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AJ Bell: Why the FTSE 100 is warming to an economic upturn

Please see below for one of AJ Bell’s latest investment articles, received by us yesterday 18/04/2021:

As the UK starts to emerge from its latest (and hopefully final) lockdown, the FTSE 100 already trades above the levels reached just before the pandemic first made its presence felt in China and Southern Europe in early 2020.

There can be no finer example of how financial markets are forward-looking, discounting mechanisms which seek to price in future events before they happen. Yet they are not right all the time. No-one, but no-one, owns a crystal ball (or at least one that works) and if markets really were that prescient, then there would never be major sell-offs or upward surges, as no-one would ever be surprised by anything.

What the advisers and clients must therefore do, in order, is assess the facts as they are known, determine the current consensus about what will happen and – by looking at valuation – decide whether the risks are to the upside or downside. Therefore, they must look at the broad range of possibilities concerning what may happen, what could be the biggest surprises and their potential impact so they can decide whether the potential upside rewards outweigh the downside risks over their preferred time horizon.

In sum, the best fund managers are not necromancers or chancers trying to guess the future. They are experts at judging probabilities and act according to the cold maths of valuation, be that measured by earnings, cash flow or yield. It may not take much good news to boost a market that has fallen sharply to price in negative events (it may even just take the absence of fresh bad news), while it may not take much bad news to jolt a market if it has made big gains.

The FTSE 100 bottomed in late March 2020 at 4,994, long before the worst news about the pandemic and its toll on lives and the economy became known. After a near-40% gain in the UK’s headline index over the past year, advisers and clients must once more assess the balance of probabilities so they can decide whether the index has further to run or not and a good place to start is earnings forecasts.

New highs

At face value, it does seem odd that the FTSE 100 is trading above its pre-pandemic levels, even if the number of daily new COVID-19 cases is back to where it was last March and last September, and the vaccination programme continues apace. The economic outlook is still uncertain: the effects upon the behaviour of corporations and consumers alike are yet to reveal themselves and other parts of the globe are less advanced in their race to inoculate their populations.

But it does make sense if you think that the consensus earnings forecasts for the FTSE 100 are going to be accurate. An aggregate of the estimates made for each member of the index suggests that the FTSE 100’s total pre-tax profit will be £178 billion in 2021 and £205 billion in 2022.

FTSE 100 is forecast to make record pre-tax profit in 2022

Those figures exceed the £166 billion made in 2019, before the pandemic hit home. Moreover, if the 2022 forecast is attained, then that would represent a new all-time high for annual earnings, surpassing the £199 billion made in 2011.

In this context, it is not too hard to see why the FTSE 100 is trading where it is, or even make a case for further gains, since the index trades below its May 2018 zenith of 7,779 even though record profits are expected for 2022.

Advisers and clients must therefore decide whether the forecasts are reliable, too optimistic or too pessimistic and what must happen for analysts to be off-beam (which they usually are, owing to the absence of that crystal ball).

Heavy metal

To do this, advisers and clients need to parse the FTSE 100’s earnings mix. Roughly 60% of forecast profits come from just three sectors: mining (now the single biggest earner), financials, and oil and gas.

Just three sectors are expected to generate around 60% of FTSE 100 earnings in 2021 and 2022

In some ways, this makes it easy for advisers and clients to judge the upside and downside potential: in crude terms, the stronger the economic recovery the better, so far as the FTSE 100 is concerned as the index’s key industries offer huge gearing into GDP growth. The opposite also applies. A weak recovery (or heaven forbid an unexpected double-dip) would be potentially a nasty surprise.

A breakdown of forecast earnings growth makes this picture clearer still. Analysts think that the FTSE 100’s aggregate pre-tax profit will rise by £75.1 billion this year and by a further £27.1 billion in 2022. Miners and oils are expected to generate two thirds of that between them in 2021. Oils, consumer discretionary and financials are forecast to provide four fifths of the expected profit uplift in 2022.

Just three sectors are expected to generate more than 75% of forecast earnings growth in 2021 and 2022

Rising commodity prices and steepening yield curves would therefore be a good sign; falling and flattening ones would not. Those advisers and clients who buy into the narrative that inflation is coming, after being largely dormant for 40 years, will therefore feel right at home in the UK. Those who still fear debt-ridden deflation may be tempted to steer clear and seek their fortunes elsewhere.

