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Taplow Group – Pandemic Business Overview – 19th April 2021
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The Africa Development Bank reports that Africa is projected to recover in 2021 from its worst economic recession in half a century. Economic activity in Africa was constrained in 2020 by an unprecedented global pandemic caused by COVID–19. Real GDP in Africa is projected to grow by 3.4 percent in 2021, after contracting by 2.1 percent in 2020. This projected recovery from the worst recession in more than half a century will be underpinned by a resumption of tourism, a rebound in commodity prices, and the rollback of pandemic-induced restrictions. The outlook is, however, subject to great uncertainty from both external and domestic risks.
South Africa’s trade surplus rose to R28.96 billion in February 2021, exceeding expectations and bolstering the Rand. Exports grew by 16.5%, mainly due to a 73% rise in the sales of vehicles and transport equipment. Meanwhile, imports only rose by 1.6%, leading to the widening surplus. The ABSA Manufacturing PMI rose from 53 last month to 57.4 in March, exceeding an expected rise to 55. Growth in vehicle sales of over 30% also reinforced the narrative of economic recovery and an uptick in spending.
The central bank has also revised Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth estimates for 2021 up to 3.8%, from 3.6%. However, despite the positive local data, investor preference for major developed-market currencies has erased potential gains for emerging markets.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) says the Covid-19 pandemic has pulled the region’s developing economies into recession. It is the first time in six decades that “developing Asia” – a designation that includes 45 countries – has seen a regional slump.
The ADB says developing Asia’s economy shrank by 0.7% in 2020. But the region is expected to rebound strongly in 2021, growing by 6.8% next year.
Economic, health, fiscal, employment, trade and travel conditions continue to improve in Australia and the outlook is the economy is recovering from the COVID-19 crisis faster and stronger than previously expected.
Australia’s economy is forecast to grow by 4.5 per cent in 2021 according to The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and then expects economic growth to reach 2.8 per cent in 2022. The IMF notes that the “Australian economy continues to show a strong recovery momentum” and that a “favourable labour market recovery continues to support a strong rebound in private consumption, added by wealth effects from rising house prices”. Australia’s GDP is “projected to reach the pre-COVID level by the March quarter 2021 and compares favourably internationally with GDP remaining “significantly below pre-pandemic trends in most countries”. Australia also continues to compare well to other nations, forecasting Japan’s economy to grow by 3.3 per cent, Germany by 3.6 per cent and Italy by 4.2 per cent.
Labour Force numbers demonstrate the strength and resilience of Australia’s economy with 70,700 jobs created in March – with around 80% of the jobs going to women and around half to young people and the participation rate has also risen to a record high. The labour market having recovered more than four times faster than during the 90s recession.
Exports to China hit a record in the first three months of the year as strong demand for iron ore continues with the total value of goods exports from Australia rising 20.7 per cent in the first quarter of the year, according to data released by China’s customs ¬agency and China’s exports to Australia for the three months to the end of March were up 50.5 per cent. The new trade numbers show the deep complementarity between resource-rich Australia and China, its biggest trading partner.
China’s economic surged by 18.3 percent in the first quarter
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China’s economy grew by 18.3 percent in the first quarter of 2021 and in the steady process of recovery. The Chinese economy “made a good start” in the first quarter with expanded demand and enhanced market vitality. However, there are multiple unstable factors still needs to be faced including external uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 and international environment as well as domestic long-standing structural issues and new problems.
Chinese regulators imposed $2.8 billion fine in an anti-monopoly investigation of Alibaba
Alibaba was charged by the State Administration for Market Regulation with abusing its market dominance. The fine was equivalent to four percent of Alibaba’s domestic sales in 2019. “Alibaba accepts the penalty with sincerity and will ensure its compliance with determination,” The announcement is the latest development in the government’s increased oversight on internet companies to avoid the “disorderly expansion of capital”.
Retail sales growth improved in March
Retail sales growth rose to 34.2% in March, against market expectations of a fall. Thanks for the domestic containment of Covid-19 and the gradual relaxation of some social distancing rules, a faster consumption recovery was driven partly by the release of pent-up demand. It is expected the retail sales, especially catering services will remain solid in coming months.
Global brokerage Nomura lowered its growth expectations for India to 12.6% in the new fiscal year from 13.5% earlier. The revision reflected the pandemic drag on the economy and marginally lower retail inflation. At the beginning of the month, Nomura had warned that the economy’s growth could fall to 12.2% if the second wave of Covid-19 worsened.
India has become the fastest country in the world to administer 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine. India achieved the feat in 85 days whereas USA took 89 days and China reached the milestone in 102 days.
