Bungled U.S. reopening risks global economic recovery

Firm remains positive on risk assets but suggests markets are overbought and appropriate hedges should be considered

Bungled U.S. reopening risks global economic recovery

The main thing standing between analysts and a more positive outlook is the lack of a cohesive national plan for reopening the U.S. economy.

The Picton Mahoney Asset Management outlook for Q3 concluded that the aggressive monetary and fiscal stimulus measures have worked to help mend the economy and capital markets. It also outlined how a “warp speed” risk asset drawdown in the first quarter was followed by a more powerful-than-expected recovery, albeit with economic data now accelerating back.

The outlook explained: “The initial steps taken by policy-makers have been up to the task, ensuring market liquidity and ample stimulus to bridge the shutdown gap. However, the question will now shift to not just how quickly economies can reopen but how effective any plans to do so can be without risking a serious new spike in case counts that undermines all the best-laid plans to date.”

Picton Mahoney had previously drawn upon the experience of the global financial crisis to outline a five-step playbook to respond to the pandemic turmoil, stabilize market panic and resurrect the global economy. They were: 1, Recognize the problem; 2, Swiftly deploy aggressive monetary stimulus measures; 3, Engage the banking system in various social financing measures; 4, Enact large fiscal stimulus programs to support people and industries in sudden turmoil; 5, Articulate and execute a clear plan to reopen the economy that minimized new virus outbreaks.

While the first four steps have been implemented swiftly, the last step is being held up by the all-important U.S. economy, which could lead to surging virus case counts and both economic and market volatility as the restart process continues.

The outlook said: “The U.S. has no national pandemic strategy that we can see, other than for the federal government and President Trump to apply large amounts of pressure to reopen as much of the economy as possible, while downplaying the importance of testing, contact tracing, science, etc.

“Without any coherent national plan for reopening, states and cities have been forced to fill the void with an assortment of different plans. Worse yet, it appears the reopening process in the U.S. has become politicized, with Republican-controlled states opening aggressively, compared with Democrat-controlled states. There are even ideologically driven arguments in the U.S. about whether masks should be worn or not. As a result, efforts to reopen the U.S. economy are leading to spiking case counts, especially in highly populated southern regions.”

The confidence an effective plan instils in its population is evident in Germany, where dining reservations in the hard-hit restaurant sector are virtually back to normal, while in the U.S. they are still well below normal levels, and are showing the potential to fall lower again, given the recent COVID-19 case count explosion.

While the early stages of global reopening are relatively lower risk, and the global economy should recover significantly over the summer, the U.S risks undermining global efforts, especially with election risks looming up ahead.

“Overall, we remain positive on risk assets, given the dramatic monetary and fiscal stimulus that has been provided in this cycle,” it said. “Near-term volatility could increase, but we expected pullbacks to be met by considerable pent-up buying that should limit the downside to more normal levels.”