Please continue to utilise these blogs and expert insights to keep your own holistic view of the market up to date.

Keep safe and well.

Paul Green DipFA


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Invesco Insights: Israel’s economic data starts to show the impact of vaccines

Please see below for one of the latest Invesco Insight articles written by Kristina Hooper, Chief Global Market Strategist at Invesco Ltd. This article was received by us today 07/04/2021:

A month ago, I wrote about the great progress Israel was making in terms of inoculating its citizens against COVID-19. At the time, I said that we would want to follow economic data in Israel closely for indications of what the US and UK could expect in the near future — as they are making swift progress in vaccinating their respective populations — as well as what any country can expect once it successfully vaccinates a significant portion of its population. Therefore, I think it’s worth re-visiting Israel to see the impact that widespread immunization has had on its economy. It’s clear that Israel’s vaccination program is not only having a substantial impact on consumer confidence, but also on spending.

Israel’s data shows the impact of vaccines

While vaccinations only began in December, they ramped up quickly. As of April 4, Israel has given at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to 59% of its population, with 54% fully vaccinated.1 The economic impact was seen relatively early on. As morbidity moderated, restrictions eased and the third lockdown was rolled back — and the Bank of Israel’s Composite State of the Economy Index for February increased by 0.4%.2

Mobility, which we have found to be a helpful indicator of economic activity, has increased substantially. By the end of March 2021, retail and recreation mobility (restaurants, cafes, shopping centers, movie theaters, etc.) was off by only 6% from January 2020 levels, while grocery and pharmacy mobility is actually higher than those early 2020 levels.3 And, not surprisingly, economic activity accelerated in March. Daily credit card data shows that the value of transactions for the week ending March 22 was actually 15% higher than it was in January 2020.4 By comparison, back in April 2020, the value of transactions was more than 40% below its level in January of 2020.4 The rebound in spending has been strongest in some of the areas hardest hit by the pandemic, especially leisure and tourism.

Why is this time different?

What makes this time different than past economic re-openings, like we saw in spring 2020? Before broad vaccinations, the re-opening of an economy was a double-edged sword. Typically, a re-opening would often be followed, after a lag, with an increase in COVID-19 infections. In addition, the increase in economic activity would typically be tempered because some consumers would be reluctant to go out and spend despite the re-opening because of health safety concerns.

I believe this time is different because vaccinated consumers will be more likely to re-engage in pre-pandemic economic activity and, according to medical research, should be well protected against COVID-19 — so spending should not be tempered as in past re-openings. Israel’s re-opening is already proving that vaccinations are leading to an uptick in consumer activity, and they haven’t seen another wave of COVID-19 infections.

A preview of what’s to come in the US and UK?

In my view, Israel’s current state illustrates what we can soon expect in countries such as the United States and then the United Kingdom — and in any country once it has achieved broad vaccination of its population. In the United States, 31% of the population has received at least one dose of a vaccine, and 18% have been fully vaccinated.1 In the United Kingdom, 47% of the population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, although only 7.8% of the population is fully vaccinated.1

The US economy is already seeing significant improvement, further helped by fiscal stimulus. For example, the March employment situation report saw a far-better-than-expected increase in non-farm payrolls at 916,000.5 And we just got the ISM Services PMI for March, which was also far better than expected, clocking in at 63.7 with all 18 services industries reported growth.6 The only problem is that COVID-19 infections are on the rise in some states in the US, so vaccinations will need to maintain momentum in order to slow and ultimately stop the rise in infections.

The UK is a bit more complicated and hasn’t shown as much improvement yet because it remains at a relatively strict level of pandemic-related lockdown, although stringency is being eased gradually.

Investment implications

I expect that rising vaccinations and improving economic data are likely to lead to a continued rise in bond yields and outperformance of smaller-cap and cyclical stocks, especially in countries that are leading the recovery.

