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Please see below article received from Brewin Dolphin yesterday evening, which analyses the performance of markets in relation to the big news events of the past week. 

Global equities were mixed last week after renewed lockdown restrictions in Europe dented hopes of a broad economic reopening.

Stock markets in Asia suffered the most, with Japan’s Nikkei declining 2.1% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng falling 2.3%. In Japan, the recent lifting of the state of emergency in Tokyo provided some optimism, but this was outweighed by concerns that Europe’s third wave of Covid-19 infections could delay the global economic recovery.

France’s CAC 40 ended the week in the red after the country extended its lockdown to cover a third of the country. Germany’s Dax and the UK’s FTSE 100 posted gains of 0.5% and 0.9%, respectively, following a rebound on Wall Street and positive UK retail sales data.

In the US, the S&P 500 edged up 1.6% following Joe Biden’s pledge to vaccinate 200m Americans in the first 100 days of his administration – double his previous target. Energy stocks performed particularly strongly after the closure of the Suez Canal boosted oil prices. The Nasdaq declined 0.6% amid ongoing interest rate and inflation concerns.

Stocks flat after hedge fund fire sale

Stock markets were largely flat on Monday as investors turned their attention to the fall-out from the collapse of family office hedge fund Archegos Capital Management.

Archegos was forced to sell billions of dollars’ worth of shares after its positions turned sour, prompting a margin call from its prime brokers. Nomura and Credit Suisse, who were among the banks handling Archegos’ trades, warned of significant losses after Archegos defaulted on the margin calls, forcing brokers to dump shares.

So far, the impact of the fire sale has been limited to the stocks that were part of Archegos’ portfolio and its banking and brokerage partners. The Dow edged up 0.3% on Monday, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq ended the day down 0.1% and 0.6%, respectively.

European shares also managed to brush off the fall-out from Archegos, with the STOXX 600 adding 0.1% and Germany’s Dax gaining 0.5%. The FTSE 100 closed down 0.1% as the pound gained 0.03% on the dollar.

The FTSE 100 was up 0.7% in early trading on Tuesday, following encouraging news about the vaccine roll out in the UK and the US.

Suez Canal blockage disrupts trade

Last week’s headlines were dominated by the blockage of the Suez Canal – one of the world’s busiest trading routes. On 23 March, the 200,000-tonne ship Ever Given ran aground, resulting in a queue of approximately 370 ships either side. Some ships resorted to rerouting around the southern tip of Africa.

Around 12% of world trade flows through the canal, carrying more than $1trn worth of goods every year. Delays can cause severe disruption to supply chains, ultimately leading to a shortage of goods and higher prices. On the day after the ship ran aground, there was a 5.8% spike in the price of Brent crude oil.

The Ever Given was finally freed yesterday (29 March), but clearing the backlog of container vessels, tankers and bulk carriers is expected to take several days.

Europe extends lockdown restrictions

Last week also saw renewed lockdown restrictions in several European counties, as a third wave of Covid-19 infections spreads across the continent.

Data released on Sunday revealed the number of new Covid-19 patients in intensive care units in France has risen to 4,872 – close to the November peak but below the high of 7,000 in April 2020. In Germany, the incidence of the virus per 100,000 rose to 130 on Sunday, from 104 a week ago.

Rising infections, a slow vaccine rollout and renewed lockdown measures are threatening Europe’s economic recovery. The European Commission is calling for tougher controls on vaccine exports, after its own data suggested 77m doses have been exported outside the bloc, while 88m doses have been delivered to its members.

Vaccine rollout affecting services recovery

The speed at which vaccines are being distributed is having a profound effect on the recovery of the global services sector. In the eurozone, the manufacturing PMI has surged to a three-year high, whereas the services PMI is stuck in contractionary territory below 50. The recovery in services is expected to be pushed back because of delays in issuing the vaccine and the surge in new coronavirus cases.

In contrast, the UK’s services sector is outpacing manufacturing for the first time since the start of the pandemic. In March, the services PMI rose to a sevenmonth high of 56.8, while the manufacturing PMI stood at a three-month high of 55.6. The rebound in services suggests businesses are getting ready for a reopening from mid-April.

Meanwhile, the US manufacturing PMI rose to 59.0 in March, while the services PMI increased to 60.0 from 59.8. The University of Michigan revised its gauge of March consumer sentiment to 84.9, its highest level in a year, while weekly jobless claims fell more than expected to 684,000. Sales of existing and new homes tumbled in February, but this was largely because of severe winter weather.

We will continue to publish relevant content as lockdown restrictions begin to ease over coming the coming weeks. Please check in again with us soon.

Stay safe.