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The return of risk appetite to the boardroom, boosted by vaccine rollouts and strong growth over the summer, has led to a surge in global mergers and acquisitions activity. Around $4tn of deals have been announced since the start of the year, putting 2021 on track to break the previous record set shortly before the financial crisis (strong though these numbers are, the volume of activity, if adjusted for growth in equity values, is below the previous peak).
In the wake of a blisteringly fast economic recovery have come bottlenecks, supply shortages and inflation. Over the summer the US Federal Reserve’s favoured measure of inflation hit the highest levels in almost 30 years. Unexpected though it is, today’s inflation surge is widely seen as temporary.
The dislocation between supply and demand created by the pandemic is starting to weigh on the recovery. Growth is being held back by supply problems, labour shortages and rising prices. Along with the effects of the Delta variant, such supply issues led to a sharp drop in China’s Caixin index of service activity in August, leaving the sector contracting for the first time since COVID-19 hit early last year. In the US Friday’s payroll data, one of the most important economic releases of the month, came in far below market expectations. Respondents to the UK manufacturing PMI index blamed shortages of materials, shipping capacity and staff for decelerating output growth in August.
The V-shaped recovery from the pandemic has brought with it supply shortages and rising prices. From semiconductors to McDonalds milkshakes, stories of shortages abound.
Our summer quiz offers an eclectic test of knowledge, of pandemic-related developments, many in economics and business. The answers and a brief explanation of the factors at work are at the end of the quiz.
You may not have been able to get to your preferred holiday haunt this year, but we hope that our summer reading list will offer a distraction wherever you spend your summer break. The eight articles are available free online, although some websites restrict the number of articles that can be accessed without charge each month.
So far 2021 has been a year of improving global economic prospects, particularly in advanced economies. The rollout of vaccines and an easing of restrictions across the West have underpinned a strong recovery in activity – albeit one marked, increasingly, by surging cases of the Delta variant.
Throughout history economies have been shaped by shocks, from recessions to technological shifts and energy transitions. The Great Depression helped change thinking about the role of government, paving the way for a permanent expansion in the state. The switch from steam power to electricity triggered a vast reorganisation of manufacturing.
The emergence of a novel respiratory disease in late 2019 in Hubei province marked the start of what was to become a global pandemic. While the first recorded cases were in China, China has suffered a remarkably low death rate and has avoided the deep recessions that have befallen the rest of the world.
The world is emerging from a deep recession, and the recovery is coming faster than expected. With more than 800m vaccines administered globally, activity holding up despite lockdowns and additional fiscal stimulus coming, economists have been upgrading their GDP forecasts.