Those of a certain age will remember the classic 1990s hit song by UK pop band D:ream titled “Things Can Only Get Better”.
You might be wondering what this has to do with investment markets and the headline-dominating Covid world that we live in. Well as time goes by, both the economy and investment markets will recover, even if these look different to what could have been imagined last Christmas. We may even have more setbacks, such as happened to Victoria, but the human spirit and a strong sense of community will get us back on track. That is the way of the world.
For those who reside in Victoria, it has been a tough time that has been exacerbated by a steady stream of negative news flow. The isolation of a Stage 4 lockdown is quite confronting, even for those who had anticipated the tough measures. In many instances, the ongoing reinforcement of the impacts of the virus on our lives has obscured what we believe is a growing light at the end of the tunnel – both at a community level and in an investment context.
While Victoria is undoubtedly facing the greatest challenge in its history, other parts of the globe incurred the full impact of the virus and have come through the other side. The scenes of absolute horror and devastation in Italy from just a few months ago will be forever etched in the minds of many. Yet Italy is now emerging from the worst of the virus and there is a general sense in the population that things are getting better.
Closer to home, Victoria is already orders of magnitude better off than what we saw in Italy, New York, London, France and Spain. Victoria is also likely to recover much more quickly than any of those places. Indeed, that is what was happening throughout May and much of June, and the rest of the Australian economy is rebounding as people adapt to a new normal.
To give some perspective on this, in the second half of July when new Victorian cases were rapidly escalating, payroll jobs were being quickly regained in NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania. Retail sales continued to improve and we saw that in areas where restrictions had been eased there was an increase in home loan commitments.
People have a tendency to want to get back on track and this spirit will ultimately shine through, regardless of how long the restrictions last. In important global economies, this has manifested as a familiar pattern of improving payrolls, industrial production and retail sales. This bodes well for Australia.
Meanwhile, investment markets have continued to march higher. Domestic shares recorded a fourth straight monthly gain in July. And global shares are broadly higher than from a year ago. New cases appear to have slowed in the US and hopes for a vaccine continue to rise following reports of positive early-stage trial results.
Which brings us back to Victoria and the D:ream classic hit…
After the initial lockdown, Victoria was showing signs of recovery, but this was thwarted by a second wave of infections. Originally a club hit, “Things Can Only Get Better” reached only number 24 in the UK chart in January 1993. The band then changed direction and the song was remixed to become a bigger hit, spending four weeks at number one in January 1994. Now that community transmission is declining, we can envisage Victoria improving in leaps and bounds. Restrictions will eventually be removed, though in the final wash-up, things may look a little different. Online sales will continue to grow and people will eventually return to work, even if from home. Markets will continue to recover…and yes, things can only get better.
Stay healthy and safe.