At the start of last week, we saw an initial rise in the number of coronavirus cases. However, since then there has been a sustained drop in the level of UK cases with the latest number of positive cases for COVID-19 falling for five days in a row. The seven-day average number of cases versus the week before showed a 15.4% decline, with the daily death count remaining very low compared to previous highs seen in January 2021. This is likely attributed to the fact that as of Friday, 88% of individuals over the age of 18 have now received the first dose with 70% of individuals now having had both doses of the jab.
Equity markets sold off sharply last Monday, which saw the FTSE All Share Index fall -2.3% in a day following negative market sentiment around the Delta coronavirus variant. Nevertheless, the FTSE All Share Index closed at +0.6% for the week following a strong rebound. US stocks closed at record highs with the S&P 500 up +2.3% and the NASDAQ up +3.1% in Sterling terms.
Elsewhere in the US, the wealth inequality gap has widened to record levels where the ultra-rich have seen their net worth skyrocket, underpinned by a booming stock market. The Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell stated that this is a difficult issue to fix, since residential property and stocks typically appreciate during periods of business expansion. The significant fiscal stimulus that we have seen deployed in the US via stimulus cheques has supported lower income families who would have otherwise been financially impacted. There are clearly numerous structural factors at play that are causing the gap to increase and, without reform, we can expect this trend to continue.