I should add that in the US, there are a few clouds on the horizon in the form of growing fears of rising taxes. And that is likely to be the case for a number of countries burdened with higher debt levels created by the pandemic. While far from a reality at the moment, if an increase in taxes becomes more likely — especially a large increase in corporate taxes – we could see some shift in leadership, albeit modest, to larger-cap and more defensive names. However, it’s important to stress I don’t believe this would end the stock market recovery, but could just cause some rotation in leadership.

But right now, the focus is on the virus and vaccinations. As the Brookings-FT Tracking Index for the Global Economic Recovery has indicated, the ability to control COVID-19 is likely to be the main determinant of economic success in 2021.7 That is why the index shows major economies such as China and the US leading the global recovery. The index suggests that there may not be a coordinated global economic rebound, but that instead there may be a time lag for some countries, especially Europe and Latin America, given their lack of progress in vaccine rollout and general difficulties in controlling the virus. This isn’t surprising — and it’s something we anticipated last year when putting together our 2021 outlook. In other words, we believe an economic recovery is in the future for all parts of the world, but its timing and strength will be dictated by control of the virus and vaccine rollout progress, and so we will want to follow this data closely.

Key takeaways

Recent data has been positive

Mobility, which we have found to be a helpful indicator of economic activity, has increased substantially in Israel.

A preview of what’s to come?

In my view, Israel’s current state illustrates what we can expect in countries that achieve broad vaccination of their populations.

What might this mean for stocks?

I expect this economic recovery to be very robust, which may lead to outperformance by smaller-cap stocks and cyclical stocks.

Please continue to utilise these blogs and expert insights to keep your own holistic view markets up to date.

Keep safe and well.

Paul Green DipFA


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Brooks MacDonald Weekly Market Commentary 01/03/2021

Please see below for Brooks MacDonald’s latest weekly market commentary received by us late afternoon 01/03/2021:

In Summary:

  • Yield rises remain the major driver of equity markets
  • Johnson & Johnson’s single shot vaccine is approved in the US, adding to the breadth of vaccine supply
  • Israel eases some restrictions as the UK is set to lay out its reopening plans

Yield rises remain the major driver of equity markets

Last week saw a large uptick in volatility as higher yields caused a sell-off in markets that focused on secular growth sectors such as technology. Meanwhile, previously unloved sectors such as banks performed strongly on the back of steepening yield curves and lower expected defaults in the future as the economy recovers.

Johnson & Johnson’s single shot vaccine is approved in the US, adding to the breadth of vaccine supply

The theme of the last few days has been a tightening of restrictions, rather than loosening, as several European countries needed to roll back liberties and Auckland, New Zealand entered a fresh lockdown. More positively, the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine has been approved in the US with the company saying they can ship 100 million doses in H1 2021. While the efficacy data was less compelling for the J&J vaccine, it is recommended as a single dose vaccine which makes the rollout of logistics simpler.

The change in yields has had an outsized impact on technology companies

The ‘price’ of a financial asset is the sum of its future cashflows adjusted for a discount rate. In practice this means the sum of a company’s future earnings which are adjusted for interest rates plus an extra company specific risk premium on top. Value companies tend to produce higher earnings now but less exciting earnings in the future. Growth companies, by contrast, produce little now but are expected to make outsized earnings in the future. Because the earnings in growth companies tend to be further away, the discount rate is more important. Due to the power of compounding, a small change in interest rates can significantly reduce the present value of future earnings 10 or 20 years away. This is exactly what happened last week when a pickup in interest rate expectations caused high growth companies to look less attractive. The moves were relatively small, with the US 10 year rising around 7bps to just over 1.4% but with valuations richer in the technology space, this was enough to catalyse a sell-off.

Of course, the question is whether central banks will let further yield rises happen. So far, the Federal Reserve have pushed back against expectations for sustained inflation but have broadly welcomed the pickup in yields, saying it is reflective of an improved economic backdrop. The next Federal Reserve (Fed) meeting is on 16-17 March, however this week we hear from a series of members including Fed Chair Jerome Powell. Should rapid rises in yields continue to be a theme, we expect the Federal Reserve to step in, at least verbally, to steady further rises. Yield rises can impact both financial stability and damage the economic recovery so central banks will be paying close attention.

Please continue to utilise these blogs and expert insights to keep your own holistic view of the market up to date.

