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Weekend reading: Subterranean baking blues

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What caught my eye this week.

There are so many unanswered questions at this stage of the coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19 crash:

  • How many people in the UK have already had coronavirus? (I suspect huge numbers, but what do I know…)
  • Will Boris Johnson be a better or worse PM giving orders over Zoom?
  • Can we let Rishi Sunak have a go instead?
  • Where is Warren Buffett and why hasn’t he declared he’s buying?
  • Just how long will the population put up with lockdown life?
  • Just how long will my new-ish girlfriend put up with lockdown life with me?

Apologies, I’m not in a very serious mood. Perhaps I’m already going a little stir crazy.

Loafing around

This week like the last six has been mildly manic for me. Especially considering that most of it was played out in a 2.5 bedroom London flat with – thank heavens – a garden.

Besides work (I’ve still got plenty to do, for which I’m grateful) I did well over 100 trades in March alone, dusting off my old playbook from the financial crisis.

(Tentative playbook title – Rearranging Deckchairs on the Titanic: Tactical Trading In A Time Of COVID-19).

Meanwhile my sensibly staunchly passive co-blogger has been smothered by his job despite self-isolating away from it. But when it comes to his portfolio he’s sticking to the plan. He’s not selling. And he’s only buying what his long ago automated set-up does for him.

He’ll inherit the earth, that one.

Meanwhile some of you are going a bit nutty too.

For example long-time reader TheRhino has been in contact. He tells me – and supplied evidence – that he’s been knocking out Monevator-branded artisanal sourdough loaves:

When we said our site was about “making dough”

How I’d love to be having friends over to break bread with… but of course that’s a relic of what already seems 100-years ago. I’m a natural self-isolator by day, but I do miss mixing at night. I mean not over Skype, of course. You know, real mixing where you might catch something you’d be ashamed of.

I miss just going for long rambling walks far from home.

Like most of us in London I’m instead only venturing out once every day or two, half-surprised to see houses still standing and a car drive past. All the cherry and magnolia trees are in bloom, petals falling to the floor, mostly unseen. Almost nobody is drinking coffee on the street and obviously not in the now-closed cafes. It reminds me of the London I arrived at in the early 1990s. It seems so bizarre now.

I wave my M&S reusable plastic bag about as I hustle along, so everyone knows I’m on a government-sanctioned outing.

Barely started

This bear market hasn’t been bad for me so far, touch wood. I’m well ahead of my benchmarks – though decidedly down, of course. I’m over the shock and back into the swing of things – and getting used to metaphorically being punched in the face every day.

But the lockdown? It’s a bummer. And we’re barely two weeks in.

As for the deep economic drawdown – it hasn’t even gotten going yet.


Still, have a great weekend, whatever room this finds you in. 🙂

From Monevator

The coronavirus crash, as told by the Monevator community – Monevator

From the archive-ator: The hidden benefits of financial freedom – Monevator


Note: Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view you can click to read the piece without being a paid subscriber. Try privacy/incognito mode to avoid cookies. Consider subscribing if you read them a lot!1

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive for coronavirus – BBC

Chancellor is now also giving support to millions of self-employed individuals… – GOV.UK

…but some, such as one-person limited companies, fall between the cracks – Guardian

US weekly initial unemployment claims increase to 3,283,000 [Unprecedented rise]Calculated Risk

Housing market frozen by government during coronavirus lockdown – Guardian

Income investors face ‘dividend drought’ [Search result]FT

S&P warns that bond default rates will surge, perhaps as high as 10% – Institutional Investor

[Click to enlarge the suffering]

Why food delivery apps are struggling even under UK lockdown [Search result]FT

Products and services

How to get refunds for school fees, season tickets and much more [Search result]FT

Barclays and Halifax withdraw the majority of mortgages – ThisIsMoney

Leaky Lockdown: Are you allowed to call a plumber out to fix a broken boiler? – ThisIsMoney

Tesco limits online to 80 orders per customer to speed up deliveries – Guardian

How are P2P lenders responding to the coronavirus pandemic? – Peer2Peer Finance News

At least ten cruise ships are still stuck at sea as a result of the pandemic – Guardian

Comment and opinion

Asset allocation in the most painful month – Portfolio Charts

Here’s why you should rebalance your portfolio – Morningstar

Anchors a-weigh! – The Psy-Fi blog

The property market where people can’t leave their house? – ThisIsMoney

The greatest investment quotes of all-time – Of Dollars and Data

Surviving your very first market crash – A Wealth of Common Sense

Is it too late to de-risk? – Morningstar

Inflation, deflation, confiscation & devastation: The Four Horsemen of Risk – Wade Pfau

How the crisis nearly blew up one of the world’s safest trades [Podcast] – OddLots via Overcast

Of natural beauty and interesting markets – Simple Living in Somerset

Stock index weights are [post-crash]… different – Klement on Investing

Lower share prices mean that 10-year expected returns are well up – Vanguard

Naughty corner: Active antics

NYE professor Aswath Damodaran has been writing weekly crisis pieces that are worth your time – Musings on Markets

Data showing the dramatic de-rating of US stocks, especially small caps [but beware ‘E’ collapse in P/E]Meb Faber

