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Weekend reading: We’re here

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What caught my eye this week.

Happy Near Year! I hope you spent your New Year’s Eve in a Covid-proof bunker with Jools Holland – unlike those living near me or on my dating app who seemed to think the end of 2020 was a reason to get together for a party.

Most of us can’t think of a better celebration than seeing the back of that dreadful year, but we’re not out of the woods yet.

It’s been clear since October (and I’ve eaten my own humble pie on this) that hopes for a ‘one and done’ wave of Covid were misplaced. Its ongoing persistence has now been made even worse by mutation, with the new strain saying “Hold my beer” to good old SARS-CoV-2.

The result of this cocktail of misplaced optimism, mixing, and mutation is that this wave is already looking close to out-of-control in the South East, and it’s spreading fast.

There may yet be a tale to tell about Covid’s all-in impact on mortality. But it’s undeniable people are dying horrible deaths from it right now – even as others protest the virus is ‘a hoax’ outside their hospital doors. (So much for the change of calendar year… plus ça change, right?)

Peak pandemic

Now the interesting thing from our perspective as an investing website is how the stock market must hold these two contradictory facts in mind.

The pandemic is as bad as it’s been in Britain. Yet at the same time the vaccines are here. And while I believe our singularly inept Brexit-enabling government is even bungling the vaccine rollout they so longed-for, it is happening. [Update: I take back ‘bungling’. The UK is moving faster than I appreciated at the time of writing, by comparison with other countries.]

More convincingly, look at how how Israel is getting the job done:

In a fortnight or so, most people at risk of dying from Covid in Israel will have been vaccinated. At that point we can expect the death rate to collapse towards zero, even if the virus continues to spread.

It should eventually, belatedly, be the same story in Britain.

This is what the stock market latched on to a couple of months ago. Silly pundits railing against ‘irrational’ markets climbing even as Covid case counts rose forgot the stock market is a discounting machine – the world’s best guess at the future.

And – absent more mutative bad luck – in mere months that future should see deaths reaching a ghastly crescendo before suddenly falling away, at least in the West, even as the virus continues to rage.

How do you discount that forecast? How do you price that into the share prices of retailers on the edge of bankruptcy or holiday firms with enough cash to make it to May, but not to July?

How indeed.

We continue to think that in 2021 the vast majority of people will be best off putting money into index funds, month in, month out – and in 2022 and beyond, too.

If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that speculation can be dangerous for your wallet, and much else besides.

From Monevator

From the archive-ator: New London skyscrapers are a big bet on the City of London’s future – 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

Islington records UK’s highest house price growth of 2020 at 13.4% – Guardian

Study finds companies can prosper with a four-day week – Guardian

UK investment platforms raise alarm on misleading adverts [Search result]FT

If history is any guide, the value factor should outperform from here – AQR

Products and services

Brexit: what are consumers’ rights on holidays, banking, and more? – Guardian

What the Brexit deal means for your finances: travel, property, pensions, and bank accounts – ThisIsMoney

Cost of annual travel insurance expected to surge post-Brexit – ThisIsMoney

Sign-up to Freetrade via my link and we can both get a free share worth between £3 and £200 – Freetrade

Flat pack, rising prices: Ikea furniture is now collectable – Guardian

Grand castles and houses for sale, in pictures – Guardian

Comment and opinion

“This year I finally learned that work alone is not enough to sustain me”Guardian

Leave a will, not a financial mess – The Evidence-based Investor

Too thrifty? – Humble Dollar

Type I and Type II charlatans – A Wealth of Common Sense

What money can buy – Humble Dollar

A theory of (almost) everything [Passive investing ‘distorting’ the market, part gazillion; Search result]FT

When an asset goes out of style – Abnormal Returns

Should you buy an all-time high? – Of Dollars and Data

Josh Brown and Patrick O’Shaughnessy: The coming custom indexing tidal wave [Podcast] – via aCast

Why are there interest-free deals for everything now? – The Atlantic

RIT has moved to Australia – Retirement Investing Today

A new content aggregator for personal finance blog fans – Sovereign Quest

Naughty corner: Active antics

Lock it in – The Belle Curve

Promotion: Attention naughty active investors! Hargreaves Lansdown has published its popular five shares and five funds to watch in 2021.

