Please see below for Brooks MacDonald’s Daily Investment Bulletin received by us yesterday 19/08/2021:
What has happened
Markets spent much of Wednesday in a holding pattern ahead of the release of the Fed July meeting minutes. That changed when the minutes came out, as they showed that most officials looked to be favour of starting to taper bond purchases by the end of 2021. As a result, expectations around Fed Chair Powell’s speech next week at Jackson Hole will have gone up a notch or two, as investors await fresh clues on what a potential strategy for tapering might look like. After the release, US 10-year Treasury yields gave up the day’s gains of around 3bps to finish broadly flat at around 1.26%, but in early trade this morning, have traded lower, below 1.25%. US equities, already small down on the day, moved lower after the report was published, with cyclical and growth sectors falling in broadly equal measure. Overnight Asian markets are following Wall Street’s lead, trading lower this morning. Separately, Wednesday also saw the latest UK Consumer Price Index (CPI) data for July, which came in at 2% year on year, below June’s 2.5%, and below expectations of 2.3%. However, such is the ongoing distortion from base effects and reopening imbalances that neither the ‘transitory’ nor ‘sustained’ inflation camp was able to claim the advantage.
Fed releases its July meeting minutes
The release of Fed meeting minutes doesn’t normally get this much attention, but such is the focus around when the US Fed might look to start tapering its asset purchase programme. Regarding the subject of the taper, the minutes showed that ‘most participants noted that, provided that the economy were to evolve broadly as they anticipated, they judged that it could be appropriate to start reducing the pace of asset purchases this year.’ The committee also discussed the method by which to taper asset purchases, with most participants wanting to taper purchases of Treasury securities and Mortgage Backed Securities ‘proportionally in order to end both sets of purchases at the same time.’ Finally, the minutes showed members wanted to emphasise the decisions between tapering and rate hiking would be separate and not dependent on each other, saying that ‘participants indicated that the standards for raising the target range for the federal funds rate were distinct from those associated with tapering asset purchases’. This last point seemed to fit with comments earlier in the day on Wednesday from St Louis Fed President Bullard, who said that he preferred that tapering were finished by Q1 2022, and that Q4 2022 was a ‘logical place’ for interest rate hikes to commence.
US health officials announce plan for widescale COVID vaccine booster shots
US health officials including Dr Fauci, Biden’s Chief Medical Advisor, came out with a joint statement on Wednesday, saying that subject to final FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) approvals, the US would recommend booster shots to all Americans who had received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. The outlined plan on Wednesday suggested an booster dose should follow eight months after the second dose, and that the booster doses could begin during the week of 20th September. The drive to offer booster shots has come because of the rise in delta variant cases, as well as signs that the vaccines’ effectiveness is falling over time. According to CDC Director Walensky on Wednesday, ‘our plan is to protect the American people, to stay ahead of this virus’. As for those who had received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine, health officials suggested they might also need booster shots, but that they were awaiting more data, principally because the J&J vaccine rollout had started much later than the other vaccines.
What does Brooks Macdonald think
Vaccines remain the ultimate game-changer in the fight against the pandemic. With concerns of falling protection over time, booster shots have been expected, but the fact that the US has formalised a widescale plan around this should be positive for markets. The flip-side is that for every Pfizer or Moderna vaccine given as a booster, it is potentially one-less shot available for those in poorer economies who have yet to get their first or second shots. Reiterating this point, the WHO (World Health Organization) on Wednesday objected to the US plan on the grounds that it could exacerbate vaccine-inequality especially for relatively poorer countries globally. If that assessment is right, then it probably lengthens the odds of seeing a synchronised economic recovery globally.
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Keep safe and well
Paul Green DipFA