If ever there was a time that a financial journalist would not want to be confined to quarters it is now. Economic and market news is moving with such rapid speed that, without the hubbub of a newsroom, it is hard to keep up with even the big picture, let alone the relative minutia of how that cascades down to individual industries and companies. After plunging for a fortnight, markets have seen extraordinary bounces. The Dow Jones rose 11 per cent on Tuesday, its biggest single day jump since 1933. Companies that were teetering on the edge of existence have roared back to life, among them previously mentioned Cineworld, which more than doubled from its lows this week.
The main reason, of course, is the huge response by governments around the world, not least the US congress which this week announced a $2 trillion fiscal lifeline for the nation’s economy. I now feel rather silly for describing Rishi Sunak’s £330bn budget giveaway as a ‘whatever it takes’ moment – that now feels like the spare change down the back of the sofa in comparison to the largest biggest fiscal intervention in peace time history.
It is too early to be talking of recovery just yet, though. What the scale of the US intervention really tells us is that the economic situation is very dire indeed. A week on from our look at the healthcare industry’s battle against Covid-19, and it feels like we are making little progress beating the virus – although the story is changing even as we print; news has just landed of a much-needed antibody test that would tell us who has already had coronavirus, a key step to controlling it.
It can’t come too soon; as James Norrington observes, “printing money won’t cure coronavirus”, and until it can be controlled the economic and market outlook remains uncertain. The UK went into a three-week lockdown on Monday, but as Far Eastern countries that appeared to have tamed the virus further tighten containment measures, that could be extended. That means markets could be in for a wild ride yet – as history reminds us, some of the biggest daily market jumps were only brief moments of respite in continuing bear markets.
The lockdown is certainly making life more difficult for us. Remote working has temporarily defeated our stats page, and it is possible that in the weeks ahead there may come a point where, while we are set up to keep producing content remotely, we are temporarily unable to distribute printed magazines. Should this happen, subscribers can read a digital version of the mag – which includes a PDF download – at https://app.investorschronicle.co.uk/; non-subscribers can buy digital editions here.
And of course, we will keep publishing daily via our website, newsletters and now remotely recorded podcasts. Like us, investors shouldn’t be thinking about giving up, but towards a post-Covid world – for all the current gloom, you’ll find much in this week’s issue and in the newly launched education section of our website that reminds us that markets have a habit of surviving. Stick with them.