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Restart or false start?

Shops have been cautiously reopening again but only 48 hours before then, the Premiership kicked off for the first time since March.

More bad news if you’re an Arsenal fan (not me) but at least you had the consolation of not being able to travel to the Etihad and could watch it (through your fingers) at home.

If there’s anything that signals “business as usual” more than David Luiz bungling, I’d like to see it.

That said, there’s a serious point to be made with the advent of something that seemed unthinkable three months ago. That shops and even football matches would be shut down until June.

My colleague Stuart Southall travelled to our office in Strand last week and noted that there were more “helpers” at Waterloo station than there were commuters. There had only been some 50 passengers on his ten-coach train.

And while schools have been partially functioning for the children of key workers, they, too, are very far away from operating normally.

I should point out that I welcome any initiative to coax us back towards a time where we can buy, travel, learn and work safely and I don’t think I’m alone in that.

But I fear it will be a much slower process than the imploring, rousing headlines would have us believe.

And part of my reasoning is based on the reports that it will take a decade or more for the US to make good on the losses that three months of pandemic shutdown has delivered.

One or two lockdown acquaintances I know have expressed surprise at what seems a disproportionate timespan. Ten years lost for the price of three abandoned months?

It does strike at the heart of the emergency we face in that the almost complete shutdown of everyday economic activity exposed the fragility of our markets.

That’s because so much of what we latterly took for granted is down to confidence, the belief that going shopping, buying a new car or a house is fundamentally the right thing to do now because we feel relatively buoyant about what lies ahead.

Confidence is key

If you were to identify a thread to stitch together the patchwork of our consumer and wider economy, confidence is the reel you hope never runs bare.

Confidence is often used as a catch-all but it, in this case, it is relevant. If you were looking for something more tangible, it translates to cash flow and it is going to take some time for it to reach the levels required for central bankers and our political leaders to sleep soundly at night.

At the time of writing, the government has spent £750bn as a result of the pandemic, more than any of the previous crises of the last decade. What that should tell you is confidence and the cash flow it generates is critical to our recovery.

Let’s hope this latest round of quantitative easing bridges the crater left by the impact of the virus since the end of March.

Let’s hope that we can actually begin to fill in the hole. This website offers a global view of how each country for which figures are available, is succeeding or otherwise in reducing the number of deaths and depleting the rate of infection.

If we’re to move forward with confidence in what was an ever-closer, more interconnected world, what these lines show is we all need to be moving in the same direction.

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Confidence and the cash flow it generates is critical to our recovery.

Your Questions Answered


Tom Becket, Chief Investment Officer, answers some commonly asked questions about the impact of COVID-19 on financial markets and the wider economy


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After 40 years of experience in the pensions world, I'm sharing my insights.