As we sit atop our prosperous peak, admiring the views of the fastest economic growth since 1984, the best start to a bull market, and the record-breaking quarter of earnings growth, it’s wise to remember that not too long ago we began our uphill journey from the depths of the COVID-19 ravine. Often, the best views come after the hardest climbs. So now it’s time to catch our breath and peer over the horizon at what’s to come as we begin our descent from this peak. However, just as the summit of one mountain can become the base of another, the investment landscape goes on indefinitely, which makes adhering to a disciplined investment strategy of the utmost importance.
For most investors focused on the U.K., Europe and/or the United States, July was far from an unattractive month in all but a minority of equity sectors. This pleasingly allowed a further building of year-to-date returns. Meanwhile bond market yields generally tightened further. Although fixed income markets remain on average dull performers in 2021, performance has improved in recent months.
This October marks 80 years since the opening of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, America’s first highway. Highways have been a critical driver of economic growth due to the connectivity, speed, and efficiency they provide. As Confucius so appropriately stated, “roads were made for journeys, not destinations.”
The traditional early September think piece centres on the natural reset that a generalised return to work (and for the younger generation, school) brings after the typically languid summer holiday period. As 2020 is clearly a very different style of year, let us rip up the normal script and ask the simpler question of ‘does the world feel lucky?’
Financial markets are always a three-dimensional jigsaw, with new pieces being added and deleted at whim every business day. But the signals from the last month have been especially difficult to discern. In contrast to the bounce back second quarter, July was a negative month for pan-European markets with the U.K. continuing to lag.
We maintain our belief in the ‘American Dream’ as described by James Truslow Adams, that “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement,” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. We not only acknowledge but embrace that we have work to do as a society, and hope that this year will serve as an inflection point as we advance toward a stronger and more united world.
At any other time, a three percent bounce during May in the pan- European (including the U.K.) equity markets and the driest fifth month of the year in large swathes of the country since 1929, would represent an ideal entry into the summer months. However – despite recent lockdown liberalisations – these are far from normal times.
Over three hundred and fifty years ago, back in 1665, Isaac Newton socially distanced himself from the horrors of the then rampant bubonic plague and – away from his burgeoning academic career at Trinity College in Cambridge – enjoyed a ‘year of wonders’ at his childhood home. During this period he formulated a theory of universal gravitation, explored optics and discovered differential and integral calculus.
The COVID-19 outbreak has led to unprecedented volatility and tremendous declines in wealth, but we have faith that once the pandemic is defeated, the wild swings in the financial markets will abate and prosperity will return. But what cannot be so easily recovered is the loss of a job, the loss of a business, or, worst of all, the loss of a loved one. While it is our duty to provide timely market insights, please know that now, more than ever, the health and safety of you and your families is at the forefront of our minds.