate these conditions successfully remains of the utmost importance.
With thanks to Seven Investment Management LLP for their views and market thoughts.
RiverPeak Wealth Limited