Keep safe and well

Paul Green DipFA


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Brooks MacDonald Daily Investment Bulletin: 11/02/2021

Please see below for the latest Brooks MacDonald Daily Investment Bulletin received by us today 11/02/2021:

What has happened

Markets were largely rangebound for the second day in a row as investors await any change to the vaccine narrative and the size and pace of US Fiscal Stimulus.

Fed Chair Powell

Yesterday Fed Chair Powell spoke to the Economic Club of New York. The two overall themes were an ongoing need for fiscal support and pushing back against concerns over inflationary pressures. Powell highlighted that the US market had struggled to generate inflation even when the jobless rate was at the multi-decade lows of 3.5% and that significant slack existed now. The Federal Reserve’s estimates of the true level of unemployment are c. 10% after the ‘hidden slack’ has been adjusted for. Powell weighed in on the stimulus debate stressing the headwinds to inflationary pressures and pushing back on the notion that larger stimulus would cause the US economy to overheat. These comments come as the various votes on the elements of the stimulus bill are moving through the House of Representatives with a vote expected on the full bill in a fortnight. On monetary policy, he stressed the need for ‘supportive monetary policy’ for the US to reach full employment again, calming fears that the Federal Reserve would look to reduce stimulus in the foreseeable future.

Vaccine update

The World Health Organisation recommended that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine should be used on all adults even in countries where new variants are present. The WHO also endorsed the method, trialled by the UK government, to delay the second dose in order to provide a higher percentage of protection in the community at a faster rate. There has been some debate, particularly in European countries, over the efficacy of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in various demographic groups and the WHO’s support should help shift that debate. As we have mentioned previously, the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be a workhorse for population wide protection due to its low cost and easier logistics, the WHO’s comments reduce the risk of countries needing to seek new supply sources.

What does Brooks Macdonald think

Fed Chair Powell’s comments yesterday very much played to the market’s narrative that the output gap (the gap between current output and potential output) will keep inflation under control for the time being. The debate on the overall size of the US Fiscal Stimulus package is being determined by a series of smaller votes on components of the broader bill. Powell’s comments yesterday may help calm concerns over the overall size of the bill as it progresses through Congress.

Markets globally will be responding to ongoing vaccination rollouts and keeping up to date with developments as they happen can, as ever, help inform your own views of the markets.  

Please utilise our blogs in keeping your own views of the market up to date.

Keep safe and well.

Paul Green 11/02/2021

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Brooks MacDonald Weekly Market Commentary | Vaccine distribution continues to be key focus for investors

Please see below for the latest Brooks MacDonald Weekly Investment Bulletin received by us yesterday 01/02/2021:

Vaccine nationalism raises its head as competing contracts and supply issues collide

A bout of risk off sentiment hit equities, bringing most European and US indices slightly negative for the first month of 2021. The risk of a vaccine trade war, less positive data from Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine and the risk of further COVID-19 restrictions all dampened the mood. Friday saw a bubbling over of increasingly hostile words between the EU and AstraZeneca. In short, the EU imposed the right to ban vaccine exports outside of the EU (and select countries) and effectively imposed a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This proved only temporary, with the hard border reversed and the prospect of export bans to the UK played down as Friday and the weekend progressed. So called ‘vaccine nationalism’ has been a threat for several months as issues over regional supply chains combine with the sequencing of competing contracts and an increasingly frustrated populace. On Sunday, the UK announced that it had provided almost 600,000 vaccinations in one day (over 1% of adults), which may suggest that as supply increases, countries will be able to work quickly to inoculate their populations.

Markets look ahead to Friday’s US employment data after last month’s disappointment

This Friday sees the important non-farm payroll US employment figures released. Last month saw a decline of 140,000 jobs1 , the first decline since the first wave of the pandemic. This month economists are expecting a 50,000 increase and therefore for the headline 6.7% unemployment rate to remain stable2 . US economic data has shown resilience in the face of the current COVID-19 wave but there is still a large amount of spare capacity in the labour market, something that may curb any bubbling inflationary pressures. With employment a major item on President Biden’s agenda, it seems likely that the US Stimulus Package will move through Congress under the Budget Reconciliation rules. The downside of using this process is that there is a limit on the scope of the legislation and a limit on the number of times the process can be used.

