The attached note takes a look at medium to longer-term implications from the coronavirus shock of relevance to investors. The key points are as follows:
- Key medium to longer-term implications flowing from the coronavirus shock are: lower for longer interest rates; a further blow to globalisation; another leg up in the US/China cold war; bigger government and public debt; a long-term risk of higher inflation; consumer & investor caution; faster embrace of technology; bad for airlines; another test for the Eurozone; and lower immigration.
- Some of these will constrain economic growth but the faster embrace of technology is positive for growth.
There has been much debate about the short-term economic and investment impact of coronavirus – on economic activity, unemployment, interest rates, house prices, shares, etc. However, the magnitude of the shock means it will have medium to longer-term implications as well. Of course, there is a danger in placing too much weight on current circumstances in assessing the future. Given this, we need to be a bit cautious, but here are 10 medium to longer-term impacts.
#1 Lower interest rates for even longer
The hit to economic activity has been huge, resulting in a lot of spare capacity that will take years to be used up. We don’t see global and Australian economic activity getting back to pre-coronavirus levels until late next year or 2022.
Source: ABS, AMP Capital
Unemployment will take even longer to fall – it tends to go up via the lifts and down via the stairs. This will mean low inflation or deflationary pressure for the next three years at least. Which will mean central banks will be biased towards low interest rates for several years which will keep bond yields ultra-low.
Another way of looking at this is that given the hit to economic activity, interest rates would normally fall a lot further. In the GFC the Australian cash rate was cut by 4.25%. But because rates are already at or near zero, they can’t – so monetary easing is being achieved by quantitative easing. But an unconstrained cash rate for Australia would see it fall to around -3% not getting back to 0.25% until 2023 at the earliest. In the meantime, it means several years of very low rates. It’s little wonder the RBA is targeting a 3-year bond yield of 0.25% and its low-cost funding rate for banks is also 0.25% for three years.
Implications – Low rates mean very low returns from bank deposits and ultimately bonds but they make higher yielding shares and assets like property and infrastructure relatively attractive to investors once the hit to earnings and rents passes.