Weekly Update 04/09/2021

Apr 09, 2021 | Travis Stringer


There has been a sense of calm in global equity and bond markets of late. Gages of broad market volatility now sit near levels not seen since before the pandemic began more than a year ago. This development has been encouraging as it has come in the face of another wave of Covid-19 spreading across the globe. We provide an update on the virus situation below, and discuss the divergent economic paths that countries may experience as we move through the rest of the year.

Coronavirus update
The past few weeks have been characterized by an acceleration of Covid cases across the world. But unlike prior waves, this one is being fueled by variants of the virus that are exponentially more transmissible, infecting younger people and leading to a surge in hospitalizations in some jurisdictions. This is particularly the case in Canada, which has seen its 7-day average rate of new daily infections rise to nearly 6500, versus the 4500 from two weeks ago. Ontario represents close to half this figure, but Alberta and British Columbia have seen cases meaningfully accelerate, while Quebec’s growth rate is not far behind. Most of these provinces have implemented new lockdowns or restrictive measures with the hope that levels could plateau in a few weeks from now. Saskatchewan and Manitoba have also seen increases, though to a lesser degree. Meanwhile, in the Maritimes and northern territories, new daily infections have fortunately not increased much. 

In Europe, the news is somewhat mixed. There are some early signs that cases may have peaked in some countries given lockdowns implemented weeks ago, but some continue to report new highs in daily fatality rates. Elsewhere, Japan’s infection rate is on the rise. Brazil’s figures have come off a recent peak but remain elevated, and India recently reported a record high of more than 130,000 new daily infections.

Encouragingly, the U.S., U.K., and Israel continue to see limited acceleration in new infections, suggesting that a combination of vaccinations and previously high infection rates may be limiting the opportunities for the virus to spread. Nevertheless, it may be too early to claim victory as new cases remain elevated, and a handful of U.S. states such as Michigan are experiencing meaningful increases in infections, driven by the same variants that have taken over in Canada.

Divergent paths
The resurgence of the virus around the world in recent weeks may have played a role in curtailing some of the inflation concerns and bond volatility that surfaced earlier this year. The last few weeks have seen some sector rotation in the global equity markets as a result. The strong rally in cyclical parts of the global equity market – energy, mining, banks, and industrial companies for example – has stalled a bit, while areas like technology and other so-called growth stocks have stabilized and seen some gains of late. In turn, this rotation has driven some recent outperformance of the U.S. equity market relative to others.

Investors have acknowledged that a simultaneous re-opening of most economies around the world is unlikely to occur, and instead we are likely to have divergent re-openings and economic trajectories through the course of the year. The U.S. and U.K. may initially lead on the growth front, while other economies falter given renewed measures put in place and slower vaccination rollouts. But, investors are looking past the near-term headwinds, believing that lockdowns and mass inoculations will eventually prevail, allowing regions like Europe, Canada, and Asia to catch up and propel a stronger tailwind for economic and earnings growth towards the end of the year.

We suspect that the volatility in bond yields and concerns around inflation have not completely disappeared, and may resurface when some of the incoming data over the next few months reveal that the economic recovery is gaining steam and global breadth. That may once again reignite an intense debate around whether central banks like the U.S. Federal Reserve will have to tighten monetary policy earlier than they have indicated.

We are pleased to share the latest investment strategy report from RBC Wealth Management: Global Insight Weekly.

Infrastructure, inflation, and a possible Fed policy rethink
With the Biden administration poised to ramp up government spending further, markets are casting a wary eye on inflation. But the infrastructure plan—if it gets through Congress—has the potential to improve existing, highly supportive policy, and we look at how a Fed framework that’s already favorable to growth could get more so.
Regional developments: Canada’s hot housing market strains affordability; U.S. equity performance and earnings season preview; Europe/UK: Bulk of cyclicals’ outperformance likely in the rear-view mirror; People’s Bank of China asks banks to curtail loan growth

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