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Well, the Congressional music seems not to have stopped just yet—with the deeply divided House and Senate continuing their (unsurprising) stimulus dance. The negotiations have moved little since late July, when Senate Republicans released their outline for a $1 trillion bill (which they’ve since followed up with a scaled-back plan). For their part, Democrats have thus far remained committed to the House’s $3.5 trillion package, passed on a near-party-line vote in May.
But is further stimulus yet warranted?
ESG has been an increasingly hot topic over the past couple years—and if anything, the recent pandemic and accompanying market volatility have accelerated many ESG-related conversations. As a firm without a centralized research function or a CIO, Artisan Partners’ approach to ESG and related topics has necessarily looked different.
Russia has had its fair share of market-moving news this year. Normally, the dispute with Saudi Arabia over oil production and President Putin’s announcement he would reset his term limits would take center stage—yet both have been overshadowed by the dual threats of COVID-19 and the corresponding pressure on oil demand. The economy has predictably struggled, with GDP down 9.6% YOY in Q2, while personal incomes fell 8.0%. Predictably, the ruble has also weakened relative to both the euro and USD—likely a byproduct of not only relative economic weakness but also the oil price collapse.
While the market has responded as we might expect (the MSCI Russia Index is down 22.5% YTD through July in USD terms), Russia is nevertheless still near the middle of the EM pack. It trails countries which have rebounded sharply, such as China and Taiwan, while leading harder-hit compatriots Brazil, Turkey, Hungary and Greece.
As COVID-19 hit and economies shuttered, long-planned IPOs and mergers slowed to a halt around the globe. German chemical firm Atotech, Russian oil giant Sibur, China’s 58 Home and the US’s Airbnb—to name a few—all delayed or halted IPO efforts in March and April. The same was true for M&A, where banks, financial firms and other parts of the market rethought agreed upon deals. M&A globally dropped nearly 50% through the first two quarters of 2020 compared to 2019, while IPO activity fell a more modest 6.8%.
None of this is surprising: M&A and IPO activity are likely a decent proxy for sentiment—with participants’ appetite waning as the macro backdrop’s favorability declines. On the flip side, then, it can potentially provide early insight into how quickly sentiment is rebounding. And we may now be seeing some sign of life in certain markets.
Seven months after the first COVID-19-related lockdowns, the economic impact is starting to manifest in the numbers. The EU, one of the hardest hit regions, expects an 8.3% contraction in GDP in 2020. The decline’s potential depth, coupled with decisions countries made during the 2008-2009 global recession, has elicited yet more creative tactics from the EU to attempt to stem a longer-term pullback—the latest of which is a large stimulus package. The €750bn deal, passed in July, still requires approval from individual parliaments, but it could alter how the EU operates moving forward.