A crowdsourced hedge fund fizzles in an era of democratized finance – Bloomberg via MSN

“Why I’m not selling Bitcoin”The Irrelevant Investor

Valuation for companies with real options [Dust off your master’s before reading]Morgan Stanley

Covid corner

New variant ‘raises R number by up to 0.7’ – BBC

UK government urged to use pharmacies to speed up vaccine rollout – BBC

Tracking global and domestic vaccinations [Statistics]Bloomberg

All primary schools to remain closed in London after U-turn – Guardian

Sweden seeks new pandemic law to curb virus infections – RTE

Swedish Covid-19 data exposes Australia’s fatal lockdown hysteria – The Australian

With a heavy heart, Johnson will always remind us who the real victim is: him – Marina Hyde


Adieu to the single market created by the UK – BBC

Britain outside of the EU: a treasure island for rentiers – Guardian

David Henig [a veteran trade bod] analyses the deal – LinkedIn

Institute for Government: a deep dive into the trade deal detail – IFG

‘My deal was better’, says Theresa May – Yahoo News

The UK-EU Brexit agreements and sovereignty – Mark Elliot, University of Cambridge via PLfE

Sovereignty delivered on the longest night of the year – SLIS

Kindle book bargains

Why the Germans Do it Better: Notes from a Grown-Up Country by John Kampfner – £1.69 on Kindle

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown – £0.99 on Kindle

The Organised Time Technique: How to Get Your Life Running Like Clockwork by Gemma Bray – £0.99 on Kindle

The Wealthy Retirement Plan by Vicki Wusche – £0.99 on Kindle

Don’t have a Kindle? Buy one – they’re great and save a ton of space!

Off our beat

Want the perfect Zoom bookshelf? Buy it by the foot – Politico

Turns out it’s pretty good to wake up early – The Cut

How 2020 changed London dining [Various articles]Eater

The breakthroughs that will make 2021 better than 2020 – Bill Gates

Retro: How the office ruined your life [Funny video from 2019, should quash your pre-Covid nostalgia] – via YouTube

And finally…

“Saving is about moving resources from the present into the future; financing is about moving resources from the future back into the present.”
– Jacob Goldstein, Money: The True Story of a Made-up Thing

Like these links? Subscribe to get them every Friday! Like these links? Note this list includes affiliate links, such as from Amazon, Unbiased, and Freetrade. We may be  compensated if you pursue these offers – that will not affect the price you pay.

  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”. []
{ 55 comments… add one }
  • 1 Far_wide January 2, 2021, 11:33 am

    Happy new Year to all. Re: value, I took the hints going around a couple of months back and bought into VVAL, which has done very well in the short time I’ve owned it, but unfortunately is also closing next month.
    Does anyone have any suggestions of another low-cost global value fund to look into?

  • 2 A Way to Less January 2, 2021, 11:50 am

    Thanks as ever for the links and all the best for 2021! Keep on Monevatoring!

  • 3 Ducknald Don January 2, 2021, 11:53 am

    I wonder what will happen to all those tech stocks that have been booming over the last year when we come out the other side. I’m guessing people will have bought enough laptops to see them through the next few years and are already thoroughly sick of Zoom.

  • 4 NewInvestor January 2, 2021, 1:03 pm

    You could look into iShares Edge MSCI World Value Factor UCITS ETF which is available in accumulating or distributing units. It seems to trade under various tickers: IWVL/IWFV (acc) or IWVU/IWVG (dist).

  • 5 Richard January 2, 2021, 2:38 pm

    Happy 2021!

    Why do you say they are bungling the immunisation programme? From what I see they had a plan based on the original Covid variant. A couple of weeks ago they realised a new one was spreading fast and now hospitals are being overwhelmed (boarders closed etc). So they changed the plan in response to the changing situation, aiming to try and relieve pressure by spreading the vaccine more thinly. The first I heard of this was I think Tony Blair suggesting it a few weeks ago (before they announced the new variant). Or have I missed something else with regards to bungling?

  • 6 BuildTheWall January 2, 2021, 2:58 pm

    Hardware makers weren’t the superstars of the tech rally. It’s the software sellers. Cloud services, online advertising, etc. These are recurring spending, therefore the excitement.

  • 7 The Investor January 2, 2021, 3:16 pm

    @Richard – Rolling out a vaccine program it’s not rocket science, we do it all the time. So yes they are vaccinating the country. But look at Israel in my links above. Consider that the UK is at the very forefront of countries who have banked on the vaccination program. And remember we are 10 months into this. Also remember the virus is as rampant as it has been since day one.

    In this context the slow rollout counts to me as bungling. Why is the chief negotiator of pharmacies urging the BBC that his members are ready to be part of the program? Why are there not dedicated stations set up in every town in the country? Why is the army prepped to be testing school kids but not vaccinating old people who will die?

    I don’t think we should be ending any week with more than a day or two vaccine in a warehouse anywhere. If that is the case currently then I withdraw my criticism. But I don’t believe it is.

