It has been a downbeat start to the week for global equity markets thanks to concerns that the spread of the delta variant could put a stop to the global economic recovery, especially as this week’s data releases have included disappointing US retail sales.
While we can’t deny that the rapidly spreading delta variant will impact the growth outlook, we believe the bar for reinstating full-scale lockdowns is very high. Most governments around the world appear to be adapting their responses to one of ‘living with coronavirus’ rather than completely locking-down when infections rise, while companies have quickly adjusted to the new work and social distancing protocols.
Additionally, the last big wave of infections and associated lockdowns at the end of 2020 didn’t materially impact the economy or company earnings – for example, the US economy still grew at an annualised rate of 4.5% and 6.3% during Q4 2020 and Q1 2021, respectively.
Therefore, we don’t believe we are facing another recession.
And as for that disappointing US retail sales data, while the spread of the delta variant clearly warrants some caution, it should be noted that there were counteracting upward revisions to both May and June’s data readings. Additionally, it is highly likely that some consumers would have redirected their spending away from goods towards services (such as eating out or holidays) – as restrictions were eased.
As such, we believe this week’s equity market weakness is a typical run-of-the-mill reaction to a new uncertainty – and, as we have previously stated, evidence has shown us time and again that while equity markets hate periods of uncertainty, they can deal with any eventuality. Therefore, we don’t see this week’s volatility as the start of a more sinister market correction.
Consequently, it is very important to filter out the cacophony of unhelpful market noise and resist the urge for any knee-jerk reactions.
Investment Management Team