Weekly Client Update – Friday 21st May

A Thousand Vaccine appointments are to be made available every day for the rest of the month amid growing concerns over the Indian variant. The Health department has said that increased supplies of the vaccine, which recently arrived in the Island, has enabled it to increase capacity at Fort Regent to support the drive to give all over 50’s their second dose. Meanwhile, Islanders at moderate and high risk of serious illness from Covid 19 who have not yet been vaccinated are being contacted directly as Jersey Passes through the 100,000-jab milestone.

Officials stressed that vaccinating as many islanders as possible was vital, as the Uk was seeing increasing cases of the Indian variant, which reports suggest is more than three times more transmissible than the trains thus far. The hope is that 80% of Islanders will have received both Jabs by mid-August, a figure that would herald the arrival of Herd immunity although Dr Ivan Muscat added that, assuming the highest rate of virus transmission, herd immunity would not be mathematically reached until vaccinations had been extended down to age 12. Although the Government has described Islanders response to the vaccine programme as ‘incredible’ it will now write directly to the minority in the moderate and high risk groups to encourage them to make an appointment.

Latest vaccination statistics show that Jersey had now administered over 100,000 jabs of which 40,242 Islanders have now received 2 doses. Jersey currently has 4 active cases of Covid -19.

In other news, a little over six months since former Government Chief Executive Charlie Parker left his post following revelations about his second job, it has been confirmed that he received a pay out of £500,000. The settlement handed to Charlie Parker was a ‘Reasonable outcome’ given that potential claims could have been made against the Government, The Chief Minister John Le Fondre has said as he defended his actions during what is fast becoming another Political Scandal. He went on to say  ‘We were very clear that after every step of the way we have taken professional advice and that the maximum contractual exposure was £500,000’, the row continues!

US Markets

In US stocks this week, the Dow Jones 30 was down 0.5% yesterday while the NASDAQ100 (National Association of Securities Dealers Automated 100) was 0.2% higher. The SPX500 (Standard and Poor 500) finished off 0.3% lower yesterday, with 9 of its 11 sectors in the red. Energy stocks fell hardest, at -2.5%, while information technology shares performed best at +0.3% overall. Target exceeded Wall Street’s revenue and profit expectations by some distance, with its first quarter sales up 23% versus the same period last year.

UK Markets

London-listed shares fell yesterday, with the UK100 down 1.2%. Mining stocks showed the biggest loss, with all five of the index’s worst performers being mining names. Anglo American and BHP Group fell hardest, closing out the day 4.7% and 4.6% lower respectively. Inflation in the UK was higher than expected yesterday. Consumer prices rose by 1.5% in April, versus 0.7% in March, slightly ahead of where economists polled by Reuters expected the number to come in. Oil giants Royal Dutch Shell and BP also weighed on the index, with daily losses of around 2.7% apiece.

Crypto Markets

In the crypto markets , Bitcoin fell as low as $30,000 yesterday before regaining some losses to settle around $40,000 this morning. Most other top 10 cryptos continued to drop, including double-digit losses from EthereumBinance CoinXRP and Dogecoin.

Variant causes concern

Spain has announced that they will be allowing vacationers from UK to visit the country, without negative PCR tests for COVID from Monday onwards.  However, the British government has advised Britons not to go, as anyone returning will still need to self-isolate for 10days and take two COVID tests on returning to UK, since Spain remains on the UK’s amber list.

Similarly, a government scientific adviser has put a slight damper on the excitement and anticipation of the unlocking of society set for the 21st of June. He has shared his concerns that the emergence of the Indian variant of the virus could potentially delay the grand reopening.

Also due to the variant, the EU has decided to delay the adding of UK to the travel ‘white list’. This is unfortunately despite the UK meeting the new revised threshold of under 75 cases per 100000 people over days. The number of variant cases in the UK is at 3424 which is up 160% from the past week.

UK Business Growth Surges

UK business doesn’t seem to perturbed by COVID at the moment as its growth has surged at the fastest pace for more that 20 years since May. This comes after the economy reopened. 

The flash IHS Markit/CIPS output index rose to 62 from 60.7 a month earlier. May’s score was the highest since the survey began in January 1998. A score of more than 50 indicates growth. Services activity rose to a 91-month high of 61.8 while the UK manufacturing purchasing managers’ index hit 66.1 – the highest reading since 1992. Both scores were “flash” figures that may be revised.

Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, said: “The UK is enjoying an unprecedented growth spurt as the economy reopens. Factory orders are surging at a record pace as global demand for goods continues to revive, and the service sector is reporting near-record growth as the opening up of the economy allows more businesses to trade. Business confidence has meanwhile hit an all-time high as concerns about the impact of the pandemic continue to fade.” 

Property prices soar

In property news, the average UK house prices have hit a new record high of £227,826  but unfortunately this will in all likelihood decrease, with the end of the furlough scheme and stamp duty holiday. Buyers looking for larger homes with more space, as well as those trying to beat the stamp duty holiday deadline which was at the end of March, contributed to this boom in the UL property market.

Locally, house prices also rose to record levels and were more than double that of the UK. The average price of houses in Jersey, in the first 3 months of this year was a whopping £574,000.