The euro hit a four-month high against the dollar and the Stoxx 600 closed up 0.75% yesterday (Monday 20 July 2020) after talks between European leaders extended beyond the weekend and appeared close to an agreement on Europe’s financial response to the coronavirus pandemic. Negotiations in Europe are complex due to the diversity of its economies, however, early this morning (Tuesday 21 July 2020) a new compromise proposal of €750 billion finally won the unanimous support of its 27 member states. The emergency funds include €390 billion of grants, (which is less than the initial €500 billion) and €360 billion of low-interest loans. The Stoxx 600 has opened up around 1% this morning as the funds will provide the vital financial support for the southern European economies hardest hit by the coronavirus, whilst they also serve to demonstrate unity amongst EU members.
AstraZeneca hit an all-time high yesterday (rising over 10% intraday) after a positive update on a coronavirus vaccine it has been developing alongside Oxford University. Whilst the trial results are positive and helped lift investor sentiment, it is still very early in the vaccine’s development and large scale trials now need to take place, AstraZeneca shareholders were also reminded that the announcement was not anticipated to impact the company’s financial guidance for 2020 as its vaccine would not be sold for profit whilst should the vaccine fail, its expenses are anticipated to be offset by funding from governments and international organisations. AstraZeneca shares closed up 1.75% yesterday and are unchanged so far this morning.
In response to China’s new security laws imposed on Hong Kong, the UK suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong yesterday and placed it under an arms embargo. Whilst these acts are largely symbolic, it is another blow to UK/ China relations after the UK recently invited many Hong Kong residents to apply for British citizenship and last week banned China’s Huawei Technologies from next-generation wireless networks.
Looking to the rest of the week, earnings season gathers pace, with updates from around a sixth of S&P 500 companies including regional banks, airlines, and technology companies Microsoft, Tesla, and Intel. As we have previously highlighted, thanks to the coronavirus lockdowns, earnings season is going to be ugly, however, the numbers will be almost irrelevant and of most interest will be the accompanying statements and outlook guidance, we would like to see confidence that 2021 will see company profitability rebound strongly, which in turn will offset the current negative coronavirus and geopolitical sentiment and help push equity markets higher in the coming weeks and months.
Peter Quayle, Fund Manager