Head - EMEA Investment Strategy
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In the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, we urge actions including staying invested and diversifying sensibly.
As COVID-19 started to spread beyond China around ten days ago, the GIC eliminated its overweight to equities globally, including within Europe. COVID-19 threatens both a demand and a supply shock for Europe, starting with the China linkages. In addition, there is now a global impact and negative sentiment affecting both world output and markets. The spread of the virus in Europe is likely to accelerate in March.
COVID-19 should result in a sharp European economic contraction in the first half of this year, but not the start of a recession. We look for a rebound later this year. The strength and sustainability of that rebound will depend on how long it takes to contain the virus, which in turn will partly depend on government actions. A key assumption is that there will be substantial government support across Europe. Further monetary easing is possible. However, direct disaster assistance seems likelier as well as more important.
Equity markets have partly discounted the pending economic weakness already. Decent buying entry points seem likely in the coming weeks. At this stage, we do not believe that the market falls mark the start of a long-lasting bear market. The sustainability of the equity rebound we expect will depend mainly on the time period before the spreading of the virus starts to slow. (It is already doing so in China). Globally, we would advocate adding to equity exposure if broad equities correct by 20% or more .
The virus’s impact will likely reinforce some of our recommendations from the start of the year. These include staying invested, to diversify sensibly, to embrace higher volatility, and to continue seeking income both from dividend yields and from the more attractive fixed income yields still on offer.
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