  • 8 Richard January 2, 2021, 3:34 pm

    Ah, so it is the speed at which the vaccine is rolling out, rather than the change of course in the dosing. Fair enough.

    According to a very fresh BBC article, the UK is third in the world for speed. Israel though is a real outlier, very impressive. Considering track record though, I would say this is very impressive positioning for the UK (we usually end up towards the bottom of developed nations – though this has only just begun and I expect we will fall behind as others get into full swing). But I agree we should be at the same level as Israel.


  • 9 The Investor January 2, 2021, 3:40 pm

    @Richard — Really, we’re third? Okay that is not too lamentable, I concede then that “bungling” was over the top and doubtless coloured by my dislike of this administration. Fair cop.

    I’ll say “frustratingly tardy” instead, and caveat that further by saying I guess I think everyone but Israel is going too slow.

  • 10 Kraggash January 2, 2021, 3:49 pm

    I read that the USA cas only confirmed options on 150m vaccine doses. They to Astra Zenica for more, and were told that all output was committed until June. If true, UK have performed much better, in getting vaccine options anyway.

  • 11 Richard January 2, 2021, 4:07 pm

    Another thing to consider though is the amount of vaccine. Isreal has vaccinated what about 1m in a population of 8m. UK has vaccinated what about 1m out of 70m. Does the UK have 10x as much vaccine as Israel? I don’t know vaccine numbers, but it is possible rate of supply of vaccine limits the amount that can be operationally administered. It may not make sense to blow all your vaccine in week one and then stand all the staff down for a month while you wait for the next load to arrive. But I have no real idea how this works and I look to the experts to have formulated a proper plan..

  • 12 John Pilkington January 2, 2021, 4:15 pm
  • 13 David January 2, 2021, 4:16 pm

    I hope at some point we’ll be able to move on from Brexit, accept that it’s now a reality of the world, and start assessing the investment and personal finance implications in a logical and measured way. As with any major change, there will be both upsides and downsides. I appreciate that people who bitterly opposed the UK leaving the EU are going to have a (confirmation?) bias towards noticing the latter, but can’t we at least give credit where it’s due? The UK is already way ahead of the EU with its vaccination programme for example, and that’s because we did our own data assessment and made our own decisions. And the long campaigned against “EU tampon tax” was finally abolished from yesterday. Isn’t that something to celebrate, even if grudingly?

  • 14 Andrew January 2, 2021, 4:53 pm

    The UK vaccinating its citizens = proof that Brexit was beneficial. Wow!

    @The Investor – Thanks a lot for these round-ups. I always look forward to and get a lot out of them. The Sovereign Quest thing seems like link-bait but on the other hand there’s loads of blogs I’ve never seen before so I’ll check it out.

  • 15 The Investor January 2, 2021, 4:54 pm

    @David — I agree the government seems to have a done good job in securing vaccine options, and have said so before. Probably too many options in the event of how things have worked out but of course they couldn’t have known they’d all be successful, so that’s no criticism.

    This is partly what informs my frustration with what I perceived to be a slow rollout, though as per my comment above I’ve walked that back a little.

    As for the “pros and cons” of Brexit I wouldn’t hold your breath.

    Monevator was once described as a “nest of Remainers”. Fine by me.

    There aren’t very many pros of Brexit at all for the average person, and they are dwarfed by the cons for people who follow this blog.

    Read the ThisIsMoney and Guardian links above about insurance, money, travel, etc in the post-Brexit landscape. Those articles are not editorialized, and still they’re just a long list of rights we’ve lost and costs added on.

    The trade ‘deal’ is a win in that it’s turned out not to be a car crash no-deal. It is arguably what we used to call “hard Brexit” and what we were told wouldn’t happen.

    That’s to be celebrated in the same way as when you lose a few toes to frostbite but — hey — at least you didn’t have to amputate the whole foot.

    I’ll repeat for the record again: I don’t expect the UK economy to decline precipitously — especially as Covid disruption is masking any slowdown from transition to the new arrangements, and also because we’ve been running below-par for 4+ years on account of Brexit uncertainty.

    If anything the UK is long overdue a bounce.

    However medium to long-term our economy will just run slower than it needed to due to Brexit, for at least another ten years I’d confidently estimate. Beyond that is somewhat unforecastable, but that’s plenty of time to compound into a real impact on run-rate GDP.

    There’ll be all sorts of things that happen that the government will point to along the way to show Brexit ‘working’. A new factory here. A trade deal there. A big year for growth. Leavers won’t spend a lot of time thinking about the counterfactuals, just as they’ve not for the past few years.

