Weekly Client Update – Friday 29 October

Local Update

Currently over a third of active COVID-19 cases are among Islanders aged 19 years and younger, with most experiencing symptoms, Dr Muscat the islands’ deputy medical officer said in a statement this week. He said “It is crucial that if anyone should experience any of the typical symptoms, they should immediately isolate from others and book a PCR test online or by calling the Coronavirus helpline”.

He continued, “As flu and COVID-19 are in co-circulation this year, it is easy to confuse the two viruses, so it is best to check and book a PCR test and isolate if you are experiencing any symptom until you receive a negative PCR result. If symptoms continue to persist after receiving a negative result you are recommended to book a second PCR test. Around 1 in 3 people with COVID do not experience any symptoms so Lateral Flow Tests (LFT) are an important way to detect asymptomatic cases”.

Students and school staff are encouraged to take an LFT and submit their results online before returning to school on Monday 1 November. Those who are signed up to an LFT programme should continue to test themselves twice a week, especially before going to parties or social activities, and before mixing with friends and family. The LFT home testing programme launched this week meaning that all Islanders aged 12 and over are eligible to register to receive free kits at home. 

If you are not yet signed up to a free Lateral Flow Test programme, you can register here

A £20 MILLION budget for the Island’s test-and-trace programme next year is ‘prudent’, due to uncertainty over ‘how the pandemic is going to unfold over the coming months’, the Island’s director of public health has said. The government has also accounted for the ‘possibility’ of more community-based vaccinations, according to Professor Peter Bradley.  He made the comments yesterday on the £20m provision for test and trace – which also includes technology services such as the Covid-19 Alert App – as part of reserve funding in the proposed Government Plan for ‘projects where there is still a degree of cost uncertainty’.

During a Health and Social Security Scrutiny Panel hearing, Professor Bradley said: “We are not sure how the pandemic is going to unfold over the coming months and this [£20m] would seem to be a prudent figure.” Test-and-trace director Rachel Williams said: “We keep costs under review. We are constantly working to reduce our costs wherever we can do, to make sure the spend is appropriate but also targeted in the right way to continue to keep Islanders and the Island safe.”

Meanwhile, Health Minister Richard Renouf said “that it was ‘difficult to predict exactly what we will need next year’ and that the allocated funds are large, rounded figures to make sure that we do not run into difficulty. There is also funding of £4.1m for the Covid-19 vaccine programme in 2022 to support booster jabs, and £2.58m held in reserve in case further costs arise”, the Scrutiny panel heard.

Concerns were also raised about health-check backlogs. The Health Minister said there was a year-long wait for breast scans, with extra clinics scheduled to deal with the large number of appointments.Our plan is, by the end of next year, to return those to pre-Covid levels, because of course it is a concern in the longer term if people are not getting timely scans, and that can ultimately lead to disease which is too advanced to give any preventative care,” he said.

In jersey there are currently 414 cases of Covid with 4 Islanders in Hospital.

Border testing, for those who have been fully vaccinated will cease from Tuesday 2 November as part of the safer travel policy although travel forms will still need to be submitted by passengers less than 48 hours of travel to Jersey. 80% of all arrivals are fully vaccinated so the testing programme will be substantially reduced.

In other news, as the fishing war of words continues to escalate between France, the UK and Jersey, JEC are making provision to supply the island with electricity should France go through with its threat to turn off or restrict the French supply line. The Foreign office has today summoned the French Ambassador in London to explain the country’s aggressive stance, a long standing ally of the UK.

And finally England’s elite rugby squad are flying out of the island today after a 5 day training camp in Jersey. This morning they put on a training session in front of 1,500 lucky Islanders who were quick enough to register for a free ticket for today’s session up at Jersey Reds Stade Santander International stadium.

Good luck to all the home nation sides in the forthcoming International autumn Rugby series!

Mixed reactions to Rishi’s budget

Although the UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivered a welcome boost to the leisure and hospitality sector in his autumn budget with a temporary cut in business rates coming alongside a reduction in alcohol taxes. However, the prospect of fiscal tightening raised more questions over the seemingly impending BoE rate hike. “Today’s budget does not draw a line under COVID. We have challenging months ahead,” chancellor Rishi Sunak said.

“But today’s budget does begin the work of preparing for a new economy post-COVID.”

It was a mixed bag for the airlines. Air Passenger Duty has been cut on domestic flights,  and new tax rate to be levied on long-haul flights. EasyJet rose1.3% to 617.2p, while British Airways owner IAG was up 0.7% to 161p. Hospitality venue owners should be pleased with the uk budget. Rate relief will be offered to pubs, music venues, cinemas, restaurants and hotels to the tune of £1.78bn. Big estate owners such as Mitchells & Butlers celebrated with a rise of 3.4% to 255p and JD Wetherspoon’s by 4.8% to 1,034p.

Sunak also announced an overhaul of alcohol duties, cutting taxes on draught beer and ciders.  The main problem with Rishis budget was a first world one, wide spread leaks occurred days before so everyone knew what was coming, hence FTSE 100 down 12 at 7,265

Clearly with the budget underwhelming markets The FTSE 100 ended modestly lower on Thursday, recouping earlier bigger losses in the afternoon as Wall Street made positive progress after some weak data thanks to strong earnings reports. UK blue-chip index was 3.80 points, or 0.1% lower at 7,249.47, just below the day’s peak of 7,257.85 and well above the session low of 7,219.71.