US stimulus may progress using the budget reconciliation process but this has limits

The prospect of using the budget reconciliation process has dampened expectations of a bipartisan agreement that could leave the door open for further stimulus over the coming months. The reconciliation process means that the bill can pass with a simple majority in the Senate rather than being held up by the filibuster. The reconciliation process has historically only been used once per calendar year due to its inbuilt limitations, so there will be additional scrutiny on the proposed package if it is expected to be the only US stimulus in 2021.

Weekly investment bulletins like these are a good way to get regular input from market experts. 

The mass rollout of the vaccine is set to cause gradual change to the market outlook, hopefully life and economies will improve.

Please keep up to date with our blogs.

Keep safe and well.

Paul Green 02/02/2021

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Blackfinch Group Monday Market Update

Please see below for the latest Blackfinch Group Monday Market Update received by us today 30/11/2020:


  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an end to the second national lockdown, with the country moving to a three-tier system after 2nd December. Additional rules governing the Christmas period were also announced, with three households allowed to form a ‘bubble’ between 23rd and 27th December.
  • The Composite UK Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to a six-month low of 47.4 in November, from 52.1 in October, indicating a contraction in business activity. The services sector PMI contracted from 51.4 to 45.8, while there was expansion in manufacturing from 53.7 to 55.2.
  • Rishi Sunak announced the Government’s latest spending review. He confirmed that £55bn of COVID-related spending is in place for the next fiscal year, in addition to the £280bn allocated for 2020.
  • The Office for Budget Responsibility released its forecasts, showing its central case. This is where vaccines are widely available from mid-2021, leading to the economy being approximately 3% smaller in 2024/25 than if the pandemic hadn’t happened.


  • The General Services Administration announced that it would begin the formal transition process to the president-elect Joe Biden. This will allow Biden and his team access to both funding and government agency officials. It’s the first sign that a smooth transition of power may take place.
  • Initial jobless claims came in ahead of expectations at a five-week high of 778,000
  • The Federal Reserve meeting minutes from early November showed that policymakers will consider further stimulus via asset purchase mechanisms


  • China’s industrial profits rose for the sixth consecutive month, posting an increase of 28.2% year on year according to the country’s National Bureau of Statistics


  • Results from clinical trials of the COVID-19 vaccine in joint development by Astrazeneca and Oxford University showed 70% effectiveness across all dosing regimens tested. One regimen showed efficacy of 90%.

These articles provide concise well-informed views that cover the whole of the market and are useful to maintain your up to date view of the markets globally.

Please keep reading our blogs regularly to give yourself a holistic and up to date view of the markets.

Keep safe and well.

Paul Green


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Brooks McDonald Daily Investment Bulletin 25/11/2020

Please see below for Brooks McDonald’s latest Daily Investment Bulletin, received by us this morning 25/11/2020:

What has happened

The US market hit another all-time high yesterday as the vaccine backdrop mixed with positive news around the US transition and expectations that Janet Yellen will be appointed Biden’s Treasury Secretary. The bias towards non-tech stocks continued with the equal weight US market outperforming the traditional index yet again.

Vaccine update

As more vaccines are revealed we expect the pace of news flow in this area to increase and yesterday Sinopharm submitted an application to bring its vaccine to the Chinese market. The Sinopharm vaccine has already been approved for emergency use and has been rolled out quite widely already. Official approval would also open the door to exports to the number of ASEAN countries that have bought the vaccine. This could be a meaningful step for countries without access, either due to economic or political factors, to the cheap Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. On the latter vaccine we saw information that the half dose followed by full dose combination which achieved 90% efficacy was only administered to those under 55. This may suggest the population wide efficacy of that strategy is far lower but that isn’t necessarily a problem. Higher cost (financially and logistically) vaccines with high efficacy can be used for those most vulnerable but the cheaper vaccines with equivalent efficacy only in younger cohorts, can be used for herd immunity.

UK Spending Review

Today will see the long-awaited announcement from the UK Chancellor on the state of the UK’s Public finances as well as detailing some short-term next steps. Importantly this is only a one-year review which has been scaled down given the uncertainties of COVID (and indeed Brexit). The tone of the announcement is likely to retain a focus on supporting the economy and jobs short term with the FT reporting that a £4.3bn employment plan will be revealed. That number is however relatively small compared to the numbers in March and this reflects the new context of a far tighter fiscal backdrop coming into 2021, something that will be outlined during the speech.

