Already the days are getting shorter and, despite being in the middle of the holiday season, summer itself seems to have taken a vacation. Still, we are well into the third quarter of the year, so results disclosing how companies fared in the first half of 2021 are arriving thick and fast. Two banks with big interests in the Far East reported recently. HSBC and Standard & Chartered produced generally good results, though the way in which China is reining back on freedoms in Hong Kong and generally taking a tougher line towards business must cast a cloud over the future prospects for these financial giants, given their large exposure to China and Hong Kong.
Oil major BP generally surprised on the upside, with the rise in the oil price this year doing no harm. After a massive loss this time last year, the firm returned to profitability, announced an increased dividend and said it would recommence share buy-backs, which did the share price no harm in the short term. A less familiar name in the corporate world – Stellantis, which includes such well known automotive brands as Fiat, Chrysler and Jeep – also produced a solid set of figures. And we are seeing some encouraging signs on the economic front, too, with the European Union delivering some encouraging growth numbers.
It does seem that we remain on track for a useful recovery from last year’s sudden and dramatic downturn, brought about by the measures introduced to combat the pandemic. But Covid is still very much in evidence, with the highly transmittable Delta variant gaining ascendancy in many parts of the world, including China. Indeed, the International Monetary Fund has just announced a massive stimulation package to help those economies ravaged by recent events. We are clearly not out of the woods yet.
Still, there does seem to be a shift in attitude from governments as they endeavour to repair the economic damage wrought by the various lock downs we have had to endure. Learning to live with Covid now appears to be the dominant message. Meanwhile, Team GB is giving us all a boost and perhaps summer weather will return in due course. In the meantime, it is clear that dealing with the pandemic has brought about changes in the way society works that will be with us for some time. Some of these changes will have positive outcomes, so it really is an ill wind...…