Weekly client update – Friday, 9th of April

“He embodied a generation that we will never see again,” Australian PM Scott Morrison said in a statement and this is no doubt a sentiment shared by many, as the world was notified only a few hours ago of the very sad passing of Prince Philip, at the age of 99 years. Boris Johnson has already paid tribute, praising Prince Philip’s “extraordinary life”. Despite the elections due to take place on the 6th of May, parties have suspended their campaigning as a demonstration of respect.

As we move past the one year mark since the global lockdown started, things are starting to look up for many industries. Economic recovery from lockdown is well underway for the eurozone construction industry as it returns to growth for the first time since March last year. The construction PMI from HIS Market jumped to just above the 50.1 mark last month, indicating sector growth.

More strong results reported across its core markets are from Asos. They are smiling from ear to ear, as their total UK customer base has grown and retail sales increased by 36 percent in P1 and accelerated further in P2 with growth of 46 percent and 18 percent growth in the EU.  Asos CEO attributes their success to ‘strategic priorities’ and the ‘strength of their execution capabilities’, as well as their integration of the Topshop brands and efficient customer engagement. 

Another positive to come out of this week is that UK-based equity funds have seen a record £3billion inflow in March alone, as investors have been betting on an economic rebound. It seems that investors have been capitalising on the post-COVID economic recovery and optimism has been boosted as vaccines are being rolled out globally.

Calastone reported that globally-focused equity funds have been receiving the most attention from investors. These inflows are reportedly higher than the previous record set exactly a year ago, following government and central bank stimulus in response to COVID-19. ESG equity funds also saw a record £1.6 billion in inflows in March, while ESG fixed income flows hit a record £192Million.

Speaking of which, economists are recommending that economies are going to have to start radically changing the way they think, act and measure success in order to protect and enhance global prosperity and nature. In a nutshell, the demands for natural assets are exceeding nature’s capacity, which means without the restoration of the natural world, economies will collapse and society will be at risk. The key takeaway here is that current metrics measuring economic success do not take into consideration the fact that nature depreciates.

Taking a look at international travel, airlines are voicing their views that COVID testing and the presentation of health certificates must not become a standard prerequisite for allowing people to travel. Reasoning that the costs of testing regimes for travel have resulted in the number of international air passengers declining to 11% of pre-pandemic levels in February.

He might be onto something, the UK government currently requires 3 tests and a quarantine period for inbound travellers. It has been suggested this week that some testing might remain even in the safest countries after international leisure is given the green light from the proposed date, 17 May.

Despite the UK planning to remove all social distancing rules from the 21st of June, some banks are not waiting around to see what will or won’t be allowed post-COVID. HSBC and JP Morgan are sticking to the new normal that the pandemic created, and are having thousands of employees continuing to work from home, permanently. Similarly, representatives for HSBC’s UK call centre staff are currently discussing the possibility of up to 1,200 workers switching to remote working, also on a permanent basis.

Markets & Currencies

UK stocks closed above the waterline on Thursday, after the top-flight index hit its best level since the pandemic following dovish minutes from the US Federal Reserve.

The FTSE 100 ended the session up 0.83% at 6,942.22, and the FTSE 250 was 0.39% firmer at 22,247.54.

Sterling was mixed, strengthening 0.06% on the dollar to $1.3745, but trading 0.38% weaker against the euro at €1.1530.

The FTSE 100 has maintained its recent resilience and outperformance, closing at its highest level this year, and its best level since 26 February last year, while the FTSE 250 has also closed at a new record high. Although other major indices have led the way in posting record highs in recent weeks, UK stocks appear to be finally finding favour with investors as an economic reopening beckons, even though the FTSE 100 still has a lot of ground to make up, before it has reversed its losses from last year’s peaks of 7,689.”

And finally, ending off on a high – in local news – Jersey is being referred to as a medicinal cannabis hub. At the beginning of this year, the Jamaican Medicinal Cannabis Corporation launched a joint venture with Green Island Growers Ltd, based in St Lawrence, in order to create a distribution facility to supply UK and European markets. Since their launch, they are now ready to distribute their product from the island to patients within the island and the UK, after signing a deal with a market-leading company.