What does Brooks Macdonald think

The formal budget was deliberately pushed back as the UK economy simply couldn’t handle fiscal tightening when we are in a period of rolling lockdowns. Even next year the government will need to strike a cautious balance between getting public finances back on track and not derailing a delicate recovery which would ultimately generate a need for more fiscal support down the line.

These articles provide concise and well-informed views that cover the whole of the market and are useful to maintain your up to date view of the markets globally.

Please keep reading our blogs regularly to give yourself a holistic and up to date view of the markets.

Keep safe and well,

Paul Green


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Weekly Market Commentary: A key week ahead for Brexit talks amid significant Downing Street changes

Please see below for detailed economic and market news from Brooks McDonald’s in-house research team, received by us the evening of 16/11/2020:

Last week was dominated by a cyclical rotation caused by positive news around the Pfizer vaccine

Friday capped off a partial unwind of the sizeable rotation into cyclical stocks as last week’s newsflow was dominated by the Pfizer vaccine story. The next few weeks may see further efficacy data from other challengers such as Moderna and Oxford/AstraZeneca. Meanwhile, another Brexit deadline looms this week.

With changes at Number 10, markets are attempting to read the implications for policy

With a number of senior advisers leaving Downing Street at the end of last week, including Dominic Cummings, markets were scrambling to work out what this means for policy as well as Brexit. There are many theories abound but given the timing of Brexit talks this week, the exit of prominent Vote Leave figures seems less likely to be a coincidence. Prime Minister Johnson signalled that he was keen to shift to a levelling up policy agenda during meetings this week. This has taken a slight backseat as he was forced to self-isolate after being in contact with an MP who tested positive for coronavirus.

A key week for Brexit negotiations as talks continue ahead of Thursday’s EU Leaders conference

The government has been anxious to stress that these changes are not the harbinger of a softening of the UK’s Brexit stance. The UK’s Chief Negotiator David Frost said over the weekend that the UK’s negotiating position has been consistent, adding ‘I will not be changing it’1 . This week is important given the meeting of EU leaders on Thursday. While it is possible that talks drag on into early December, there is a growing sense of urgency on both sides that clarity for business needs to be achieved. The EU leaders meeting will likely disclose the current state of play within the negotiations and this could prove to be a pivotal week for a topic that seems to have had too many key weeks.

Sterling has remained largely rangebound coming into the negotiations this week. This is because the market knows that the current level is wrong. It is either too high (in the event of a no deal) or too low (in the case of a trade deal) and there are few solid signs of a shift one way or another. It is important to note that the blueprint for a trade deal is a ‘Canada style’ Free Trade Agreement rather than something akin to the Single Market. For this reason, even if we do see a deal over the coming weeks and a subsequent jump in Sterling, some economic risk is still likely to weigh on currency for the medium term.

Regular updates like these are a useful method of frequently updating your holistic view of the markets, especially given the way the market is rapidly changing by the day with recent news of multiple Coronavirus Vaccines.

Please continue to read these blogs to keep you informed.

Stay safe and well

Paul Green


Team No Comments

Vaccine Update

Please see the below updates from AJ Bell regarding this week’s news on the Pfizer vaccine:

Is the vaccine news a game-changer or just a good start?

There are high expectations for Pfizer and BioNTech to win with their Covid-19 vaccine following the latest trial update which triggered a global stock market rally and installed hope in people around the world.

The two companies will collate data until the third week of November before submitting to the regulators for approval. Safety is very important given the scale of deployment with potentially billions of perfectly healthy people being given the vaccine.

Assuming more data confirms the 90% effectiveness of the vaccine there are other considerations as more news arrives over the coming weeks.

The first big question is for how long the vaccine will provide immunity because there is no guarantee that vaccine-induced immunity will be any better than that afforded by infection.

Second, the science behind this vaccine is known as mRNA and it has never been commercialised which means no one knows for sure how to manufacture it at scale. The technology involves injecting a blueprint of the vaccine into the cells of the body so that they can make copies of the vaccine.

