Market Update – 15th May 2020.

The pessimistic “sell everything” mood seen over the last couple of days is thankfully showing signs of easing, as the FTSE-100 is edging higher this morning – and as we write is currently up nearly 90 points, or 1.5%.

Yesterday’s (14 May 2020) US jobless claims came in below 3m, as expected – its sixth straight weekly decline and the first reading below 3m since 13 March 2020.

Although this takes the total jobless claims in the past 8 weeks to 36.5m, of more significance was yesterday’s continuing claims data as this came in at 22.83m versus last week’s reading of 22.38m – an increase of less than 500,000.

Once a person has filed an “initial” claim, they then have to begin filing “continuing” claims in order to keep getting benefits for that week of unemployment – and so the fact that this number has stabilised, and more importantly stabilised so far below the initial claims numbers, suggests that either people have filed multiple initial claims (meaning the initial claims number is being overstated), or that laid-off workers are being taken back on (as they aren’t continuing to claim their unemployment benefits).

Unfortunately, at this stage, it is too early to tell which it is, as the initial claims data is to the week ending 9 May 2020 and the continuing claims is to the week ending 2 May 2020 (by definition, the continuing claims data has to be a week behind initial claims).  Although we would prefer it if people are going back to work, either way is actually a positive as it suggests to us that the US employment market might not be quite as bad as we had originally thought.

Additionally, Georgia, which allowed businesses to reopen nearly three weeks ago (including hairdressers and restaurants), saw a big decrease in its continuing claims – which does imply that people are going back to work.  As an aside, while the reopening decision was widely criticised at the time by public health officials, the state has so far not seen a surge of coronavirus hospitalisations or deaths – which may prompt other US states to speed up their reopening plans. This helped US equities close higher last night:  the Dow Jones ended yesterday up 377 points, or 1.62%, while the broader S&P 500 index rose 1.15%.

Although today’s Eurozone Q1 GDP data reading is backward looking, it does provide us with a little more light on the potential economic damage the coronavirus lockdown will have on the UK economy, as most Eurozone countries locked down their economies before us.

The Eurozone economy declined by 3.8% in Q1 – which compares to the UK’s Q1 GDP reading of -2% (please see here).

Elsewhere overnight, Chinese industrial production data rose 3.9% after dropping 1.1% in March.  Although year-to-date, production is still down 4.9% it does provide us with comfort that economic activity will rebound strongly once lockdown restrictions are lifted.

Later today we have a lot more US data, including retail sales, the Empire Manufacturing Survey, industrial production and the University of Michigan Sentiment.

Although we have been warning for some time that the path for financial markets is unlikely to be smooth – and we expect the current market volatility will remain elevated in the short-term – we fully understand and appreciate that in these turbulent times you, like many of our clients, may be worried.  As a result, we will later today be sending out a video link which fully explains our active, discretionary managed approach to managing client portfolios and the risk controls we have in place.

In fact, risk management forms an integral part of the portfolio process and monitoring, as we believe that risk management is just as important as investment performance and returns, meaning that we will never shoot the lights out with our investment performance, but instead, provide you with consistency.

Additionally, we will continue providing you with our daily market updates.  Stay safe.

Investment Management Team

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