    As for moving on, when me, my friends, and the young people of this country regain the automatic right to live and work anywhere across the 27 member states of Europe, from Berlin to Barcelona, from forests to beaches, like the other 450 million citizens of Europe, well then maybe I’ll cheer up about this self-damaging act of appeasing fantasists.

    As you say, all that is independent of assessing the investment implications, which is what I do daily as a naughty active investor. 2020 was ridiculously good for me, given the awfulness on the ground, but that’s by-the-by from assessing the degree to which Brexit is an act of ongoing self-harm. I’ve shifted assets around based on the degree to which international capital has been considering the UK — and the £ — a basket-case banana republic versus just a nailed-on slower-growing insecure economy.

    It’s been fun, in the same way that exterminating cockroaches that have infiltrated your house is fun. But it’s a bit beyond the scope of this blog, with its focus on passive investing.

    Luckily globally allocated passive investors benefited from the big devaluation of the pound [at the time of the Referendum] and from being 95% exposed to other markets. UK gilts are still fine for the risk-free portion of your money. The £ was too cheap for a non-no-deal Brexit, and I’d *guess* it has another 5-10% of upside against global currencies in it to reach fair value.

    Nearly all readers should ignore all that and just keep on keeping on.

    (Edit: I added “arguably” re: Hard Brexit, as we could have done a harder one with tarrifs, not that any Leave leaders campaigned on that platform in 2016.)

  • 16 Far_wide January 2, 2021, 5:40 pm

    @newinvestor – thanks for the tip, will have a look into them.

  • 17 Rui N. January 2, 2021, 5:54 pm

    @The Investor, please don’t let @David get away with that lie that Brexit had anything to do with the quicker approval of the vaccine in the UK. When the vaccine was approved, the UK was 100% part of the EU medicine regulatory framework (no ifs or buts), and the UK used the emergency approval procedure that any Member State can use if they want to for any drug they want to.

  • 18 Vanguardfan January 2, 2021, 6:09 pm

    I understand the rate limiting step in vaccine roll out, at the moment, is supply.
    I do have some faith in the vaccination program, but it can’t be done instantaneously, and unfortunately we needed it like yesterday.

  • 19 David January 2, 2021, 6:32 pm

    @ The Investor – I appreciate the engagement with my points. I read those articles and it doesn’t seem that scary though. Everything is just a bit different – GHIC instead of EHIC, small businesses need an EORI number (which is just a VAT number with GB in front), roaming charges aren’t banned any more but phone companies say they won’t charge them, and so on. I fully agree it’s not as simple as everything being completely harmonised of course. But that’s a bit like complaining about having to change money because we don’t use the Euro while ignoring the downsides of not having our own currency.

    It’s a pity everyone has to be in a “nest” of Remainers or Leavers. I always thought the arguments were quite balanced (I mean the actual arguments for or against the EU, not the ones that we heard about during the campaigns). I feel sorry for people who have lost friendships or suffered stress in their families because of differences in political opinion.

    I also empathise with your digital nomad vision, and maybe anger about losing that aspect is typical of your readers. I can see that those with more wealth benefit from the EU freedom of movement in many ways. But is that the experience of “the average person”? Probably not seeing how the vote went in the provinces.

    The more time that passes, the more irrelevant any hypothetical “what might have been” will become. I just can’t see young people listening to angry old people complaining about Brexit any more than they listen to angry old people complaining about any other aspect of the modern world which they don’t like but is just the way things are.

    @Rui N. – I wasn’t trying to get away with a lie. I just assumed that the UK approving the vaccine before the rest of the EU was somehow linked to us not being in the EU any more. I don’t think we can deny that it’s the sort of thing that could happen going forward though, even if it’s technically wrong to say it’s happened this time.

  • 20 FI-FireFighter January 2, 2021, 6:37 pm

    @Andrew – Sovereign Quest isn’t link-bait.
    Its recently been set up by the excellent blogger { in·deed·a·bly }
    I highly recommend you visit his blog and dip into his previous posts.
    You wont be disappointed.

  • 21 The Investor January 2, 2021, 6:40 pm

    @David — Just briefly (I’m commenting on the phone in the street!) my links to those articles were just pointing out there aren’t really any offsetting ‘pros’. There are substitutes, or else cons.

    The big alleged ‘pro’ (as discussed in-depth in the comments of my Christmas Weekend Reading) is supposedly sovereignty. In as much as it delivers any benefits, I don’t think there is any chance they will be economic on a net basis.