The vaccine needs a cold storage supply-chain because it has to be stored at minus 80 degrees centigrade. The lack of available cold refrigeration infrastructure, especially in poorer areas of the globe, may hinder distribution of the vaccine.

According to Shore Capital it is unclear at this point whether the study included patients with severe symptoms which is very important because if it didn’t it would mean the vaccine can so far only make mild cases more mild and not prevent hospitalisations.

Pfizer has targeted production of around 50 million doses for 2020 and 1.3 billion next year.  Various countries have already secured agreements with Pfizer including the UK with 30 million doses. Shore Capital points out that because two doses are required and assuming wastage this would only cover around 12 million patients. It takes 28 days from the first injection to attain immunity.

The broker notes that the world will need more than one vaccine because a range of sub-groups are likely to respond differently to vaccines. Mark Brewer, analyst at FinnCap, argues that global herd immunity requires 60% to 70% of the population to become immune which given the huge numbers involved could take years to achieve.

In short, don’t expect the economy to open up quickly even if a vaccine is approved.

Two late-stage trials with results expected in the next few weeks are University of Oxford’s and AstraZeneca’s (AZN) study of compound AZD1222 and Moderna’s vaccine candidate mRNA-1273.

Both these studies include patients with severe Covid-19 symptoms and so a positive result may be more meaningful in terms of reducing hospitalisations.

Where we stand after markets’ vaccine boost

he near-5% gain for the FTSE 100 on 9 November reflected news of extremely positive results for the vaccine being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

This was the biggest gain since the index surged 9.1% on 24 March when investors reacted to a rescue mission by central banks during the wild trading seen at the outset of the global pandemic. Even this, more modest, November movement ranks among the 10 highest one-day percentage gains for the index.

In the spring there was considerable uncertainty on the path out of the coronavirus crisis and just how damaging it might be. Now the situation on both these variables is a little clearer and that helps explain why market rallied so strongly. Although it is not quite true to say the market has come full circle.

Has the ftse fully recovered?

As we write the FTSE 100 is still 15% below its pre-Covid levels – we take 20 February as being when investors really began to price in a material impact from the pandemic.

In contrast, the S&P 500 which, thanks to a combination of the US presidential outcome and the vaccine news, broke new record highs this week.

The gains across the Atlantic were less substantial than those enjoyed by the FTSE 100 and that hints at the changes in stock market leadership we are seeing in the wake of Pfizer’s big announcement.

Losers become winners and vice versa

While Wall Street is dominated by the big technology companies, the UK market has plenty of the old-world economy in its ranks, many of which have seen their valuations smashed on the rocks of the Covid crisis.

These beaten down ‘value’ stocks were suddenly in fashion and we saw some quite spectacular moves, while tech, which sits very much in the ‘growth’ category, and traditional safe havens like government bonds and gold were sold off.

Tech has been one of the few places to find earnings growth in 2020 and so investors have been happy to pay high prices in this area. Many investors now look to be taking the view that some of the worst-performing stocks this year now have a greater chance of earnings recovery, which means they can find growth at a cheaper price and so tech becomes less appealing as valuations start to become more important.

Travel Rebound

Drilling down to specific sectors, travel was clearly a big winner including British Airways owner International Airlines Group (IAG) which enjoyed intra-day gains of 40%.

Aircraft engine maker Rolls-Royce (RR.) continued the dizzying ascent it has enjoyed since addressing its own financial problems with a recent £2 billion rights issue. Hotels, as well as leisure and hospitality businesses, also soared on hopes they might be able to return to more normal levels of business in the not too distant future.

However, as the graphic shows many stocks remain some way below the levels they were trading at before the pandemic erupted, demonstrating just how far they have fallen in 2020.

Other Sectors Rising

Oil majors BP (BP.) and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) were also in demand as oil prices spiked, though again both their share prices and the Brent crude benchmark remain way below pre-Covid levels.

Housebuilders were fired by hopes of an improved economic picture as well as surprisingly punchy guidance from Taylor Wimpey (TW.) that 2021 would be materially ahead of expectations – confidence underpinned by an order book up from £2.7 billion a year earlier to £3 billion. Real estate investment companies, particularly those with exposure to shops and offices, also soared.

