Weekly Client Update – Friday 30th July

Local update

The third wave of Covid-19 has ‘slowed down’ and may have ‘peaked, the deputy medical officer of health has said following a third successive drop in infections. 

Case numbers have risen sharply over the past month, but dropped below 3,000 on Tuesday, prompting Dr Ivan Muscat to suggest that this marked the ‘first change in the pattern’ in several weeks. However, he warned that Islanders still needed to follow public-health guidelines if case numbers were to continue to decrease. He said: ‘The number of new cases per day appears to have slowed down, which is good. However, we are not yet sure whether it has peaked or if it is a false summit so we will continue to monitor the situation before coming to a conclusion. It is encouraging to see that the numbers in the UK are following a similar trend.

Yesterday there were 86 new cases reported with 240 having recovered  resulting in a further fall to 2,717 cases of Covid -19. Direct contacts also continued to decline from a peak of 14,000 just a week ago to 9,105 as of yesterday. There are currently 21 people in hospital with Covid. 

Dr Muscat explained that the end of the school term, combined with ongoing mitigation measures and the progress being made by the vaccination programme, may have contributed to the reduction in infections. The deputy medical officer of health said: ‘The factors which may affect it in the other direction could include the crowding that we saw during the football season, as well as the increase in travel.’

Two weeks ago, the government reintroduced mandatory mask-wearing in indoor public spaces while the final stage of the Island’s reconnection roadmap – which would see large events permitted, nightclubs reopening, stand-up drinking allowed and an unlimited number of guests able to gather in private homes and gardens – has been delayed until at least the end of August. This is in stark contrast to the UK where all restrictions have now been lifted and as from Monday 2 August fully vaccinated travellers from the EU and the US will not have to quarantine when arriving in England, Scotland and Wales from an amber list country.

A total of 56,237 passengers – comprising both arrivals and departures – passed through Jersey Airport last month, compared to 167,715 for the same period two years ago. There were also 14,135 passenger movements at the Harbour. A Ports of Jersey spokesperson said: ‘Ports continue to be busy from Fridays through to Mondays and the arrival process is longer than usual due to the PCR testing, which everyone has to undertake.’

Meanwhile, the pandemic has continued to wreak havoc on staffing levels in a number of industries, with many workers needing to isolate after being contact-traced, although it was also announced that three-quarters of all adults have now been double-jabbed with the islands vaccination programme expected to surpass its target of giving 2 doses to 80% of the adult population by mid-August, the Government has confirmed, however the Chief Minister has said that the emergence of the Delta variant has made community immunity very difficult to achieve. 

The island is also likely to embark on a booster programme with the over 50’s, those deemed vulnerable and health care workers expected to be offered these additional jabs during September and October. Teenagers within 3 months of their 18th birthdays can now receive a vaccination with immediate effect.

Having just returned from a short trip to France I can confirm that after our party of 6 had paid £300 between us for a Covid test within 48 hours of arrival only to be told, on arrival, that France had removed this requirement from Thursday 22 July, the day of our arrival! Allez les Bleus!!

Mixed markets

The UK index of premier shares finished over 61 points higher, or 0.88%, at 7,078, off the session peak of 7,093 and above the low of 7,008.

European markets are mixed. The GER DAX 30 is higher by 0.06%, while the FRA CAC 40 is leading the FTSE 100 lower. They are down 0.43% and 0.07% respectively.

Despite markets looking decent on Thursday, S&P 500 futures fell 40 points, or 0.9%, to 4,372, likewise the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were down 152 points, or 0.4%, to 34,824, while NASDAQ 100 futures slid 210 points, or 1.4%, to 14,827.

Asian markets finished mixed as of the most recent closing prices. The Shanghai Composite gained 1.14%, while the Nikkei 225 led the Hang Seng lower. They fell 2.07% and 0.27% respectively.

Robinhood’s debut

The online brokerage, Robinhood,  who is on a quest to “democratise finance for all”, had a less than impressive debut on the Nasdaq stock exchange. Within the first half an hour of trading, more than 49m shares worth £1.2bn were sold but thereafter shares in the platform fell by up to 12% before regaining equilibrium again. The opening price was $38 per share, with its current price of $36 – down around 5%. Despite failing to didn’t the $35m valuation it had hoped for, the company worth £23bn, is one of America’s most valuable companies to have gone public this year.

Amazon back to reality

After record profits during the pandemic, Amazon’s boost in sales have started to abate and slower sales growth in the third quarter of the year has been predicted. After revenue climbed 27% to £81bn in its second quarter, after signing up more than 200 million customers to its Prime service and recruiting more than 500,000 workers to keep up with surging demand, Amazon shares fell more than 7% in after-hours trade.

Softbank offloading Uber shares

Uber shares have fallen after reports that technology investment firm SoftBank is selling around a third of its stake in the US ride-hailing app. According to one report SoftBank is getting rid of around £1.44bn worth of shares to help cover what it has lost by betting on Chinese ride-hailing firm, Didi, and other investments. Didi’s shares have slumped since their US market debut less than a month ago, with shares falling by almost 40% since they started trading on the New York Stock Exchange on 30 June.

Milk shortage in UK supermarkets

Dairy giant Arla, which supplies milk to all major UK supermarkets, has had to cut back drastically on its deliveries. UK managing director Ash Amirahmadi said: “Last Saturday, there were 600 stores that we couldn’t deliver milk to”, compared to the 2,400 stores they normally supply a day. This is due to driver shortages they have been experiencing since early April. Mr Amirahmadi feels that the government could help the industry by accelerating the programme of driving tests for new HGV drivers, as well as by issuing temporary visas for the road haulage industry, so that more European drivers could be allowed into the country.

International cruises open again

Some good news is that International cruises will be starting again from England, from 2 August after being closed for 16 months due to the pandemic. In addition, passengers who have been fully vaccinated in the US and the EU, will not need to quarantine on arriving at UK ports. Naturally, all the associated tourism business will benefit from cruises starting again.

British Airways is hopeful

British Airways’ owner, International Airlines Group, has announced plans to gradually return more planes to the skies after reporting a £1.7bn loss for the first half of 2021. The group hopes to raise passenger capacity for the pivotal summer period to about 45% of its 2019 pre-pandemic capacity, up from only 20% for the first six months of the year, with hopes that its lucrative transatlantic UK-US routes could reopen fully. Iberia and Vueling, however, have been performing the best within the IAG, due to relatively few restrictions on their routes from Spain and Latin America.