Calming of nerves
After January’s misbehaviour – everything from riotous insurrection at the US Capitol to rebellious share speculation – February began with a more predictable return to normality. The share price of now internationally famous US video game store GameStop has fallen by around 87% ($469 last week to $60 at time of writing). Likewise, frictions within the European Union (EU), caused by frustration in not being able to receive the promised volume of COVID vaccines, also calmed. This composure seems driven by acceptance that while the EU’s rushed procurement process had been suboptimal, it would likely be only a very short-term issue, given how vaccine production is ramping up everywhere and more vaccines are moving closer to being granted their licences.
Vaccine dividend expectations
As the British government and media are keen to point out, the UK is one of the world leaders in vaccine numbers. After trumpeting the speedy approval of the BioNTech/Pfizer, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines, the government has administered jabs to more than 10 million Britons. At the time of writing, 16 shots have been handed out per 100 people, a figure beaten only by smaller population countries like Israel, the United Arab Emirates and the Seychelles.
The uncertain strength of the US dollar
The dollar has been on a good run lately. Over the last month, its value against the other main currencies has steadily risen. The move has been particularly pronounced against the euro, which fetched $1.23 in currency trading at the beginning of the year, but has since fallen to $1.20. Moves have been less pronounced against the Chinese renminbi (RMB) and – particularly – sterling. Buoyed by a rapidly progressing vaccination programme and a fading of Brexit uncertainties, sterling itself been strong in recent trading. That it has stayed mostly flat against the dollar so far this year is therefore a sign of the greenback’s strength.