Blizzard, Winter, or Ice Age? – Patrick O’Shaughnessy

The potential impact of the coronavirus on dividends – UK Value Investor

Merryn Somerset-Webb: Some rare coronavirus good news – equities are cheap [Search result]FT

The worst crash in history: A view from the front seat – FireVLondon

A deep dive into Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, post-crash – Rational Walk

COVID-19 Corner

What to make of headlines that 50% of the UK population may have had COVID-19? – Wired

The four possible timelines for life returning to normal – The Atlantic

How the UK got coronavirus testing wrong [Free to read]FT

A deep dive into the economic cost of social distancing – McKinsey & Company

Wounds heal, scars last – Morgan Housel

Italian scientists investigate possible earlier emergence of coronavirus – Reuters

The Ibuprofen debate reveals the danger of COVID-19 rumors – WIRED

Compaq and the coronavirus – Stratechery

Please, let’s stop the epidemic of armchair epidemiology – Slate

Kindle book bargains

The 80/20 Principle: Achieving More With Less by Richard Koch – £0.99 on Kindle

How to Get Rich by Felix Dennis [Will have to dust this off given the bear market!] – £1.99 on Kindle

One Up On Wall Street by Peter Lynch – £0.99 on Kindle

RESET: How to Restart Your Life and Get F.U. Money by Dave Sawyer – £0.99 on Kindle

Off our beat

Jonathan Pie is in lockdown [Video] – via YouTube

A crisis is a time to build momentum, not lose it – Rad Reads

Are serial entrepreneurs really smarter – or just lucky? – Fast Company

And finally…

“Visions of unavoidable collapse have been in the ascendant.”
– Vaclav Smil, Global Catastrophes and Trends: The Next Fifty Years

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  1. Note some articles can only be accessed through the search results if you’re using PC/desktop view (from mobile/tablet view they bring up the firewall/subscription page). To circumvent, switch your mobile browser to use the desktop view. On Chrome for Android: press the menu button followed by “Request Desktop Site”. []
{ 68 comments… add one }
  • 1 FIRE v London March 27, 2020, 10:35 pm

    Thanks for the link!

    The thing that strikes me at the moment is I find myself asking “what time (o’clock) did he write this”? Because I don’t remember such volatility of major league stocks – Hargreaves Lansdown, Persimmon, Shell, etc bouncing around by 30% in a day, in both directions.

    If the bear market hasn’t hit you too badly then either a) you wrote this at close last night (!) or you are very long on b) tech or c) long dated gilts or d) Zoom/A2m and a handful of others! Either way, stay safe.

    How is the (new-ish) Ms TI changing how you think about this stuff? Or too new-ish to judge?

  • 2 Matthew March 27, 2020, 11:39 pm

    Lockdown will surely trigger a new baby boom, the coronaboomers, since there is not much else to do as I imagine your new situation can attest;), so in the long term this might lead to an economic boom, as well as efficiency improvements from home working

    Corona has prepared us against a worse future infection outbreak, by developing our processes, and showed us a way forward on global warming

  • 3 WhiteSheep March 27, 2020, 11:59 pm

    “Investing Demystified” by Lars Kroijer shows up as roughly half price on Today’s Kindle Daily Deal. Not sure how long it is going to last.

  • 4 The Investor March 28, 2020, 1:05 am

    @FIRE v London — I wrote a long comment about my moves this year, which concluded with by explaining why I don’t share/discuss this stuff on this blog (which is rightly focused on passive investing) then wondered what the comment was, then! So I’ve deleted it and will message you on Twitter instead, seeing as you shared so candidly on your site.

  • 5 A&L March 28, 2020, 2:19 am

    Have been a passive reader here for a short while. Require some advice on where to invest. Both wife and I are in secure jobs currently. Have cash for living expenses for 2 years but wanting to invest towards our retirement in 13-18 years time. Would like to use the Shares & Stocks Isa route. Looking at long term growth, this seems like a good time to drip feed into approx. 5 funds. Considering – Vanguard LS 60%, Alger Small Cap Focus Fund ? ( not sure if there will be any earnings, performance has been good since inception), Fundsmith Equity Global, etc . Any help appreciated. Thanks.

  • 6 Fatbritabroad March 28, 2020, 7:57 am

    At least ten cruise ships are still stuck at SEE as a result of the pandemic – needs correcting

  • 7 Tony Edgecombe March 28, 2020, 8:17 am

    I noticed the chancellor sneaked in a comment that the self employed will be losing their favoured tax status once this is all over. Not that surprising when the most common justification for it has been their lack of access to benefits. I suspect a few more sacred cows are going to get slaughtered over the coming years.

  • 8 JimJim March 28, 2020, 8:17 am

    … Still not selling. Seems pointless, volatility is so high trading would be like trying to swat flies with a sledgehammer. Meanwhile at Casa JimJim we are hunkered down with a great view, sheep and wobbly lambs in the fields over the garden wall, some glorious spring weather and the quietest roads to cycle on around the lake district I have ever encountered. (Boris sanctioned normal exercise, once a day, without getting in my car, without stopping or interacting save for ringing my (plague?) bell at a few sheep, this time of year I’m up to 40 miles a ride now, a month from now, 60) Working from the kitchen table is not so bad, but I am putting in more hours for less productivity.
    The queue for Aldi yesterday stretched 200 metres, at 3 metre intervals. A surrealist scene which had me pondering what Lowery would have made of it, so many matchstick men. Financially the household income has been trimmed but so has the expenditure. We can eat and there is money for beer. All good… So far.