    Yes we might make a few more trade deals faster than the EU, but they will probably be worse deals because as the past 4 1/2 years has categorically demonstrated, bigger is better when you’re making trade deals. And even if they’re as good as the EU’s equivalent deals, that’s not good enough because they need to be better to make up for the grit/friction of being outside of our largest trading block on our doorstep, the uncertainty and growth already lost etc.

    Fingers freezing, got to go! 🙂

  • 22 Mike January 2, 2021, 7:55 pm

    Please read this Der Spiegel article which is excoriating on the role of the EU in organising vaccine approval and rollout:


    The first German to be vaccinated was in Britain, the UK has ordered 50% more doses per capita than the EU, and meanwhile Brussels has been busy making sure there has been sufficient vaccines purchased from Sanofi in France as well as from the Germans to keep their bosses happy…

    While the UK government have bungled many things, the idea they are bungling the vaccine is something from the Twitter echo chamber.

  • 23 Andrew January 2, 2021, 9:48 pm

    @FI-FireFighter – I have read lots of indeedably! If he’s the guy behind it then great. Even better!

  • 24 ermine January 2, 2021, 10:59 pm

    > Want the perfect Zoom bookshelf? Buy it by the foot

    Zoom lets you use virtual backgrounds – if you’re halfway competent with the lighting (from the front and up top, diffused a bit) it’s a lot cheaper, and goes along with the Kindle link zeitgeist

    I have to admit that the cynic in me assumed everybody’s bookshelves on Zoom were virtual backgrounds. I’m a physical media guy myself, I don’t do cloud streaming of music or movies but it does my head in to think there might be people who actually buy books to pose on Zoom when a clickety-clack on the keyboard lets you do it all for nowt.

    Happy Freedom Year from the 52% of y’all who wanted it. You got it now. Enjoy.

  • 25 Financial Samurai January 3, 2021, 9:19 am

    HNY! Please share how your portfolios did in 2020!

    As an investing website, this is something we’re most interested in.



  • 26 Matt January 3, 2021, 10:58 am

    Yeah, I narrowed my eyes at ‘bungled vaccine roll out’ as well. I love this blog, but I think you’re letting your preconceived ideas get ahead of you.

  • 27 Neverland January 3, 2021, 11:04 am


    The UK held a referendum on EU membership in 1975 and the result was obviously not settled to the satisfaction of the losing side was it?

    To suggest the matter is settled because it ended up the way you wanted is exactly disingenuous dissembling we’ve all come to know and love from Brexiters/English nationalists.

    It’s funny how sovereignty (without any explanation) trumps all for England, yet all other nations like France, Ireland and Scotland have no national politics.

    I work a lot in Europe and the UK is now regarded as a rogue state on the same level as Hungary or Turkey.

    Well done.

  • 28 Martyn January 3, 2021, 11:17 am

    I’m glad you took back the bungling part, sadly, no mention of bungling going on in the EU I noticed, which had we not left we’d also be subject too.

    I am a European I am not in the European Union, I love Europe, I view the EU as undemocratic, self serving, corrupt, dictatorial and incompetent. To make a decision in the EU requires all 27 to agree, but the idea is that one day it will only need 1. I agree 1 is preferable to 27 (it is one of the reasons why initially we’ll be more nimble), but I really don’t want that 1 to be in Brussels. All other things are irrelevant.

    But, we’re gone.

    Sky hasn’t fallen in.

    Deal is not good economically, I wanted no deal, WTO hurts exporters and we are net importers but it is good from an an independence perspective, which means the bad parts can be “fixed” down the line, nothing is forever.

    I was also happy to see the criminals being deported (finally) and that benefits can now be limited to those people who actually have lived here for a decent period of time.

    The are other things that are changing for the better and will doubtless be a load more.

    The icing on the cake – the terminally incompetent Macron is angry (seriously would you like that clown in preference to Boris? I guess remainers would.)

    What is not to like?

  • 29 maryn January 3, 2021, 11:36 am

    My big gripe is that you are not objective, you have a view and fit facts to match it, rather than (as I do) collect facts and then take a view (and if necessary change that view). I started out a big supporter of Europe, I took the liberal media at face value. I remained happy enough until the EU replaced the EEC, the facts changed and so did my view.

    Take Israel

    Yes they are doing very well. But they are a command economy threatened on all sides, they can and will assume control in a manner you would not like to achieve imperatives. There are only 8.6 million people in Israel and the they are a young country. In essence comparing us with them is not apples t apples, we have to be compared with the EU countries, they are more less the same animal as us. France would be my choice. Compared to them we doing fantastically, are we not?

