May 1 2020: Weekly roundup

The lockdown appears to be changing in character this week. Certainly, there is some Zoom fatigue, however, it also seems people are starting to increasingly break restrictions too.

The monthly total death statistics were out this week. These cut through any statistical manipulation, with the impact of the virus being seen in the non-seasonal year over year peak. There was also a study using predictive modelling to predict the end of the virus. August to September is the latest by the maths if you are wondering.

There has been some discussion about whether the impact of coronavirus is worse in areas of poor air pollution, more details published this week. Also of interest this week was that smokers seemed to less likely to fall ill with the virus. More details needed.

There was more concern on the long term impacts of the current situation with the economy – generally negative with an 8% contraction, albeit with some business sectors booming.

For banks and in financial services, lenders have to date now approved 1.6m mortgage payment holidays. Payment holidays are also being widely used in small medium businesses too. Interestingly though insolvencies were down in England… although up in NI... (even though the NI economy is expected to weather the impact better due to government and health sectors).

The housing market is now really showing first signs of decline, with the market reportedly grinding to a halt. UK households seem to be holding back on borrowing too.

All of this, together with payment holidays, is putting pressure on the banks, some of which could be seen in their earning statements this week. (an interesting aside on the different accounting approach for recognizing loss in the UK/EU/ROW vs USA here too). There are some concern potential banking failures too (fin tech?).

For consumers the concern is this this has stored up potential issues down the road, and there will be a cliff edge once the measures end… Some of the banks are already getting ready, with staff hiring or previous changes being put on hold. (and on return to the office, will it be the same, with the end of the skyscraper, due to lift capacity and infection risk if this continues too… maybe more branch working?)

This is all a balancing act and time will tell, and especially depending happens with the next set (or extension) of economic protection measures from the UK government in May.

Outside of economics and finance, the COVID lockdown continues to generate changes in wider society.

The demise of cash has long been discussed… is this going to happen?.. there is certainly more pressure, and this may hasten the decline of ATMs, which was in discussion in the UK before all this started

At home, it also has the potential to change the internet, how we use it, and our relationship with it… it has now become essential. Some countries were more already more ready than others, and it is expected to accelerate development in areas.

Finally, Zoom fatigue is a thing, with now a whole host of zoom lockdown lingo. Working from home is hard and it appears we are all working longer as a result. If you are getting tired, this may be the reason why.

Next week is a big week, with the next review of government lockdown measures in the UK. (also an interesting ONS study to be released too). Let’s see how next week plays out. Have a good week everyone.

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