  • 9 BBlimp March 28, 2020, 8:30 am

    @Tony – I’m all for low taxes, but first and foremost, we should be all be paying at the same bands/ rates. If it means the govt has to extent its stat sick/maternity/paternity payments that’s surely a winner for the Man to get 2pc extra in NI contributions ( and that’s without even looking at disguising wages as dividends)

    @ TI – Rishi Sunak appears to be very valuable where he is! Besides, having Dominic Raab fill in shows the future this govt wants – it’s fair to expect the same majority of the population who voted to leave the EU in 2016 don’t want to be involved in bailing out the EU with god knows what level of contributions after December 2020 because they haven’t got the flight of foot to do what Sunak is. I surely don’t.

  • 10 Gentleman's Family Finances March 28, 2020, 8:33 am

    Had a look at my portfolio this week…
    Some of my investments are back at the price i paid for them!
    The volatility alone is stunning – a quiet day is +/- 3%.
    I am a bit worried about all this new money coming into existence and how i wont get any.

  • 11 Vanguardfan March 28, 2020, 9:00 am

    Hope all are coping in these strange times.
    I am trying to rebuy after my I’ll advised CGT sale. I have a plan, I have a nasty feeling I managed to hit the high with last week’s purchase, but I’m not going to look.
    Main issue is how frequently to make purchases. I’ve decided on weekly for next 5 weeks but who knows, there could be a lot more bear to come.

  • 12 Indecisive March 28, 2020, 9:05 am

    I’m glad work is holding up for you and TA. I (small software company) have been shuttered for 3 weeks and counting. Every client has cancelled ongoing and future projects One has gone into liquidation; another laid off 80% of staff after revenue fell 95% and is surviving by delaying their rent. Both were profitable before. There are a lot of insolvencies queuing up.

    Having paid myself small salary + dividends (and always done PAYE/NI contributions) there is no help from the government as being the MD I can’t furlough myself. What riles me most is the government schemes feel unfair, with the self employed getting a grant and not having to stop working, the employed having to furlough, and the small Ltd Co’s getting nothing. I know the government hates PSCs and Co’s inside IR35 (which I’m not) but not to support is poor. If they don’t like it: keep on reforming the system.

    With that said I know most self-employed are in greater need than I am and I am happy they will be helped. But virtually everyone who now has zero income will need help by the autumn.

    I moved into my first house in February and joked that as I’d finally bought it must be the top of the market. Little did I know…

  • 13 Andrew Munro March 28, 2020, 10:19 am

    I can’t hold out much sympathy for those One Man Band Ltd. companies who are ‘falling through the gaps’, as per the Guardian article they did it to be “tax efficient” and are now discovering that paying less in means you get less out.

  • 14 SouthWalesFI March 28, 2020, 10:39 am

    My favourite lunch place(s) have all closed, and because they are all small independents, who knows if they are ever going to open back up. Geez, first world problems or what! I thought being stuck at home would get me to do all the annoying things that are outstanding done, but it’s really not.

  • 15 Jim McG March 28, 2020, 10:41 am

    It’s laughable really. In the past (i.e. February) I looked at my investments on an almost daily basis, purring with contentment. Now I haven’t looked at them since they shut the pubs (these things could be connected). I’m not selling, I’m not buying, I’m not even looking!

  • 16 RichG March 28, 2020, 10:55 am

    Here’s one you might like to add to the ‘Kindle book bargains’:
    I just picked up ‘Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World’ by David Epstein for 99p today (Saturday 28/03/20).
    I’ve heard the author on a good few podcasts and he puts together an interesting argument. I’m not sure how long this deal will last.
    I love a good Kindle bargain me 🙂

  • 17 Brod March 28, 2020, 11:16 am

    Well, not sure this can really be called a lock-down. But with a wife shutting herself away in the study/spare bedroom/sewing room till next Friday with hard a deadline approaching and a 7 & 8 year old to home school while trying to do some work, I’ve had easier times…

    But we’re healthy (so far) and have two stable incomes (for now). And, despite some of the thoughts on here a few months ago, we made strenuous efforts and paid down the mortgage over 5 years. Which feels great. We’re a lot, lot better than many others. God help them.

    As I moved in November to liability match a potential 10 year gap between a possible early retirement before my small Civil Service and State pensions kick in and a thoughtful consideration of the effects of Covid-19, as we must now call it, on global supply chains (absolutely not outright panic 🙂 ), I’m was 80% (now 85%) in long Gilts, intermediate developed world bonds (80% Govt or Govt backed) and lots of lovely cash. So my portfolio is down about 7-8% from probable highs. Capital preservation in the name of my game, so I’ll sit this one out, thanks.

    I feel very lucky.

  • 18 Hospitaller March 28, 2020, 12:31 pm

    I move between being contented and somewhat disgruntled. If I was a judge, I would think even harder before locking anyone up – violent people and self-styled “Brexiteers” sure, but go easy on the rest.

