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Please see below, Daily Investment Bulletin, received from Brooks Macdonald yesterday afternoon, which provides information on economic developments impacting European and US markets.

What has happened

Monetary policy and COVID provided the drum-beat for investors on Tuesday. In Europe, markets fell as investors appeared to be nervous around the chances that the European Central Bank (ECB) might taper from its current ‘significantly higher’ level of PEPP (Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme) asset purchases when ECB governors meet on Thursday. Meanwhile, over in the US, markets were similarly weak as the COVID delta variant continued to weigh on sentiment in the wake of last week’s weaker US jobs report. At a sector level, technology stocks were a relative outperformer on the day.

UK government signals tax rise on workers, businesses and shareholders

UK prime minister Johnson announced a tax hike for workers, businesses and shareholders on Tuesday. Billed as necessary to help support the NHS as well as social care spending needs, national insurance, which is tax on earnings, will rise by 1.25% from April 2022 for both employees as well as employers. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies noted on Tuesday, ‘it is really a 2.5 per cent tax rise on earnings … today’s announcements constituted a Budget in all but name’. The Institute of Directors also rounded on the tax plan this week, calling it ‘an extraordinary time to be considering adding to the cost of employing people’. As well as the increase to national insurance tax, there is also a hike on dividend tax with an increase of 1.25%. According to the plans announced, from April 2023, national insurance tax rates will revert back to the current level and the rise will be replaced by a new dedicated ‘health and social care levy’, which will become a separate tax on earned income from April 2023. Separately, the government also confirmed on Tuesday that the ‘triple-lock’ formula for annual state pension increases would be suspended for one year. Instead, the calculation will be based on the greater of 2.5% or inflation, while the third component of average wage increases would be disregarded for one year.

US plans COVID ‘six-pronged strategy’

On Tuesday it was confirmed by White House press secretary Psaki, that US President Biden would later this week on Thursday outline a ‘six-pronged strategy’ and which would involve ‘working across the public and private sectors to help continue to get the pandemic under control’. The announcement is likely to include an update on the plans, initially announced in August, around delivering COVID vaccine ‘booster jabs’ likely later this month. According to US CDC’s vaccine tracker (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), 75% of US adults have now had at least one vaccine dose.

What does Brooks Macdonald think?

The UK rise in national insurance contributions breaks a key Conservative manifesto pledge not to increase any of the main rates of tax. That said, it’s worth remembering that this promise pre-dates the COVID pandemic which went on to up-end many governments’ spending plans around the world. In terms of what it means for markets, perhaps more significant is the broader cadence from policy makers, in that following the unprecedented levels of fiscal support during the pandemic last year, this year, fiscal prudence seems to be the dominant theme. At the edges, this also perhaps adds a bit of a headwind for those investors looking for a sustained fiscal impetus to drive a durable reflationary narrative. As we have said before, with 2021 being a year of transition, this is not the year to try to decisively swing the asset allocation ‘bat’ behind any one particular investment style. Instead, balance in portfolios remains key.

Source: Bloomberg as at 08/09/2021. TR denotes Net Total Return.

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9th September 2021