  • 30 The Investor January 3, 2021, 11:58 am

    @maryn — I’ve already acknowledged and taken back my bungling comment, which I would suggest is a rare slip by me, for the reasons you mention, and putting your hands up is an even rarer thing to see someone do on the Internet.

    In contrast, I don’t know you but I’d be surprised if you’ve ever done that, firstly going on sheer probability (I see about one person do it a month across the Internet) and secondly your use of the word “liberal media” in a country with an avowedly right-wing press is a major tell.

    I agree we’re doing much better than France currently, in terms of vaccinating people. Let’s see where we are in a month but I’m optimistic, despite my confidence that this government is by far the most incompetent in my lifetime. (I presume they’ve devolved the programme long ago to experts).

    Israel is a different beast and I agree they have a somewhat different governance structure. However I don’t really accept the scale argument. Yes they’ve fewer people but they’ve also fewer resources. Perhaps the big difference is that vaccine supply is limited, as @vanguardfan suggests, which would move the dial a lot faster on a % of population basis. But even then the sheer number they’ve vaccinated, roughly the same as we have, is still incredibly impressive to me.

  • 31 Two Shillings and Sixpence January 3, 2021, 12:15 pm


    Found this interesting “Lords of Water: Episode One” regarding water as an investment. Something does not quite feel right but i guess its just another commodity.

  • 32 Mathmo January 3, 2021, 2:22 pm

    Hey TI, just to say Happy New Year and thanks for the hard work you put into assembling links and reading each week. Haven’t had much time for commenting or reading in 2020 (turns out there’s been stuff to deal with), but appreciate being able to dip in.

    Fascinated by the “don’t be scared of an all time high” article, particularly as I do my quarter-end tot-up and thoughts drift back to new year 20 years ago.

  • 33 Al Cam January 3, 2021, 3:09 pm

    @Matryn (28)
    RE: “I view the EU as undemocratic, self serving, …”
    I would certainly not go as far as you, but I can only think of one other subscription-based organisation that deems it fair and proportionate to dole out punishments if you have the temerity to cancel your subscription lest others might try and follow in your foot steps!
    As I have said elsewhere, the EU is IMO a poor implementation of a good idea.

  • 34 Beef Shandy January 3, 2021, 4:05 pm

    Interesting to see a bunch of pro-Brexit comments being posted here – “interesting” because based on what these folks have written it’s very clear they’ve not the slightest idea of the contents of the TCA that the UK’s signed up to…

    I can 100% guarantee not a single one of them has put in any time or effort to actually read it and comprehend its contents. If they had, they’d not have been spouting they stuff they did. They’re in good company, because it’s clear that lazy old Johnson hasn’t a clue what’s in it either – hardly a surprise there – nor any members of his Cabinet.

    From the EU’s perspective, given the constraints the TCA represents something of a triumph, “mission accomplished”: they’ve managed to slide us out of the club with minimal disruption to themselves, tied us into following very large chunks of the EU acquis while giving us no say on what those rules are, and securing their export trade surplus in goods unhindered by tariffs and quotas without throwing any bones to us on the service export front.

    Try reading the TCA, then come back and explain to me and other readers the basis for the so-called “sovereignty” and “independence” of which you write.

  • 35 Harps January 3, 2021, 4:41 pm

    @Al Cam (33)
    Or they simply removed the benefits of membership once the cancelled subscription had lapsed…

  • 36 Al Cam January 3, 2021, 5:49 pm

    @Harps (35):
    If only it were that simple!
    IMO, any sting in the tail will be in the forward looking aspects which seem to provide scope for all sorts of shenanigans – both planned and opportunistic (from both sides) down the line.
    As I said elsewhere: has it been worth all the time, bluster, bad-blood, faff, etc? I suspect not, but I guess time may tell.

  • 37 Harps January 3, 2021, 6:01 pm

    @Al Cam
    >has it been worth all the time, bluster, bad-blood, faff, etc?
    Of course it hasn’t. It’s a classic lose-lose; but, like most commentators/observers, I believe the UK will lose out more…

  • 38 MrOptimistic January 3, 2021, 7:16 pm

    Happy New Year too, and many more of them more to the point ( especially for me).
    Best not to focus too much on the UK experience with covid, reckon its impact in the US will be more determining. Its absolutely rampant in LA County at the moment.
    PS. Israel is a compact little country, you can drive around the main part in less than a day. This, together with their established public organisation procedures must have helped with the vaccination.