Left Behind In The Rally

Perceived lockdown winners like Just Eat Takeaway (JET) and DIY-firm Kingfisher (KGF) were losers on the day. The biggest faller in the FTSE 100 was online groceries firm Ocado (OCDO) which fell 16.1% to £22.83.

Consumer goods giant Reckitt Benckiser (RB.), which had done well earlier this year after receiving a boost from demand for health and hygiene products, also gave up some of its recent gains.

What Happens Next?

Let’s assume the most bullish assumptions are true and there will be a return to some normality by the spring. With very loose monetary policy in play and a possible spending splurge by those consumers which still enjoy a disposable income, there is the possibility of inflation increasing fairly rapidly.

This might see central banks execute a handbrake turn as they look to gain control of rising prices and begin withdrawing stimulus or even increasing ultra-low rates. In this article we talk about the investments which could do well if inflation returns.

Conversely, if there are unexpected delays in the development and distribution of the Pfizer vaccine and others potential vaccines, will investors be patient, or will they look to sell Covid-impaired names once more?

One must also consider the unresolved risks which persist around Brexit and the transfer of power in the US.

This week’s vaccine news is positive news, however it’s by no means the end of the road, its just a step in the right direction.

We may see further drops in the market and setbacks in terms of the Pandemic, but this is a very good start.

Stay posted for further market updates and blog content from us.

Andrew Lloyd


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Brooks McDonald Weekly Market Commentary – Hope for coronavirus vaccines amid rising cases in Europe

Please see below for Brooks McDonald’s weekly market commentary, received late afternoon 26/10/2020:

In Summary

  • As coronavirus cases continue to rise in Europe and the US, fiscal stimulus needs will increase
  • The Oxford vaccine candidate is reported to have led to a strong immune response in elderly patients
  • Central bank season begins with the European Central Bank (ECB) and Bank of Japan meeting this week

As coronavirus cases continue to rise in Europe and the US, fiscal stimulus needs will increase

Over the weekend, the US and many European nations recorded their highest number of daily COVID-19 cases, as the blame game started between House Democrats and the White House over the stimulus impasse. With just over a week to go until the US presidential election, something fairly miraculous would need to occur to get stimulus over the line. US equity futures are trading down to reflect this probability.

The Oxford vaccine candidate is reported to have led to a strong immune response in elderly patients

Momentum remains behind the growing US and European case load. Italy has now approved a new national curfew as the country, which had previously fared well during the second wave, sees a sharp surge in cases. France also set a record high in new cases with the positivity rate of tests also rising to 17%1 . There were some positive vaccine stories over the weekend in relation to two front runners however. The University of Oxford/AstraZeneca candidate is reported to have led to a robust immune response in elderly patients which is critical for an effective vaccine. As the elderly are most at risk of serious illness from COVID-19, and have a weaker immune system than the young, there were concerns that a vaccine would fail to produce an effective immune response. The Oxford vaccine has also seen its trials restart in the US on Friday after being halted last month.

Central bank season begins with the European Central Bank (ECB) and Bank of Japan meeting this week

The ECB are meeting on Thursday, the same day as the Bank of Japan. We expect the ECB to warn of downside risks to the economic outlook as well as inflation. This comes as European coronavirus cases, and subsequent restrictions, have risen significantly since the last meeting. There is likely to be the (now traditional) attempt to hand the responsibility for further accommodation to governments, with the ECB stressing the limits of monetary policy in a negative rate environment. Regardless, we may well see some additional easing before the end of the year, particularly if European fiscal policy disappoints as expected. We are entering central bank season with the ECB and Bank of Ireland this week and the Federal Reserve and Bank of England next week. We are expecting the rhetoric to be very focused on the downside risks to the economy but for central bankers to try to put pressure on further fiscal policy more than promising additional easing. Quantitative easing is very effective at restoring order in financial markets but is less helpful in boosting the real economy. If coronavirus cases continue to escalate, fiscal policy will need to carry the weight of the second wave stimulus.

Articles like these provide an efficient way to receive well-informed views that cover the whole of market and are useful to maintain your up to date view of global market news.

Please keep reading our blogs regularly to give yourself a holistic and up to date view of markets.

Keep safe and well,

Paul Green