June 2020: Disadvantage month

Well, it’s nice having some new news. I would struggle to mention any big stories over the last six months except Brexit and Covid-19. But June has been ‘disadvantaged minorities’ month.

The month began with the awful George Floyd story ricocheting around the world.

Thousands around the world protest against George Floyd's death in ...
Protests over George Floyd’s death spread to Europe (Source: CNN)

My first reaction was to think of this as a very American thing; my conclusion from reading Robert Caro’s masterful biography of LBJ was that America not having apartheid to the present day was a close run thing. And the American policing system is in a western world of its own, helped by those archaic constitutional clauses about the rights to form militia / bear arms / etc. Closer to home, I didn’t approve of the ‘anti statue’ brigade, siding with those who see it as rewriting history.

Edward Colston statue pulled down in Bristol, England during ...

A month later, and my thinking has changed significantly. I’ve woken up to some of the ongoing issues that are easy to ignore in the daily grind. I’m slightly more aware of the UK’s own role in the shameful American legacy (whose colonies were they, after all, when slavery was legalised in 1640?). I now concede that statues are as much style/decoration as they are historical record, and that a town square’s/Oxford college quad’s choice of statue can be seen as a contemporary aethestic choice. I don’t want to see statues destroyed, but I do accept that some might be better moved to a museum rather than left in pride of place.

Is Oriel College, Oxford, right to remove the statue of Cecil ...
Oriel College, Oxford
Continue reading “June 2020: Disadvantage month”

May 2020: A sunny month

Well, May 2020 was the month that highlighted, as the Economist put it, Boris’ short-Cummings. Remember much else happening that month?

In May the UK started unlocking, slowly. The government(s) has(ve) been slowly releasing the strait jacket to fit what people (in London at least) have been doing anyway for a week or two. I’ve stayed healthy, and my boundaries have enlarged slightly – by which I mean I had my first Zoom party, and there are slightly more restaurants available on Deliveroo.

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April 2020: A mad bounce

It’s been a much calmer month in the markets.

Of course it’s been the month that the UK’s Prime Minister went to hospital, with a “50:50” chance of making it out alive.

Lockdown has been the word on everybody’s lips. I spent the entire month working (hard! Even a bit over the long Easter weekend) from home. And, while the UK extended its lockdown from 3 weeks to 6, by the end of the month the lockdown mood music from across Europe and beyond had noticeably improved.

Markets up almost 10%

And, my, how the market’s mood had improved. The US, the S&P rose from 2462 on 1 April to 2923 on 29 April, a rise of 19%. In a month. If you had the courage to burn dry powder on US equities in late March you could have seen over 20% gains since. My (slightly leveraged) “US tech” equity subportfolio rose about 25% – led by Amazon breaking to new highs above $2400.

S&P 500, FTSE-100, AMZN over April

US equities were in fact the standout winner, up 13% in the month, while other equity markets rose 4-6%. In part, this reflects ‘big tech’ (which account for >10% of the US market). Bonds had a pretty good month too, aside from in Oz – where the currency recovered 4%.

April 2020 market & currency movements

What’s going on : is it QE?

I have been finding the market hard to fathom.

Continue reading “April 2020: A mad bounce”