United States jobless claims have picked up since the elections and the second wave of coronavirus have slowed down the economic recovery. Uncertainty about tax increases and changes in labor laws including an increase in minimum wage add to the fear of new lockdowns as employers see the devastating effect of these lockdowns in European employment.
While the United States has been able to recover fast and reduce unemployment to 6.8%, the Eurozone jobless rate rose to 8.3% before we consider the large figure of furloughed jobs that remain idle. The second wave of coronavirus in Europe has seen new government-imposed lockdowns and the impact on the economy is already severe Estimates for the fourth quarter gross domestic product assume a double-dip recession and another increase in unemployment.
Global debt is expected to soar to a record $277 trillion by the end of the year, according to the Institute of International Finance. Developed markets’ total debt -government, corporate and households- jumped to 432% of GDP in the third quarter. Emerging market debt-to-GDP hit nearly 250% in the third quarter, with China reaching 335%, and for the year the ratio is expected to reach about 365% of global GDP. Most of this massive increase of $15 trillion in one year comes from government and corporates’ response to the pandemic. However, we must remember that the total debt figure already reached record-highs in 2019 before any pandemic and in a period of growth.
The year 2020 will be an extremely tough year for the European economy. Added to an unprecedented drop is a strong impact in the fourth quarter due to the new lockdowns. Morgan Stanley estimates that the eurozone’s GDP will fall by 2.2% in the fourth quarter, a 7% drop in the full year 2020. In addition, the investment bank lowers the outlook for 2021 with a rebound of only 5% in the average of the euro area, delaying the recovery of 2019 GDP to 2023.
Many financial experts have rushed to make what has been regarded as “Biden trade” calls based on the projections by The Associated Press, NBC News and other news outlets of a Joe Biden presidency. The “Biden trade” is a synonym of a recommendation to invest in assets that may benefit from a Democratic presidency judging by the main policies announced throughout the campaign.
The first risk for investors is to make significant bets on radical changes of policy when the balance of power in the House and Senate may inhibit many of the headline-grabbing policy changes. We already have reports, for example, that show how the tax hikes may be halted due to a combination of a divided government and the negotiations of a new stimulus package.