Japanese electronics brand AIWA, which registered its India subsidiary in February this year, is relaunching with five products in TWS and audio segment at a total investment outlay of $10 million for phase-1 of operations. It is also looking to establish a manufacturing base in India by direct investment in Greenfield projects as well as partnering with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the second phase.
The government recently approved the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for Air-Conditioners and LED Lighting with a budgetary outlay of $1 Billion. The white goods industry welcomed the government’s scheme for these products and feel it will promote production of both finished goods and components.
The pandemic has pushed India’s passenger vehicle sales to six-year low. According to the data released by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), passenger vehicle wholesales declined by 2.24% in FY 2020-21.
India is offering more than $1 billion in cash to each semi-conductor company that sets up manufacturing units in the country as it seeks to build on its smartphone assembly industry and strengthen its electronics supply chain.
Singapore’s economy grew by 0.2 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2021, a turnaround after three quarters of contraction, as the country continued its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Making the most gains in the first quarter was the manufacturing sector, which grew 7.5 per cent year-on-year. Accounting for about one-fifth of Singapore’s economy, the sector has been a bright spot in the pandemic-fuelled downturn. This is largely due to growth in clusters such as precision engineering, biomedical manufacturing, and electronics, which have benefited from the boom in electronics demand as businesses look to digital solutions in a post-COVID world. (Source: Channel News Asia)
Singapore and Hong Kong are in discussion on starting the long-delayed air travel bubble between the two cities. The air travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore was originally scheduled to begin in November last year but was deferred due to a spike in infections in Hong Kong. The scheme would have allowed people to travel between the two cities with no restrictions on the purpose of travel and no requirement for a controlled itinerary or sponsorship. Travellers would be subject only to COVID-19 tests, without the need for quarantine or stay-home notices. (Source: Channel News Asia)
The latest NZIER Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion shows a modest improvement in business confidence in the first quarter of 2021, while demand held steady.
A net 11 percent of businesses expect a worsening in general economic conditions over the coming months, on a seasonally adjusted basis. This is a modest improvement from the 16 percent of businesses which were pessimistic about the economic outlook in the previous quarter. Meanwhile, firms’ own trading activity was unchanged from the previous quarter. This measure suggests annual GDP growth will track around 2 percent in the March 2021 quarter.
Retailers most pessimistic of the sectors surveyed
The retail sector has become the most downbeat of the sectors surveyed, with a net 38 percent expecting a deterioration in the economic outlook. Although retailers report some softening in demand, the significant development has been the surge in costs in the retail sector. This is likely to reflect the effects of COVID-related supply chain disruptions, which are driving up shipping and freight costs and affecting retailers’ ability to restock shelves.
The building sector has also become more downbeat, despite a still solid pipeline of construction. Supply chain disruptions also look to be affecting activity, along with an acute shortage of skilled labour. Building construction firms report difficulty in finding skilled labour at levels last seen in mid-2017.
Cost pressures remain intense
Supply chain disruptions are contributing to the intense cost pressures across most sectors. However, firms are also finding it easier to pass on higher costs by raising prices. A net 8 percent of firms raised prices in the March quarter – a turnaround from the net 2 percent which cut prices in the previous quarter. Higher export-oriented dairy and fruit prices are supporting key regions. These results suggest a pick-up in inflation pressures over the coming year.
Firms positive about hiring and investment
Despite some uncertainty about the economic outlook, firms are continuing to plan for an increase in staff numbers and investment. A net 8 percent of firms increased staff numbers in the March quarter, and a net 18 percent plan to hire in the next quarter. Firms are also feeling more confident about investment, particularly in plant and machinery. Rising labour costs and the reduced ability of firms to bring in workers from overseas given border restrictions has likely sharpened the focus on investment in labor-saving technology.
Travel bubble with Australia announced
The New Zealand Government announced the confirmation last week of a ‘travel bubble’ with Australia. Economists state that this will be a welcome development for some local businesses, but the net impact on GDP is likely to be muted as we see a bounce in both inflows and outflows of tourist spending. A wider reopening of the borders, and a more complete rebound in activity, is not likely to happen until next year, once the Covid-19 vaccination programme is substantially completed.
The eurozone economy grew at a record pace in the third quarter of 2020 but has already stalled in the face of a resurgence of coronavirus infections and tough new restrictions, leaving Europe lagging behind the U.S. and Asia in its recovery from the crisis.