  • 19 Passive Investor March 28, 2020, 12:36 pm

    So I am a very experienced Intensive Care Doctor in London and this is my (optimistic) take on the matter
    – There will be lots of very very bad headlines over the next 3-4 weeks as cases soar and the epidemic moves out of London which is several weeks ahead of other areas.
    – Bad though the situation on the ground feels it doesn’t anecdotally feel as quite as bad as the headlines suggest
    – I’ll stick my neck out and say that the NHS will manage the surge – by the skin of its teeth. The health service is in military mobilisation mode and the way the major hospitals have reorganised themselves is astonishing. There is still significant spare ICU capacity and the vast field hospitals will get up and running at enough scale to prevent an Italian-style debacle (I’ve seen one and the size of the activity on site is remarkable)
    – Once the surge is managed there will be a major boost to morale
    – Around this time the large scale testing will be in progress and we will realise that the number of minor cases is significant and this will put the mortality rate in 0.5% or less territory
    – it is very unlikely that people who are infected won’t have immunity against the virus so large number of people will be able to escape lockdown and the economy can gradually come to life
    – we’ll be able to test early and target social distancing to new cases
    – elderly and vulnerable people are likely sadly to have to take social distancing measures until a vaccine arrives. Terrible though this is the impact on the economy is relatively low.

    The post Covid-19 world will never be quite the same and huge stores of mothballed ventilators, hospital supplies and the new blue prints for field hospitals are only a small part of that. BUT the economy will recover and life will get back to near normal. We just have to hope that bond yields don’t rise too much, the huge debt that has built up won’t stifle economic growth and that there is petrol in the tank for the next economic shock.
    So IMHO definitely time to stay invested and stop looking at your portfolio but also time to get cautiously into markets which are holding a sale?!

  • 20 Al Cam March 28, 2020, 12:39 pm

    The link to Wade Pfau’s paper reminded me of Bernsteins five part “Retirement Calculator From Hell” series. I would suggest reading Part III, “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry” which he wrote in 2001 and is probably the best known part of the series, see:

  • 21 Vanguardfan March 28, 2020, 12:52 pm

    @passive investor. Thanks for that, it is always good to hear a hopeful story that has some basis in reality. I wish you and your team the very best for the coming weeks, and my sincere thanks for your efforts.

    I’m an ex public health doc (the GMC kindly reinstated my licence to practice this week…) and I think we will find out in the coming weeks and months whether we have distanced soon enough and effectively enough to keep the surge manageable. I think we abandoned basic public health management far too soon (actually never even started it robustly enough at the outset) – test early, rigorously, contact trace, isolate cases and contacts. This is the strategy that appears to have slowed transmission in Asia. There will be (should be) some serious questions asked about that in due course.

    But yes, we will emerge from the tunnel. No epidemics last forever.

  • 22 Vanguardfan March 28, 2020, 12:59 pm

    And I agree it will all look and feel awful in the next month or two. Infections up to a week ago in the UK are baked in, and then the time lag for the unlucky to become death statistics is what, another 2-4 weeks?. I suspect (hope) that this is why deaths are continuing to worsen in Italy/Spain. Italy implemented national distancing less than 3 weeks ago.
    We need to understand this, and keep going with the ‘lockdown’. Don’t lose faith.

  • 23 Neverland March 28, 2020, 1:21 pm

    UK got its first credit rating downgrade on Friday.

    Everyone is cheering the chancellor at the moment as he is like the man buying everyone rounds and rounds of beer with whisky chasers at the bar.

    However come the autumn he will be coming round with with a collection plate to pay for all those drinks.

    It will be the sober who will be paying as everyone will still be broke.

  • 24 FI Warrior March 28, 2020, 1:34 pm

    I’ve one relative in particular who is very high risk according to the information currently available and yet their take on this situation is surprisingly stoic. They’ve 2 stents from a heart attack 15 years ago, then were as near to death as possible with pneumonia a decade ago and while not choosing to die now, reckon that our culture has an unhealthy relationship with death. Their attitude is that we all have a bullet with our name on it and when it’s your time, it’s just your time, so acceptance with dignity is the best response. They knew they were on borrowed time anyway and are just grateful for the bonus period received until now, so it was quite a humbling exchange.

    My hope is that people reassess what’s really important in life and for example become active in ensuring the NHS is saved from the stealth privatisation that has made us all more vulnerable now we are actually being tested. More empathy would be nice too.

  • 25 Jonathan March 28, 2020, 1:36 pm

    @Passive Investor’s analysis seems about right. UK deaths seem already to show a decline in the exponent defining their increase, which possibly means even the exhortations of 3 weeks ago may have had an effect (assuming deaths are the most reliable indicator of infection rate 3-4 weeks ago). We can hope that the much more stringent limitations introduced a week ago will have a more dramatic effect in another couple of weeks. Not sure whether the epidemic will “move out of London” though since measures were brought in everywhere at the same time.

    And I agree that masses of testing is the key to allowing a form of controlled normality, with luck in 3-4 months’ time. I hope that with the amount of money the government are throwing at the problem, they have a team working on a robust exit strategy from lockdown.

