Growth in The Monday Briefing
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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.
Deloitte’s latest survey of UK chief financial officers, released overnight, shines light on the plans of Britain’s largest corporates as the economy reopens. The full report is available at: https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/finance/articles/deloitte-cfo-survey.html
The S&P 500 closed on Friday at a new all-time high. Since last year’s pandemic-induced crash, the index has almost doubled in value, reflecting a surprising feature of the COVID-hit global economy – buoyant equities. Indeed, stocks have rallied since last March, when the global economy was on the verge of the deepest downturn in more than a century. So far, investors have shrugged off a deadlier second wave, further lockdowns, the more transmissible Alpha and Delta variants and, most recently, concerns over rising inflation.
The pandemic has been the main determinant of UK activity in the last 15 months. Rising case rates last spring and autumn, and then at the start of this year, triggered lockdowns that shrank the economy. But that link between case rates and growth has softened. The recent rise in cases and hospitalisations, driven by the Delta variant, have not dented economic optimism. On the contrary, economists have been raising their UK growth forecasts and the regular economic data have been coming in on the strong side of expectations.
Commodity prices have boomed over the last year, boosted by low interest rates and a snap back in global demand. The Goldman Sachs commodity index has risen by 55% from its low and the rally has been broad-based, lifting metals, oil and agricultural commodities.
Among the many unusual features of the recession perhaps the most striking is the resilience of jobs market. Unemployment rates have risen, but far less than had been feared based on the experience of recent recessions.
The world is moving into its fourth great energy transition, from fossil fuels to renewables. Previous transitions have marked new epochs. Fire gave hominids energy-rich food, with profound consequences for human evolution. Agriculture and animal power paved the way for settled societies and great cities. The industrial age, powered by fossil fuels, transformed the human condition – and created unimagined environmental damage.
The saying “Never make predictions, especially about the future” is attributed to individuals as varied as the physicist Niels Bohr and the baseball player Yogi Berra.