The EU Commission reports that overall, GDP is now forecast to grow by 3.7% in 2021 and 3.9% in 2022 in the EU, and by 3.8% in both years in the euro area. The EU economy would reach the pre-crisis level of output earlier than anticipated back in the Autumn Forecast, largely because of the stronger momentum in the second half of 2021 and in 2022. The speed of the recovery will, however, vary significantly across the EU.
The partial lockdown is still in place with selective openings and different rules depending on states and regions; schools are open only for youngest ones and last-year pupils. A draft of a new federal lockdown law with more restrictions is disputed in parliament; the federal lockdown-easing matrix with multiple steps to open or close was implemented differently in the states.
Covid-infections increase and cause fear of future shortages in hospitals. People increase lockdown complaints. Most work should and is performed from home. Government recovery schemes spending continue.
In general, many residents hope and wait for better times to come. Most production sectors grow from exports only, consumer spending for non-food remains low, some consumer may lack money to spend while others may save it; entertainment, hospitality and passenger transportation suffer; financial services sectors perform well but some fear adjustable assets in their books, some firms grow while performing strong cost reductions. Healthcare, software, technology, telecommunications, energy and agriculture are relatively unaffected. Food and online delivery and many essentials perform well, most logistic business is performing very well.
Covid-test rates are still small but increase. Vaccination rate is too slow like in other major EU countries and can cost lots of billions of Euros in business. An expectation is federal elections this September shall ensure vaccination offers to all, many are uncertain. Though GDP decline in 2020 was lower than expected and lower than in other EU countries published expected growth rates for 2021 and 2022 were reduced again.
The Banque de France estimates that the loss of GDP in March was -4% compared to the pre-crisis level, compared to -5% in February. For the first quarter as a whole, GDP is expected to grow slightly compared to the previous quarter.
In March, sanitary measures were gradually extended, with in particular the implementation of reinforced restrictions in 16 and then 19 departments from March 20. Nevertheless, activity strengthened in industry, as well as in market services and construction, according to the Banque de France business survey conducted between March 29 and April 6 among 8,500 companies.
In industry, activity continued to recover in March. The production capacity utilization rate increased by three points to 80%, returning to a level comparable to that of the pre-crisis period (it was 79% in February). It has improved in all sectors, with particularly significant increases in the automotive sector (from 75% to 80%), in the clothing, textiles and footwear sector (from 74% to 79%) and in the rubber and plastic products sector (from 78% to 83%).
The capacity utilization rate is fairly uniform across sectors and is above 79% in all sectors, with the exception of aeronautics and other transport and metallurgy, where it remains down (71% and 77% respectively).
Business leaders believe that activity has returned to near pre-crisis levels in sectors such as food processing and rubber and plastics manufacturing. In contrast, activity is only three-quarters of its pre-crisis level in the aeronautics and other transport sectors. As in February, and to an even greater extent, industrial business leaders reported an increase in raw material and finished product prices in March.
In market services, activity is improving in most sectors. On one hand, this trend is particularly noticeable in transportation services, information services and certain business services such as legal and accounting activities and management consulting. On the other hand, activity remains very weak in accommodation and catering. Business activity is increasing in the construction sector and has reached a level close to that of the pre-crisis period, according to the business leaders questioned.
In April, taking into account the reinforcement of sanitary measures (extension of restrictions to the whole country, closure of day-care centres and schools for three to four weeks), the Banque de France estimates that the loss of GDP compared to the pre-crisis level would be -7%, i.e. of the same order of magnitude as during the previous lockdown in November (but during which day-care centres and schools remained open), and four to five times lower than during the first lockdown in April 2020. This indicates an increased resilience of the economy to health constraints.
For the month of April, in a context of tightening sanitary measures, business leaders anticipate a drop in their activity, but which overall should remain contained.
In industry, activity would be almost stable overall. The clothing, textile and footwear sector is expected to show a marked decline, while activity in the chemical industry is expected to increase. Production in the aeronautics and other transport sector is also expected to rise, but to remain well below its pre-crisis level.
The services sector would see a particularly marked deterioration in automotive repair and in equipment and automobile rental. Activity should also deteriorate in the personal services sector, as well as in accommodation, where it is already at an exceptionally low level. Finally, activity in the construction sector is expected to show little change.
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Tuesday guaranteed that the biggest public investment plan in recent history (€140bn) will modernize the Spanish economy more intensely than at any other time since the country joined the European Union in 1986
Around half of the amount, €72 billion, will take the form of grants, while the rest € 70 will be paid out in loans. Over the next six years, Pedro Sánchez said, Spain will undertake 102 reforms (labour, pensions, taxes, public administration etc) and 110 substantial investment projects (mobility strategy, residential building renovation plan, digitalization, tourism, 5G and technologies).