    What the resilience of the economy will be is harder to guess. The quicker shut down activities can re-start the easier to manage the pain, but not unless a second infection wave can be prevented. There will be a big chunk of economic activity lost for ever (you aren’t going to spend on last week’s restaurant meal for example, and that 80% wage subsidy won’t magically reappear) so climbing out of the dip may well be slow. It needs greater minds than mine though to divine what it will mean for equity investments.

  • 26 ermine March 28, 2020, 1:55 pm

    my new-ish girlfriend put up with lockdown life with me?

    Now there’s a bit of cheer in these troubled times. Thank you – and all the very best to you both!

  • 27 MJCROSS March 28, 2020, 2:00 pm

    Maaaan I’ve been baking so much sourdough bread recently – it’s so therapeutic: there’s something innately satisfying about putting basic staple foods on the family’s table. Having stopped reading the news day-to-day helps immensely too… actually, chez MJCROSS we are adopting to life in the bunker reasonably well, especially now our local curry house has started doing home deliveries…

  • 28 MrOptimistic March 28, 2020, 2:19 pm

    As if last week the lock down idea is being treated as good advice up here but nothing more. Father in law ( ex GP) lives in a 50 flat retirement place rammed with 80+ year olds. People visiting and residents wandering in and out. My daughter says the virus is pretty widespread in Herne Hill so we are indeed weeks behind London. If it gets into that building it will be carnage. However, they are stoical to the point of fatalism and seem unmanageable.
    Did dip my toe in and topped up one or two things last week, despite my own advice. Only tiddly amounts though. Needless to say the market then lurched down again! However, it has removed the ‘must do something’ bug for a while at least, hopefully. At least that bug only threatens your wealth.

  • 29 Faustus March 28, 2020, 2:28 pm

    “And I agree that masses of testing is the key to allowing a form of controlled normality, with luck in 3-4 months’ time.”

    Indeed mass testing and tracing, as adopted in Germany and South Korea, is the only evidence-based way forward at the moment out of this nightmare. Which is why it is so alarming that the Deputy CMO is still dismissing this route – every day that is lost gearing up testing procedures will be precious time (and lives) wasted.

  • 30 Max March 28, 2020, 2:41 pm

    I’m confident she’ll stick around as long as you’re convincing that your portfolios will continue to gain ground in the medium-term.

  • 31 Sara March 28, 2020, 3:01 pm

    Hi, The Investor and the Accumulator and everyone else – hope everyone is well.
    I had to self -isolate this week because I had a very mild cough and that was all. So now I don’t know if I’ve had it or not. So it is the appearance of the 99.9% accurate antibody test that will change things, because if you know you’ve had it you can start to go back to “normallish”. I know there’s uncertainty over how long immunity will last but a lot of things are uncertain now. And a lot of very clever people worldwide are working on the uncertainties. Hopefully if it does “expire”, by that point we will have a vaccine.
    Everyone take care.

  • 32 Factor March 28, 2020, 3:21 pm

    I wonder how C19 will impact on those stalwart ITs (personal holdings declaration) which are renowned for their consistent dividend growth, and which are able to draw on reserves?

    Also, First World problem and thus with apologies, I find myself wondering when my hair will next come into contact with a pair of scissors (normally once every three weeks)?

  • 33 jim March 28, 2020, 3:27 pm

    As a one man band ltd company I have made provisions and am quite happy to receive no help off the state. I begrudge getting slammed with taxes after to bail out all the financially irresponsible regardless of employment status who have 3 holidays a year and live consumer lifestyles yet don’t have 3 months salary safety net

  • 34 Hyperhypo March 28, 2020, 4:09 pm

    Bum’s rush this week from the Toad Work.. prospect now reality different in the doing..stuck in doors en famille. Well at least I’ve got something to think about ..how to deal with a chunk of cash going into sipp..

  • 35 tom_grlla March 28, 2020, 5:01 pm

    I am reminded of the passive adage that market timing is impossible, and you have to try and do it twice i.e. when you sell, and then when you buy again!

    TI – I note your 100 trades this month – usually I am of the ‘lethargy bordering on sloth’ school, but have felt like a day trader recently. It is a time when you feel glad you’ve done thorough research on so many investments, so can reach for the right tools, including some you’d forgotten about from years ago.

    Dripping in, as with all the behavioural psychology, is much easier in theory than practice i.e. when the market’s down by 10% again, and you’ve nibbled a tiny bit in terror, it’s easy to think it will go down more, and so not take advantage of what may have been the best opportunities. I’m doing my best.

    On the one hand, it feels like with the US $2 trillion bill signed, and the liquidity sloshing about, there won’t be the acute fear driving things down as much, as when even gold and the Yen were going down.

    On the other hand, it seems unlikely that the US has begun to peak, and the presumable forthcoming recession may mean indices drag lower and lower more slowly. Though one also has to remember that Wall Street usually recovers before Main Street does in anticipation.

    As ever, I have no strong opinion!

    Investment Trust discounts still seem to be pinging about, with the EM ones at most interesting levels. I find it bizarre that RIII is currently at a premium! I also don’t understand why the NAV has lagged SLS so much in the past 5 years. Obviously they have very different styles of portfolios, but I wouldn’t have expected RIII’s companies to be struggling so much. Any thoughts appreciated.

