Last week saw the equity markets performing a balancing act between incoming positive vaccine news and ever-growing economic restrictions aimed at curbing the recent spike in virus cases and hospitalisations. The rotation out of the technology sector and into more cyclicals stocks continued, as the vaccine developments improved investor sentiment and confidence about next year’s outlook.Rather unexpectedly, the US government on Thursday started to remove some of the emergency support measures previously provided to the Federal Reserve (Fed), reducing the Fed’s ability to act with immediacy should there be further stresses in financial markets.
US equities over the week fell 0.1%, whilst US technology stocks recorded a gain of 0.6%. European stocks rose 1.0%, as the rotation into more economically sensitive companies continued, albeit at a reduced pace versus last week. UK equities gained 0.9%, with mid cap stocks increasing by 2.0%. The Japanese stock market rose by 1.4%, benefitting from the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a trade agreement ten years in the making covering fifteen countries in Asia including China, Japan, Australia and Malaysia. Third quarter Japanese GDP also surprised to the upside having increased by 5.0% versus expectations of 4.4%. The Australian stock market rose by 2.0%, whilst the Emerging Markets were up 1.0%.
Despite the positive vaccine news, haven government bonds rallied over the week, responding to rising coronavirus cases and the news that the Fed had had some of its emergency lending measures removed. 10-year US Treasuries are currently yielding 0.84%, German Bunds -0.58% and UK Gilts 0.31%. However, gold sold off slightly, now trading at $1,865 an ounce, whilst the gold mining equity sector lost over 6%.
Copper, considered a good gauge for global GDP growth, carried on its steady ascent, climbing a further 2.5%, having risen by over 50% since its low point in March. Crude oil also rallied over the week, with both Brent and US WTI (West Texas Intermediate) rising by over 4%, trading at $44.5 a barrel and $42.0 respectively.
With news that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has an efficacy rate of 95%, which was followed by Moderna’s having both an efficacy rate of 94.5% and the ability to be store for 30 days at refrigeration temperature, there are strong hopes for these vaccines to be approved very soon, perhaps even this side of Christmas. Whilst this is good news, it is still unknown how quickly the roll-out programme will take, with the manufacture of these vaccines a likely bottleneck.
Additionally, infectious disease experts tell us that to achieve ‘herd immunity’, at least 60% of the population needs to be immune. This would require 63% of the population to be vaccinated assuming an efficacy rate of 95%. Although these vaccines are likely to be authorised for use in a much shorter time period than normal, they still come with known side effects including fever and fatigue. Preliminary surveys suggest a similar proportion of the population will be open to the vaccines as to the flu jab i.e. closer to 51%.
Important data being released this week include personal income and spending breakdowns, FOMC minutes, and building permits.