The Price of Gold and Social Distance

IT SEEMS ONLY MOMENTS after concluding my last article, and entreating our erstwhile readers to enjoy the sun, that the settled spell of quasi-Mediterranean weather turned considerably more like Scandinavia, than Cote d’Azur. Maybe I’ll keep off the weather, and stick to matters monetary, for a while. I last wrote of our not really knowing what was going on, and how the future would pan out. I would like to think that we have a little more of an idea now, although things are far from over, in your writer’s humble opinion.

It is fair to say that we have made great progress in the fight against Covid-19 and things are starting to look considerably more positive than a couple of months ago. That said, by the time your noble Whistler hits your letterbox, we could easily have experienced an increase of cases, as Leicester has, as the reopening of pubs and other social areas have brought people together (and the odd bits of sunshine, have brought crowds to the beaches).

Economically, we still have a long way to go. I fear that there will be plenty of pain for us to endure, over the forthcoming year or so, even if things go well. It is looking increasingly like there will be a No Deal Brexit, with all the ramifications that may come with that scenario, and the fallout from the pandemic, may be with us for a long time after the virus itself has been consigned to history.

I said last time, that I thought some companies and markets had been oversold, and that seems to have been true. By way of an example, at the time of writing, Halfords share price has risen by 31% since the battering it received in mid-March and the FTSE100 index is up by some 20% over roughly the same time.

The price of gold has gone up since the troubles hit, as it has long been used as a hedge against uncertain financial conditions, with iShares Gold Producers ETF up by some 60% in the same period. But volatility has returned with a vengeance as the markets try to come to grips with the potential outcomes of the virus, economically, socially and geographically. To use the Halfords example again, at one point during the last four months, the share price had nearly quadrupled after having fallen by over 75% in the preceding months, but has dropped by some 20% in the last week or so.

I’ve recently spent time advising friends and clients as to what they can do, to help them to get through these difficult times. Clearly, there are some that will have been unaffected by the virus both medically and financially, but many people have suffered. Consider the Self Employed Income Support Scheme if you haven’t already, and there is a second tranche due.

Small businesses can access the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, where the Government will support a loan from a panel of lenders, from £2,000 up to 25% of the business turnover (or £50,000 whichever is less) over 6 years, with no repayments due in the first 12 months. The interest rate is only 2.5% p.a. As an individual, you could consider using a mortgage payment holiday to enable you to repay more expensive borrowing, like credit cards or overdrafts (remember that overdraft interest rates, are due to soar). Individual circumstances will dictate what is suitable, however, as one size does not fit all.

Stay safe, stay well and keep your fingers crossed for no second spike.

David Foot

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