  • 36 Far_wide March 28, 2020, 5:47 pm

    After fussing over GBP plummeting last week, I read an excellent simple piece (again from of dollars and data) called “buying during a crisis” – recommend it. This inspired me on Monday to buy some hedged world tracker, IWDG. Which turned out to be spectacular timing in the short term at least, as it’s still 12% higher even after Friday’s fall as both general markets and Sterling have re-appreciated since then.
    So, if my gut feeling (the same as everyone else’s) is correct in that this thing has much further to go, my view is buy VWRL if just shares plummet and buy IWDG if both shares and sterling plummet again. Well, that’s this week’s plan, anyway.

    @jonathan – unfortunately it looks like the UK’s stats today have bucked the trend – a full 34% rise in UK death count from 759 to 1019 today apparently 🙁

  • 37 Jonathan March 28, 2020, 6:04 pm

    Yes @Farwide, when I saw today’s data I thought I had been premature. Fingers crossed onward figures suggests relative increases are trending down, but the real test isn’t for at least 2 weeks.

  • 38 LeeA March 28, 2020, 6:22 pm

    Oh, what a time I picked to sell my SIPP at HL and move to Vanguard!!
    We shall see in a few weeks whether I got lucky and sold on the way down and bought lower or has it caught a bump?
    I’ve 20 years to retirement and it is isnt my main pension, so not really stressed about it, but it would have been easier to just have kept alone and ridden it out a while.

  • 39 Jon March 28, 2020, 6:54 pm

    Another NHS consultant here.
    Thanks for the London update, @Passive Investor
    My day-to-day mood rivals the FTSE for volatility, swinging rapidly between confidence in the system, and ‘we’re all doomed’…
    When you look at the graphs, focus on the ‘cases’ and ‘recovered’ lines. If the gap between those two lines stays constant, or doesn’t drift too far apart, then the NHS will have the capacity and cope. If ‘cases’ swings up exponentially, too far away from the ‘recovered’ line, then start getting worried…
    So for me, moderate confidence, but still a huge uncertainty.

  • 40 Adrian Steele March 28, 2020, 7:53 pm

    @ Jon. Yes my day-to-day mood is volatile too. It is interesting though that the Imperial Epidemiologists are slightly turning back from their original ultra-pessimistic predictions. I take quite a lot from the fact that Chris Whitty (or possibly one of the others) said that he thought the NHS would just about cope. That wouldn’t be said lightly. There is quite a bit of vital data that just isn’t released. We don’t know the number of ICU beds that have been created or their occupancy for example. As a front line clinician some distance from the high level planning I know the number of ICU covid-19 patients on ventilators in my quadrant of London and that it has been doubling roughly every 5 days. Not sure whether that is reassuring or not but in the next 10-15 days we’ll have a much better idea.

  • 41 C-strong March 28, 2020, 9:45 pm

    @LeeA I’m in a similar boat and feel your trepidation. In my case, I started the instruction process in late January to move three different pensions (all former employer personal pension schemes) to one SIPP. Scottish Widows and Standard Life moved them within a week. I’m still waiting for Willis Towers Watson, who will no doubt sell into cash just before a massive rebound…

  • 42 An Admirer March 28, 2020, 9:46 pm

    Covid19 isn’t the end of capitalism….

    Nor is it the end of the United States military and economic hegemony.

    Everything else is just gravy, economically.

    But the cheque’s in the post for sure when it comes to the UK gov bailout. Funny how they just about got out of the mess that Brown bought up in 2008 and are now digging back into a pit of equal or deeper debt. It’s like they can’t get off that debt crack pipe no matter what. Sure everyone wants it give Sunak a handjob now but wait a year or two and he’ll be tossed under the bus. Pretty unprecedented also for a chancellor who’s only been in the job a few weeks to keep hitting the 0’s in the JCB digging that debt pit.

    Who cares though? Free money, no effective political opposition and democracy’s been suspended… Umm “temporarily” right. History has a poor track record of returning democracy to people willingly once it’s been revoked (“under exceptional circumstances”). I really hope I’m wrong. The implications to freedom scare me a hell of a lot more than anything.

    If you’re looking to time the market the VIX is still way high for anything but professional chancers IMHO easy run either way. But when it moves it’ll move fast on information and is already high.

  • 43 Snowman March 28, 2020, 10:28 pm

    The major development that isn’t being discussed much but should be is the possible imminent arrival of the simple antibody test.

    The UK government has ordered about 3.5 million (possible 7 million) antibody tests and my understanding is they will be available in weeks rather than months and are 98% accurate, and the antibodies show up reasonably quickly after you’ve had the virus (albeit the antigen test is still needed for those entering hospital because of the delay in the antibodies becoming present).

    While it doesn’t solve the problem of tackling the virus, it does have the potential to solve some important questions about what is going on at a population and individual level. For example it should be able to answer the question as to what proportion of the population have already had the virus and what proportion of those infected are asymptomatic.

    It’s only 98% accurate, so there will be problems with making the assumption that anyone testing positive has had the virus.

    But all that aside this looks like interesting news.

    In terms of the stock market, it has the potential to move the stock market massively in the coming weeks depending on the answer as to how many have already been infected and how many are asymptotic.