  • 39 ZXSpectrum48k January 3, 2021, 10:29 pm

    @Beef Shandy. Agreed. As far as I can see the EU appears to have secured a deal which allows it to retain nearly all of the advantages it derives from its trading relationship with the UK, while giving it the ability to use regulatory structures to cherry pick the sectors where the UK had previously enjoyed advantages in trading. That applies to the services sector in particular, but to parts of the goods sector too.

    Globally, around 90% of the variation in UK services exports to other countries can by explained using a simple model that uses distance (the “gravity” effect), the GDP of the country (demand proxy), and the level of each country’s STRI (World Bank Services Trade Restrictiveness Indices). Based on the deal that has been done, the STRI will shift up around 8 points. This reduces the level of UK services exports to the EU by around 29%.

    A portion of the UK’s services exports to Non-EU countries depends on the ability export services to the EU market. Modelling suggests a 29% decline in services exports to the EU may be associated with a near 10% decline in exports to non-EU countries via complementarity effects. The net effect is an 18% drop in overall services exports, which is equivalent to 2.3% of GDP.

  • 40 Duncurin January 4, 2021, 12:25 am

    @Financial Samurai (25)
    Based largely on information obtained from this site and a degree of introspection, my portfolio has consisted entirely of Vanguard LifeStrategy 80 for over eight years.

    This year it plunged about 20% during March but subsequently recovered to a gain of 7.5% by the end of the year.

    With hindsight I should have bought more in March, but as I didn’t know what was going to happen I sat tight. (I’m in decumulation, but haven’t needed to sell any units since the first lockdown as our expenses have fallen considerably.)

    I regret Brexit but with hindsight am not entirely surprised as many Brits feel no attachment to Europe for reasons of geography and history. (A few will say they love Europe but hate the EU, to which I would reply that I love Britain but hate our Government.)

  • 41 Jeff January 4, 2021, 3:48 am

    I’d love to know what the Investor and Accumulator’s 2020 returns are as well and how they are positioned for 2021 and what they believe in.

    Thanks for sharing guys!

  • 42 The Investor January 4, 2021, 9:38 am

    Discussing returns is a tricky issue. If I just give a bald figure it doesn’t really tell you much about how I invested or what risks I took. And as a naughty active investor, my returns need to be explained with lots of caveats because most people shouldn’t go near the way I invest.

    Additionally I started writing a longer series a few years ago where I intended going into my active investing methods and returns, but was snarked at for whatever reason by the house troll and for some reason it stuck that day. (Perhaps because there was a ring of truth in his accusation that it was all a veiled brag?)

    I’ll ponder some more and consider an article, but as usual I’m mostly minded to keep it all for some kind of paywall (paid-for or free) where I can curate all the info and supply context.

    For now I’m happy to say 2020 was a very good year for me, despite all the sturm and drang (and the drag of over *900* separate trades! :-0 As I say don’t do this at home.)

  • 43 Richard January 4, 2021, 10:11 am

    This link (from the BBC article I previously linked to) contains lots of interesting vaccination stats. UK is sitting about 5th in the world for number of vaccinations per day (50k per day), though latest data is incomplete in some areas. The flat line suggests to me limitations in vaccine amounts and the need to drive a steady pace over time. Let’s hope now the 2nd vaccine is out of the starting blocks this starts to increase quickly.


  • 44 Flashb. January 4, 2021, 10:43 am

    Happy New Year all, and thanks TI & TA for all the great content this year.

    A report was released recently about the divisions and similarities between Britons (we could definitely showcase some of the comments here over the past few years as Exhibit A. of the us-versus-them mentality)! However, the report reckons there are more similarities between Britons than there are differences. There are some great charts and data if you’re into that sort of thing and if not, the summary is still a quick and interesting read.


  • 45 Al Cam January 4, 2021, 12:37 pm

    The UK’s perfectly flat line is probably not real and just an artefact of the data/graphing e.g. a total divided equally across a period of days. Having said that, I totally agree that it seems likely that vaccine supply should be the limiting factor for the foreseeable.
    Also, as time passes, differences in what the reported data really means will start to emerge – but IMO the trend should be the key metric.

  • 46 The Austrian January 4, 2021, 2:44 pm

    Great website, great links – thanks for what you do, and a happy new year.

    Would love to see your thoughts in coming months on ‘discretionary management’ services who manage £billions for people and charities in the UK (eg Brewin Dolphin, Rathbones, Close Bros and others), the pros and cons, and the index from ARC they produce; and also on Modern Monetary Theory, which seems to be coming down the tracks to us fast.

    My own views in brief – utter rip off that I cannot see in this day and age why anyone uses; and total policy insanity.

