It was the month in which John Major resigned as Conservative Party leader to face down the eurosceptic “bastards” destabilising his government. In the City of London, meanwhile, the London Stock Exchange (LSE) was preparing to launch what it now describes as “the most successful growth market in the world”. The Alternative Investment Market (Aim) opened its doors on 19 June 1995.
Lenin could have been describing the Covid-19 pandemic. “There are decades where nothing happens and there are weeks where decades happen,” the Russian revolutionary once pronounced – and that feels spot on right now. The world has changed in the space a few weeks, and while we will eventually emerge from lockdown, there will be no going back.
The Covid-19 crisis could hardly be a starker reminder that the things so many of us take for granted are more fragile than we realise. That includes good health – and our assumption that most ills can be avoided or quickly treated courtesy of a trip to the GP. That most people barely give a second thought to illnesses and diseases that once did so much damage is a tribute to the remarkable achievements of scientists, healthcare providers and drug developers.
In 1665, as the bubonic plague tightened its grip on England, Cambridge University took the unprecedented step of closing its doors. One of its young students put the period of isolation to good use: Isaac Newton spent his forced sabbatical at home doing the groundwork for what would become his theory of calculus.
This piece was written in February, before the impact of the coronavirus on global markets.
And so it begins. With near-perfect synchronicity, Donald Trump won his impeachment battle just as the state of Ohio was announcing the delayed results of the first Democratic primary. The US presidential election campaign is under way, even if we only know for now which Republican candidate will be on the ballot paper.
Santa rally or election elation? The UK stockmarket posted its biggest gains for more than three years in the week following Boris Johnson’s landslide election victory on 12 December, despite a simultaneous jump in the value of sterling that might have been expected to hit large firms with hefty international earnings.
Precarious. That’s how the International Monetary Fund describes the economic outlook as we head into 2020. It’s hardly a clarion bell of optimism with which to ring in the new year – but then the year just gone has not given forecasters much reason to be cheerful.
In these times of momentous political upheaval, old certainties suddenly look less sure. Just ask Christian Schultz, chief UK economist at Citibank, and Oliver Harvey, head of Brexit research and UK macro strategy at Deutsche Bank.
The duo made headlines in September with pronouncements that a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government could actually be a safe option for the UK – safer than a no-deal Brexit for sure, and maybe even safer than a Conservative government led by a fiscally profligate Boris Johnson.
After the disastrous suspension of Woodford Equity Income this spring, the board of Woodford Patient Capital (WPCT) felt compelled to act quickly to reassure shareholders. The closed-ended fund does not face the same liquidity issues as its sister vehicle, but the board was under pressure to prove its independence – and it had a good idea of how to do so.
Vanguard’s LifeStrategy passive fund range has built up close to £16 billion of assets under management since its launch in the UK just eight years ago. It seems remarkable that no other fund manager has sought to capture a slice of what is obviously a lucrative market with a rival product.