Weekly Client Update – Friday, 29th January

In Jersey an Investigation into alleged ‘bad behaviour’ which led to a cluster of Covid cases and delayed the reopening of non-essential shops – has been launched, it has been confirmed. Tammy Fage, the head of Health and safety inspectorate, which enforces workplace health and safety laws, said the unit was looking into matters which had been brought to their attention on Tuesday.  

Meanwhile Murray Norton, the Chief Executive of the Chamber of Commerce, expressed frustration but backed the Government’s decision to delay the reopening of non-essential stores.” There has been a great deal of disappointment, given the time and money spent in many cases having prepared to open, although it is difficult to think how the Government could have made any other call than to delay, with a potential cluster being a risk to life”.

It was announced that the Government would be encouraging islanders to wear their masks in busy town areas even if they were outside. Similar measures have been made law in cities such as Munich, Sydney and Paris. Despite the recent cluster active cases of Covid-19 continue to fall and as of today there were 109 active cases with 3 people in hospital.  Also with a large number of care home residents now vaccinated, Health Minister Richard Renouf yesterday announced plans to allow visits again. 

Also positive progress is being achieved with the vaccination programme with over 10,000 people now having received their first vaccine and over 4,000 having received their second.

Meanwhile in Guernsey for the first time since the pandemic began Guernsey has overtaken Jersey with the number of Covid Cases rising to 142 as of today. The Islands Business community now face uncertainty after this sudden outbreak of cases which has led to the island going into full lockdown, with all schools, and non-essential businesses closing. Problems first came to light last Saturday after four people tested positive but the Government was unable to identify where the infections originated from. The restrictions are in stark contrast to the freedoms that Guernsey has become accustomed to, with bars, nightclubs and restaurants remaining open and islanders not being required to social distance since June last year.

Latest News

In a week when the pandemic continues to dominate the headlines, events of last week in the US were put firmly in the back seat. A row broke out about Europe’s right to secure COVID-19 vaccine supplies, claiming the UK had more than their fair share.  On Thursday, the EU warned drug companies that it would use all legal means or even block exports, unless they agreed to deliver orders as promised. The EU block is well behind Israel, the UK and USA in rolling out vaccines, so is now scrambling to get supplies just as the West’s biggest drugmakers slow deliveries due to production problems. Britain, which has repeatedly touted its lead in the vaccine rollout race since leaving the EU, said its deliveries must be honoured. Perhaps the UK should not have been quite so smug about their success, although with news of the UK having the highest death rate per capita in Europe, a successful vaccine roll out was just the tonic required for an optimistic vision of light at the end of this dark tunnel.

In the same week the UK Government has been criticised for downgrading the diplomatic status of the EU’s ambassador in London. The Foreign Office insisted EU delegation staff would still receive the privileges needed to do their job.The decision is in contrast to the 142 other countries where EU ambassadors have full diplomatic status. 

We will leave it to you to judge whether the UK’s current powers of diplomacy, be it with vaccine supplies or diplomats, is necessarily a good start to their new relationship with Europe!

The Stock Markets

Amateur investors are responding with outrage after trading platforms, curbed buying of shares in the US games from GameStop and other companies.

The moves by Robinhood and Interactive Brokers, follow days of frenzied trading that led to massive gains for some stocks.

Shares in GameStop dived by as much as 55% after the restrictions. It is the latest twist in a battle that has pitted amateur investors against Wall Street giants. Major hedge funds had bet billions of dollars that GameStop’s shares would fall. But they have faced major losses after amateurs – swapping tips on social media sites such as Reddit – drove up the share price by as much 700% in a week.The sudden surge has drawn questions from regulators, who are monitoring trading amid fears of illegal market manipulation.

The massive GameStop share surge appears to be less about the company – which is a loss-making bricks-and-mortar gaming retailer – and more about a fight between Wall Street fund managers and individual investors organising online.

Year-to-date, the NASDAQ100 is now up 5.1%, versus 2.2% for the SPX500 and 1.3% for the DJ30. Both the SPX500 and NASDAQ100 reached fresh all-time highs last week.

A large chunk of the SPX500 reports earnings this week, including Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Verizon, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Tesla, Visa, Chevron and a host more. As of Friday last week 86% of the SPX500 firms that have delivered Q4 earnings, so far beat expectations.  86% compares to a five-year average of 74%, which could lead to the first quarterly earnings increase since Q4 2019.

London-listed shares fell marginally last week, as optimism stemming from the beginning of the Biden presidency in the US faced off against the news that Covid-19 restrictions in the UK may last for longer than planned. The UK100 was down 0.6%, with oil giants BP and Royal Dutch Shell both sinking more than 4%, while gambling firm, Entain, fell by 8.7% after rejecting a takeover bid from American firm MGM.

Asian stocks fell on Tuesday, retreating from record highs, as lingering concerns about potential roadblocks to the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion stimulus weighed on sentiment, dragging U.S. Treasury yields to three-week lows.

The lower risk appetite lent some support to the dollar against a basket of currencies, while oil prices edged down.

All three major US stock indices fell by more than 2% on Wednesday. Four different sectors fell by more than 3%, with the communication services sector the hardest hit at -3.8%. One firm under pressure was Boeing, which posted a record loss in Q4 and a net loss of almost $12 billion for the year, sending its share price down 4%. 

Tesla yesterday delivered its earnings reports, showing its first-ever annual profit. However, the electric carmaker would have made a loss if it wasn’t for the $1.6 billion in regulatory credits purchased from it by other automakers struggling to meet emissions standards. The company’s share price fell by more than 5%. Apple stock was also down after delivering its quarterly results, although it beat analyst expectations thanks to strong sales of the newiPhone 12. with top line, revenue at $111 billion, versus the $103 billion predicted.

And finally…

This week saw the annual celebration of Burns night by Scots across the world, in honour of the canny Scottish poet, a packet of haggis was launched to the edge of space for the first time. Scottish butcher Simon Howie worked with space education and research firm Stratonauts to launch the 454g haggis. The haggis was attached to a weather balloon and soared more than 20 miles (107,293ft) above the Earth – equivalent to nearly four times the height of Everest. Mr Howie said he wanted to start the year by “lifting the spirits of the general public” and was thrilled to work with Stratonauts “to take Scotland’s national dish to new heights”. We are yet to find out if any passing space aliens noticed this strange phenomenon or indeed complained that there was no ‘wee dram’ accompanying it.