We expect a recovery specially in tourism, as the Canary Island and Baleares will receive a big stake of this funds. Also, the vaccine program is going under schedule and the state of alarm will end the 9th of May.
And the show goes on in Madrid as cultural life continues despite pandemic: opera house and museums remain open.
Municipal election takes place in June seeing strong growth from a right-wing party True Finns who are competing with Social Democrats about the biggest party.
On country level there is strong focus on sustainable growth and recovery plan, leading the finance towards green transition and digitalization.
Recruitment business is continuing to recover in Finland with a strong Q1. Companies are recruiting now more and investing also to new roles and businesses. Startup scene is still strong in Finland, especially in tech sector.
Finnish forest industry company Metsä Group is making a biggest investment in Finnish forest industry when they build a new pulp factory in Northern Finland, worth 1,6B€.
The latest UK economic data has been significantly better than economists expected, suggesting households and companies have been more resilient to the latest lockdown and Britain will climb international economic performance league tables in the months ahead.
Britain’s recovery during the second half of last year was stronger than first estimated, according to official figures that also showed that households put away more money in savings accounts than previous data suggested.
In a series of revisions to its data covering the Covid-19 pandemic, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the economy expanded by 16.9% and 1.3% in the third and fourth quarters of 2020, respectively. This marked steep increases on initial estimates of 16.1% and 1%.
Analysts said the more robust recovery than first pencilled in by the ONS gave hope for a broader expansion during 2021 as the economy gained momentum. Business surveys from the Institute for Directors (IoD) and the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) showed that most small and medium-sized business owners expected growth to accelerate during the year as consumers returned to high streets and face-to-face contact resumed.
The IoD said businesses were beginning to hire more staff after optimism increased to its highest level since the 2019 general election. It added that difficulties with new trading terms with the EU was “a top factor having a negative impact on business”.
According to the most recent forecast released at the Federal Open Market Committee meeting, U.S. GDP growth is expected to contract by 2.4% in 2020. It is estimated to then rebound up to a 4.2% growth rate in 2021, and slow to 3.2% in 2022, and 2.4% in 2023.
Four years. That is how long it will take Latin America and the Caribbean to recover pre-pandemic economic growth, says the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in its 2021 preliminary overview report.
Growth in 2021 is expected to reach 3.7 percent, due mostly to a statistical rebound after, in 2020, contracting 7.7 percent to mark the deepest recession among the world’s emerging economic regions. The World Bank also arrived at 3.7 percent growth in its 2021 growth projection for the region, followed by 2.8 percent in 2022.
In 2020, due to the adversities brought by Covid-19, the GDP fell 4.1% against 2019, the lowest rate of the timeline series started in 1966 (former estimates indicated a – 9.00%+ rate). In the cumulative yearly rate, GDP, in current values, amounted to US$ 1,443 trillion out of which US$ 1,241 trillion refers to Value Added at basic prices and US$ 193,9 billion to Net Taxes on Products.
There was an increase only in Agriculture of 2.0% and decreases in Industry of -3.5% and Services -4.5%. The GDP totalled US$ 1,443 trillion, in 2020. The Investment Rate in 2020 was 16.4% of GDP vs. 15.4% in 2019, and the Savings Rate was 15% vs. 12.5% in 2019.
The Per Capita GDP reached US$ 6,822 in 2020, down 4.8% in real terms. This was also the lowest rate in the timeline series.
Source: IBGE/” Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics” – Brazilian Government
The U.S. economy has roared back to life in 2021, with first-quarter growth set to defy even the rosiest expectations as another fresh influx of cash looms.
Manufacturing data Monday showed the sector at its highest growth level since August 2018. That report from the Institute for Supply Management in turn helped confirm the notion among economists that output to start the year is far better than the low single-digit growth many had been predicting in late 2020.
The Atlanta Federal Reserve, which tracks data in real time to estimate changes in gross domestic product, now is indicating a 10% gain for the first three months of the year. The GDPNow tool generally is volatile early in the quarter then becomes more accurate as the data rolls in through the period.
That comes on the heels of a report Friday showing that personal income surged 10% in January, thanks largely to $600 stimulus checks from the government. Household wealth increased nearly $2 trillion for the month while spending rose just 2.4%, or $340.9 billion.
Those numbers, along with a burst of nearly $4 trillion in savings, pointed to an economy not only growing powerfully but also one that is poised to continue that path through the year.
“The V-shaped recovery in real GDP will remain V-shaped during the first half of this year and probably through the end of the year,” Ed Yardeni of Yardeni Research wrote in his daily note last Tuesday.