Independent Strategy
Independent Strategy: Nick Kennedy

Nick Kennedy, Chief Economist

NICK KENNEDY, Chief Economist, joined Independent Strategy in December 2012. He bears primary responsibility for all aspects of Independent Strategy’s investment research process, with a focus on macroeconomics and financial market strategy. He holds an honours degree in Politics and Modern History from Manchester University and holds the MSTA designation from the Society of Technical Analysts.

Posts by Nick Kennedy

Google mobility data continues to paint an improving picture, with mobility and economic activity nudging higher again over the past week.  And the breadth of improvement is encouraging too. There was a solid increase across Europe in particular, driven by Germany but France, Italy, Spain and the UK also moved positively.  Developed Asia also fared well.  There was a modest dip in Australia amid some short-term localised lockdowns, but the damage from pre-Covid levels is far milder here anyway.

The past week hasn’t really seen any substantial shifts in activity, even if it’s increasingly clear that we’re past the worst as Covid cases continue to decline globally and the first signs of the vaccine impact start to percolate into the data. In the overall rankings, it is the Europeans that remain the most depressed compared to pre-pandemic levels of activity, with the UK languishing at the bottom of that league.  Germany and France took a step back based on the data, while there was a further mild improvement in Spain and Italy.

Global

POST » 10th February, 2021 » Early signs of recovery

With the continued decline in new reported Covid cases globally, it is no surprise that we’ve started to see an improvement in overall activity levels.  At least based on the Google data. Indeed, all but one of the countries in our sample recorded a week on week improvement.  The worst was France and that was simply stable.  Europe remains at the bottom of the pile in terms of overall activity, but the corner has certainly been turned and we’d expect to see this pick-up to extend and accelerate over the coming weeks.

Vaccination doses administered continue to rise by more than 30% a week. But still less than 10% of the population of rich countries have received a shot and less than 2% globally. The US and UK  lead with 13% and 19% with the EU at 4% of people having had at least one shot. People who have been completely inoculated are still low — less than 2% globally — 1% in the EU, 0.75% in the UK and 2.77% in the US.

Global

POST » 3rd February, 2021 » Steady, ahead of recovery

Another week of relative stability as measures to contain the pandemic remained static in most places.  More draconian restrictions in Europe leave the region at the bottom end of the spectrum while EMs and Asia rate far better.

Covid-19 vaccinations rising at a rate of around 40% per week.  Not much difference between EU 38%, UK 30%, US 36%.  Odd given vaccine wars!  The percentage of the population vaccinated at least one time now stands at 1.2% globally, EU 2.7%, US 8.4%, UK 13%.  While this is rising fast, this is still way short of herd immunity. And the percentage of the population fully vaccinated is still very low — less than 1% of the population everywhere except the US, Israel and a few small states (UK 0.7% and EU 0.4%).

Global

POST » 27th January, 2021 » Stuck in the doldrums

Economic activity seems to be bedding down in the doldrums amid lockdowns and other varying restrictions on activity.  Europe continues to suffer the most, although weak activity remains a broad phenomenon.

The noise of the holiday period might have overstated the extent of the decline in economic activity but there is no doubting that the backdrop remains very depressed.  Lockdowns and other restrictions remain the driver of this, with Europe bearing the brunt of the hit.  But high levels of Covid infection continues to dampen the economy even in places where efforts to tackle the virus are less draconian.

As we move into 2021, we are getting a clearer picture into the extent of the slowdown in economic activity that the resurgent Coronavirus has triggered.  Although the Google mobility indices were already indicating a sharp deterioration, the scale of the decline reported through to the turn of the year was exaggerated by holiday effects, as we noted last time.  Data through to the 8th of January, which was released yesterday, gives us a clearer picture of how things stand.  And while it is not quite as bleak as over the Christmas and New Year period, the data still paints a fairly poor picture of global economic health.

US

POST » 8th January, 2021 » US December Non-Farm Payrolls

December Non-farm payrolls recorded a -140k drop, quite a bit below the markets +71k guess.  This takes the 3m average down to +283k.  Private sector payrolls were a little better than the headline print at -95k, helped by manufacturing which added +38k jobs while the decline in government moderated to -45k.  That was still the fourth consecutive decline but is largely census related.  Despite the headline miss revisions were very positive, +91k in November alone

China

POST » 7th January, 2021 » China December FX Reserves

December saw a further solid increase in Chinese FX reserves, the headline holdings number rising US$38.03bn m/m to US$3,216bn.  Again more than half of the rise can be attributed to valuation adjustments as the US dollar continued to depreciate against the balance of the PBoC’s reserve holdings.

The re-acceleration of Covid infections has hit mobility hard over the past two weeks.  Although there are clearly seasonal factors at work (which the Google data series do not account for), we’ve clearly seen a pronounced deterioration in both mobility and economic activity above and beyond what could have been normally expected. This has been concentrated in Europe, with a particularly severe drop in Germany where our economic activity measure suggests things are even worse than at the peak of the crisis last April.  Italy and the UK have also registered steep falls, while Spain and France have seen more modest drops.

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