    One article about the issue is:-


  • 44 Jonathan March 28, 2020, 10:46 pm

    Yes @Snowman, tests are crucial. Actually both sorts, the NHS needs to be able to find out quickly which patients (and which staff) have active disease. And both modelling and planning will be massively informed by having population data on who has had and recovered from Covid-19 – and is potentially resistant to further infection.

    But what is needed is a real guaranteed functioning test available in large numbers to people who can interpret and record them, not hype about personal testing which provides no data to the NHS and public health about what is going on and who is still vulnerable.

  • 45 Snowman March 28, 2020, 11:08 pm


    Totally agree.

    They shouldn’t waste the antibody tests by selling them as personal tests but need to officially organise the tests and collate the results of the antibody tests together with survey results of what symptoms those taking the test have had in the past 3 months say.

    I believe that there is a less scalable but more accurate antibody test. So someone in a vulnerable group who tested positive under the cheap 98% accurate test could be tested using the more accurate test, to minimise the catastrophic danger of someone vulnerable getting a false positive, and not protecting themselves from the virus.

    And the antigen test as well as being important for testing patients and staff, is still needed for contact tracing especially when the first wave of the epidemic has reduced and new infections need to be controlled, perhaps while we are waiting for a vaccine.

    But even if we mess this antibody test up as a country some of the other countries also using the antibody test will provide some insight.

  • 46 LeeA March 28, 2020, 11:08 pm

    I missed it off the first comment, but just wanted to say it’s good to hear from the medics above and wish you all well in what is to come. My wife is a physio up here in Nottinghamshire. She normally works in the community if a Falls Team specialising in treating old patients in their home. However, she has now been absorbed into a Rapid Response Team. No offence, but I hope she doesnt get to experience anything similar to you guys might face. Massive respect to all of you.

    I have realised I have missed some messages from HL. It seems they have sold the VLS80 at 19097 and I think it is now at 18473, so depending on what happens in the next week or so, it seems I might have got lucky. However, they have stated that because there is some tax due on the account, they transfer cant be complete untill May. But, (if I read the message properly) they will proceed immediatley if I request them to and they will try and sort the tax later.

  • 47 Algernond March 29, 2020, 8:22 am

    I contacted Vanguard in February saying I wanted to transfer Vanguard funds to their SIPP, but couldn’t take the risk without it being in-specie. I got a reply saying in-specie transfer will be available by end of July.
    (not sure the latest events will delay that)

  • 48 Brod March 29, 2020, 9:53 am

    @An Admirer – you say “just about got out of the mess that Brown bought up in 2008” but I’m not sure we have. I think we’re still in it.

    World economies have been limping along ever since – no QE paid down, abnormally low interest rates still, no real income growth except the top 1% and that based on inflated asset values. Inflated asset values do not a recovery make.

  • 49 SemiPassive March 29, 2020, 10:58 am

    I sold out another chunk of global equity holdings the week before last, but realised I’d overdone it and would be kicking myself if the markets didn’t drop further, or worse rallied. So, like far_wide, I bought into IWDG with my weakened pounds on Monday and Tuesday, along with ISF (FTSE100) and VMID (FTSE250). Lucky timing.
    Also picked up some gold on Monday in the form of the new Royal Mint ETC (RMAU), given the epic scale of money printing here and in the USA. Currently about 5% of my asset allocation, maybe 10% would be better.
    I still think equities will tank again in the next fortnight, as last weeks rally seems absurdly overdone. So I still have 20% in cash waiting to go back in, probably mostly into IWDG with some ISF and VMID.

    In addition I topped up bond holdings, although not gilts. EM $ bonds (hedged to GBP) now yielding a fat 7.5% – I was buying each day they got beat down, and something a bit safer in the form of IS15 (shorter dated sterling corp) now yielding 3% – double what it was only a few weeks ago. Beating inflation for the first time in ages, assuming we don’t have mass corporate defaults.
    The Fed certainly is buying IG bonds so maybe the BoE will if it comes to it.
    They are probably lemonade compared to equities (whiskey) and gilts (water).
    So a lot of churn in the past few weeks, and a revised plan going forward due to my partial attempts at market timing.
    As I said previously, I wouldn’t have had to if my asset allocation was right to start with.

  • 50 Penelope March 29, 2020, 1:20 pm

    Don’t just do something, stand there!

  • 51 Grand85 March 29, 2020, 3:04 pm

    @TI @TA,

    Would now be a good time to re-visit those posts you wrote on the different type of investment premiums – Quality, momentum, low volatility, etc.

    Have a good weekend all and try not to get corona’d ?(like myself).


  • 52 MJCROSS March 29, 2020, 6:29 pm

    Interesting to see several references to IWDG (inc.) but none to IGWD (acc.) which is where 90% of my own equities are stashed. Am I missing a trick here?

    PS: @Grand85 – if that means you’ve got it, then do take it easy and I wish you a speedy recovery. If it’s any consolation, one of my close colleagues and his wife contracted it about ten days ago, and are now up and about and feeling a lot better – if a little tired.