On Wall Street around London’s close, the Dow Jones Industrials Average was ahead 180 points, or 0.5% at 35,670, with the broader S&P 500 index 0.9% higher and the tech-laden Nasdaq Composite up 1.2%.

Other Markets – a varied response to uncertainty as fiscal stimulus slows

In other markets this week, Shares in Asia-Pacific were lower on Wednesday, with Hong Kong stocks leading losses regionally.

Industrial profits in China surged 16.3% year-on-year in September, according to data released Thursday by the National Bureau of Statistics.

Australia’s consumer price index rose 0.8% in the September 2021 quarter, data from the country’s Bureau of Statistics showed Wednesday.

European stocks closed slightly higher on Thursday, buoyed by robust earnings from food and technology stocks, as the European Central Bank maintained its massive stimulus package as the bank viewed the recent spike in inflation as temporary. The ECB is not expected to review its pandemic emergency stimulus until December.

The pan-European STOXX 600 closed 0.2% higher with food and beverage and technology sectors gaining 1.6% and 1.3%, respectively.

UK banks results come on  the cusp of likely interest rate rises

Lloyds Banking Group  and NatWest Group , the FTSE 100 lenders most exposed to the British economy are due to report results in the coming days, amid a finely balanced debate on the Bank of England’s next few interest rate decisions.

Recent statements from some senior members of the BoE’s monetary policy committee, including governor Andrew Bailey, has led markets to price in a first rate hike as soon as the Bank next neets on 4th November. The market is also pricing for four more rate hikes by the end of 2022.

Against this backdrop, and following results from UK rivals Barclays and HSBC, shares in Lloyds are up 7% over the past month and 69% over 12 months, while NatWest’s are up 6% and 92% over the same period. Worries over the impact of rising living costs and how that affects bad debts and the prospect of an interest rise have hurt the share price, but net income for highstreet  banks has been helped by growth in mortgage and unsecured loans.

On Friday, it’s the turn of NatWest Group PLC the most geared of the UK banks to higher interest rates.

September 2021 Jersey Retail Index Report released

Statistics Jersey have released the September 2021 retail Prices Index Report, 

The All Items Retail Price Index (RPI) is the main measure of inflation in Jersey. The report measures the change from quarter to quarter in the price of goods and services purchased by an average household in Jersey.

The report (as shown on gov.je) shows:

  • during the twelve months to September 2021 the All Items Retail Prices Index (RPI) for Jersey increased by 2.9% to stand at 186.7 (June 2000 = 100)
  • the increase in the RPI over the twelve months to June 2021 was 3.5%; hence the annual rate of inflation decreased by 0.6 percentage points (pp) since last quarter
  • this decrease in the annual rate of inflation was due to downward contributions from a few groups, notably:
    • the Fares & other travel and Personal goods & services groups saw prices increase by a smaller amount over the twelve months to September 2021 than they did over the same time period to June 2021; within these two groups, the downward contributions of policies introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic were active in June 2020 but were no longer in effect in September 2020, thus reducing the annual increase in RPI to September 2021; the main measures that impacted these groups were respectively the suspension of parking charges in Government-owned car parks and the lower cost of GP fees
    • smaller upward contributions arose from many groups experiencing price increases over the twelve months to September 2021; these contributions were of a similar rate over the same period to June 2021 
  • underlying inflation, as measured by the annual change in RPI(Y), increased by 2.7% over the twelve months to September 2021 
  • the rate of underlying inflation, RPI(Y), decreased by 0.7 pp since June 2021 (down from 3.4%)
  • over the twelve months to September 2021:
    • RPI(X) increased by 2.7% 
    • RPI Pensioners increased by 3.1% 
    • RPI Low Income increased by 2.7% 
  • the annual rates of increase for RPI, RPI(X) and RPI(Y) in September 2021 were all higher than the September 2020 rates by at least 0.8pp
  • the rate of inflation in Jersey over the twelve months to September 2021, as measured by the RPI, was the same as the broadly comparable headline rate of inflation for the UK  

Read the full report here

1,000 Andy Warhol sketches offered for $250 each — but only one is real

A New York art collective announced it will be selling 1,000 Andy Warhol sketches for $250 each — but 999 of them are elaborate forgeries.

The Brooklyn-based MSCHF collective announced its “Museum of Forgeries” project involves a single Andy Warhol sketch titled Fairies and 999 copies made by a machine with artificially aged paper to match the original. The real artwork was randomly mixed in with the forgeries, so one buyer of a $250 sketch will receive the real deal, while 999 others will receive copies.

Daniel Greenberg, chief revenue officer of MSCHF, said the sketch was sold for $8,125 by auction house Christie’s in 2016, and the artwork’s current value is estimated at about $20,000. MSCHF’s website says the project is aimed at making a statement about famous works of art only being accessible to the wealthy.

“By burying a needle in a needlestack, we render the original as much a forgery as any of our replications,” the site states. Who says buying art  as an investment is a gamble, well now it might really be.