July 2021 – China educates investors

In the UK, July 19th was long-awaited (and once postponed) ‘freedom day’. Or, as the FT aptly renamed it, ‘surrender day’. Despite rapidly rising cases, and technocrats loudly reminding people that unlocking was not ‘following the science’, the UK removed many restrictions on July 19th.

At the time of writing, this move appears to be paying off. While it is too soon to judge the impact of a policy enacted only 12 days ago – given the lags in the virus’ severest impacts – the case count has in any event been falling for a week. Over 90% of UK adults now have antibodies, and the role that children have in spreading the virus remains unclear (paywall link here).

The average age of people with cases is around 25 – and people with 2 jabs almost entirely escape intensive care, let alone the morgue. In my local neighbourhood the case count has just hit an all-time high, but the hospitals remain relatively unaffected.

London remains distinctly subdued. But with last week’s opening of the borders to fully vaccinated EU/USA visitors, the tourist trade should start to pick up.

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June 2021 – Alpha, Beta and Delta

June saw the return of Covid in a big way for London and the UK.

While in much of Europe/USA, a covid case is now a rarity, in the UK case numbers are up dramatically – 20-fold in my part of London for instance (see graph below). The Delta variant now accounts for >90% of the cases and, wow, does it spread easily. Other countries, notably Australia, will almost certainly have some of this to come – but you hear it from London first.

Cases reported in my area by the Zoe app

The UK is aiming to outrun the Delta variant by vaccinating. The complication with this plan is that you need two jabs to have even a hope of avoiding Delta, and if you have AstraZeneca than your hope is only a 60% hope even with 2 jabs. A virus with an underlying reproductive factor of 8 laughs at protection of only 60% – reducing 8 by 60% leaves the Delta variant with the same reproductive ratio as the original Covid-19 variant.

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May 2021 – a sterling month

May sucked, as an experience.

The weather sucked. The most miserable May on UK record, or some such.

I was working very hard, with a couple of crises/dramas to deal with at work.

So I had barely any time to pay attention to the markets. About the most noticeable thing was that the pound clipped above $1.40 and stayed there. For me with a high (~50%) USA weighting, the forex movement dominates the market returns – leaving my benchmark markets, in GBP, down about 0.6% on the month.

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