  • 53 ermine March 29, 2020, 6:55 pm

    @MJCROSS I have IGWD but note with disappointment that the TER is 0.55% compared to IWDG’s 0.3%. I hadn’t come across IWDG. I could use the income, so I will switch out of IGWD and get a welcome reduction in TER…

  • 54 MJCROSS March 29, 2020, 7:34 pm

    @ermine: good point!
    Indeed, according to the justetf screener, IWDG has returned about 2% more over 3 yrs than IGWD.
    That said, I don’t think I’ll be switching horses any time in the near future. Need to bear in mind the buy/sell spread when switching or reinvesting dividends too, I guess.

  • 55 PendleWitch March 29, 2020, 8:24 pm

    The amount of active trading taking place above is quite shocking! 😉 I’m sure @TA is very disappointed.

    I’m a do-nothing. Lost my gains from the past 3 years, but the regular pension and monthly DD have just gone into the market as normal. Sitting on reasonable cash though, due to being middle aged. (natch)

    @factor. Well, I bought hair clippers several years ago, based on MMM’s advice. Husband would have none of it. Changed his tune now though…!

    Thanks to @TI, @TA and all contributors and commenters for keeping us going through this, and stay safe everyone.

  • 56 The Investor March 29, 2020, 9:00 pm

    @all — Cheers for all the comments guys, and especially to the medics on the front line who have added their thoughts here. Good luck in the weeks ahead and thanks for all the work you’re doing!

  • 57 Factor March 29, 2020, 9:32 pm


    Perhaps you could zoom here on your broomstick when my next trim is due 🙂

  • 58 Jim brown March 29, 2020, 10:33 pm

    The chancellor did the right thing. However we are heading for austerity 2.0.

    Higher taxes surely and I can see less generous pension perks. What’s the odds of 20% tax relief across the board ?

    Will he be able to resist the inevitable demand for higher wages for NHS employees during austerity 2.0?

    As for me I am staying invested. Not selling not buying; apart from my monthly pension contributions.

  • 59 Hospitaller March 30, 2020, 11:00 am

    Now here is a tale. A tale which may be repeated thousands of times through the land before this matter ends. I live with Mrs Hospitaller. As I have noted before, our order is famously permissive , observing neither chastity nor poverty. My daughter, son-in-law and completely adorable granddaughter (a toddler) live 17 miles away. Mrs Hospitaller and I cannot truthfully claim to be young. We were very seriously self-isolating (what an ugly word). Last Saturday, son-in-law falls ill, with usual cv symptoms. Yesterday, daughter (7 months pregnant with Number Two) falls ill, with usual cv symptoms. Immediate chaos. Now, one cannot leave a toddler tied to a tree, as it were; it is simply not legal. And so, we now have a toddler racing around our abode, who is utterly gorgeous and is almost certainly a superspreader. What comes next? We well know what comes next. But, as they used to say in the Sopranos, whatya gonna do?

  • 60 Brod March 30, 2020, 12:38 pm

    @Hospitaller – oh my, not good juju. But what can you do?

    But remember, nothing is guaranteed.

    Good luck!

  • 61 Naeclue March 30, 2020, 4:26 pm

    One week after lock down started with 2 of our kids and their partners and so far so good. No arguments and has been a good time for catching up. All been like an extended public holiday really.

    I have been looking at the C19 stats and am feeling optimistic. New cases appear to be plateauing, even in Spain, so current measures do seem to be working. It would have been tragic if that had not been the case. At least we should now have bought some time to better ramp up equipment, etc. for the NHS and care homes, to gather more data and better plan the way forward. We will continue to do our best not to catch and spread the virus.

    ETF dividends will be arriving soon, probably little impacted, but it will be interesting to see how much these fall away in future quarters as companies seek to hold on to cash.

  • 62 Hospitaller March 30, 2020, 9:21 pm

    @Brod That is very kind of you. I thank you. May God have mercy on us all.

  • 63 David March 31, 2020, 2:45 am

    Having a quiet read while on the front line of the nhs, everyone is worried but trying to remain stoic and bullish in front of family but there is real fear among us that we may have cut the lawn for the last time. What perplexed me is how far we have fallen from our perch compared to Germany in our health care. WHY?. and what to do to remedy it. Pay more taxes but will the masses revolt when this is over. In a previous post months past, the headline read “people forget that people forget”

  • 64 The Rhino March 31, 2020, 10:51 am

    I had a rye smile to see my hot buns staring back at me from the MV centerfold – fame at last! Maybe my hipster sourdough exploits will go viral and I can pivot into being a master-baker? A lot of my friends already refer to me as a master-baker, or something along those lines..

    Big love to all those on the NHS front-line and assorted essential services – also to anyone who’s suddenly found themselves on the ropes financially.

    Spare a thought for the kneady and help out where you can. Tough times, but we’ll pull through. History tells us we’re a bunch of resilient bastards..

  • 65 Marco March 31, 2020, 11:56 am

    Great advice.

    Only thing to do is keep investing in your predetermined asset allocation global equities:global bonds

  • 66 Mousecatcher007 March 31, 2020, 12:16 pm

    Monevator, have you been hacked? I’ve received a phishing email supposedly from BetFred sent to an email address I have previously given your site and which includes the moniker I use on this site.

  • 67 The Investor March 31, 2020, 12:58 pm

    @Mousecatcher007 — Eek, not that I’m aware of!?

  • 68 Mousecatcher007 March 31, 2020, 2:40 pm

    Well, if it’s only me who’s had the email it seems you’re safe and secure!

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