This week we were all shocked to find that Boris Johnson had been admitted, not just to hospital, but to ITU. There has an outpouring of support for him, his partner Carrie Symonds and his family, from across the UK and from all political persuasions. This just goes to show how human this crisis has really become – all of us will find, I’m sure, that we are impacted personally, people we know, people we love, who will suffer from this horrible virus, and some of them will cope better than others; some, very sadly, not so well.
As we approach Easter, the investment markets have started to show some stability as the general news about COVID-19 seems to be improving, with increasing evidence that the social distancing is working. Evidence from other European countries – Italy and Spain – give us confidence that the way we are dealing with this is delaying the spread of the virus, and the admission by the UK Government that Germany’s approach can teach us lessons too will hopefully feed into the way the UK is managing the crisis and see further improvements as time goes on. In the meantime, at the time of writing, it looks very unlikely that social distancing regulations will be relaxed in the short term as there is a real concern that relaxing them too soon will allow a further spike in infection rates.
That said, it’s a real dilemma. How do we manage the progress of this virus and at the same time not completely crash the economy? In all likelihood there will be a phasing-in of relaxation over a period of time, which will allow us to go about life in a more normal fashion, focusing on the measures that offer the greatest benefit at the lowest cost – so schools may re-open as the benefits of closing them are thought by some scientists to be minimal but large gatherings will still be banned. This is being referred to as “hammer and the dance” – the “hammer” being the suppression strategy to bring the number of cases down to a manageable level and the “dance” is to keep infection numbers low so it doesn’t cause another large scale epidemic.
The investment advice that we gave right from the beginning has proved to have real merit. Time and again we have reassured clients that the thing to do at times of crisis like this is to sit tight and not lose your nerve. Over the past weeks, we have seen record-breaking falls on the stock markets worldwide, followed by startlingly rapid and significant recoveries – a rise of 9% in one day on the FTSE alone. So, the fund managers that we have selected for our clients have certainly been “earning their corn” of late. We have been hosting many telephone and video conferences over Skype/Zoom, etc to reassure clients, and we will be continuing to offer those reviews as time goes on. If you would like to link up with us on a video or telephone conference and haven’t yet had the opportunity to do so, please contact your usual adviser at Acumen and we will be sure to be able to arrange one for you in the days to come.
All that said, it is Easter and the time of new beginnings, green shoots and Spring, and whilst our Easter holiday might be somewhat different from previous Easters, with no family get-togethers to look forward to, it is worth having a look at one of the COVID-19 related stories that has been doing the rounds.
Will there be a “baby boom” in 9 months’ time? Some are speculating that there will -since couples are spending more time in close proximity – and we all know that there was a baby boom after 9/11 and again after the New York Blackout in 2003, don’t we? Or do we?
Dr Marina Adshade, an Economics lecturer at the University of British Columbia, is a specialist in this area. Her research shows that the so-called 9/11 Baby Boom is a myth as is the one said to have followed the New York Blackout – just another urban legend.
It’s just not as simple as saying that because people are locked in together there will be more births. One of the major factors in birth rate is the number of teen births, and of course, all the teens are in lockdown – you can’t get pregnant on Zoom! As far as planned pregnancies are concerned, in stable relationships, the anxiety relating to the current situation is likely to put people off extending their family in the current circumstances. There may be some unplanned pregnancies, Dr Adshade feels, simply because a lot of contraceptives are made in China and there have therefore been some shortages. One of the saddest consequences of C-19 is that fertility treatments have stopped, and this, alongside a lot of other treatments that have been cancelled or postponed is one of the most unfortunate and worrying aspects of the C-19 crisis.
Overall, it looks unlikely that there is going to be a Baby Boom and certainly wealthy nations are likely to see a decrease, at least in planned births.
At the time of writing, we have just received the welcome news that the Prime Minister is responding to treatment at St Thomas’ Hospital. Like so many across the UK, we have been standing on our doorsteps applauding the NHS and other key workers and here at Acumen, we are doing our best to continue to provide the most up-to-date information to our clients and to ensure that we remain accessible to everyone who needs to discuss their financial planning.
Over the Easter holidays we will be taking a break, as many of you will be, although we will be back at work on Tuesday, and if there are any queries or enquiries that anyone would like to put to us, please continue to use the usual telephone numbers and email addresses and we’ll be right back to you. The message from Acumen is very much to “Stay safe, stay at home and focus on health, family and friends.”