  • 47 Seeking Fire January 4, 2021, 3:52 pm

    @ZX + Brand Shandy. Agreed. With respect to Financial Services, the legal briefings coming out now are saying the same point. Here is a link from a mass media article today, which is broadly accurate.


    There’s a good chance, the UK financial service will obtain regulatory equivalence, which will help minimise the damage but at what cost? What will we have to give up in return? And to get back to a poorer position we were previously? At the very least an agreement not to deviate from the rules with no influence in setting it otherwise it will be withdrawn at short notice. It’s really like being…a vassal state in this regards. Whoops. Still the fish…..the fish, thank goodness for the fish 🙂

    It’s around 7% of the economy, one of the largest sectors as you no doubt know. It won’t disappear, the infrastructure is plugged in here but it seems likely to erode and in ten years time? At the very least the city is going to have to reinvent itself somewhat one would think.

    I’m relaxed with FS declining as a % of GDP just intrigued to know what’s the plan to pick up the slack. I know what the intellectual powerhouse David Davies plan was and it’s not good! https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/david-davis-suggests-20-fall-in-pound-could-be-good-thing-lnjgrl5jb

  • 48 The Investor January 4, 2021, 4:07 pm

    @Seeking Fire @ZX @Beef Shandy — As we discussed on the other thread, the final deal looks mostly like a David Blaine style song and dance to appease Leavers without much changing. I think it’s better than no-deal (barely) and they have gained the UK some extra sovereignty – what I call ‘technical sovereignty’ in that it’s not sovereignty you’d probably want to (or could) exercise very much in practice — but all the trade stuff is kabuki theater.

    Very interesting to see @ZX Spectrum 48K’s quantitative analysis of what was always an inescapable reality.

    Of course Leavers who voted for Brexit for economic reasons presumably didn’t understand the benefits of being in the EU before, so they won’t give much credence to the costs of being out of it. Few of us can claim to be trade deal experts, but I like to think I’m not willfully ignorant and set against hundreds of years of economic theory and practice.

  • 49 BBlimp January 4, 2021, 5:16 pm

    @TI… you seem to think bigger is always better when it comes to trade deals. But we’ve rolled over deals with 62 countries ( presumably the others will follow). Let’s say we go on to negotiate better trade deals than the Eu – not because we are bigger but because we’re not a protectionist bloc that thinks we can prop up the slow growing economies with tariffs and quotas- do you then roll back on that like you did the ‘bungled’ comment? Or now you’ve set your mind to the belief that bigger means better is that it?

    I’d encourage you to approach this year with an open mind

    The testing was slow to get off ground but scaled up at a pace, let us hope vaccinating continues in the same speedy vein. I agree with Tony Blair we should be vaccinating 5m a week but let’s look at similar countries -France didn’t vaccinate a single person until a week after the vaccine was approved and managed less than a thousand in 2020…

  • 50 The Investor January 4, 2021, 6:46 pm

    @BBlimp — 77 comments from you on this website so far and I don’t remember you conceding an inch on anything at all, despite being an eponymous defender of a plague ship of a political project. So I won’t be concerning myself with whether I’ve rolled back anything to your satisfaction, cheers. 🙂

    As for the substance of your comment, time will tell. But in any event, as I said earlier I won’t become pro-Brexit on the back of a few unlikely cheap chickens if most of the nation’s population remains marooned on this island having lost its freedom to live and work anywhere in Europe.

    (Personally I have options so this isn’t me being selfish, as I’ve mentioned before.)

  • 51 BBlimp January 4, 2021, 7:12 pm

    When you put it like that maybe I could approach the year with a slightly opened mind as well 😉

  • 52 Financial Samurai January 4, 2021, 8:22 pm

    I would just give it a go and explain your wins and losses.

    Here’s my detailed breakdown of 2020. Then I share my predictions for 2021.


    Nobody has trolled me yet. I think people would appreciate your investing thought process and see the results on an investing blog. Nobody expects anybody to always be crushing it.

    I think you and the readers will enjoy sharing the results and learning from them!


  • 53 The Investor January 4, 2021, 8:50 pm

    Nobody has trolled me yet. I think people would appreciate your investing thought process and see the results on an investing blog. Nobody expects anybody to always be crushing it.

    I have a different problem to you Sam. 😉 My issue is we laud passive investing on this blog, but as is well-known around here I (unlike my co-blogger) invest actively. And it happens that in 2020 I crushed it — that’s my concern haha!

  • 54 Richard January 5, 2021, 12:06 am

    @Al Cam 45 – yes, good point. I don’t know how complete or reliable the data is. We also started vaccinations on the 8th of December yet that chart starts for us on 21st. Our position may not look so impressive if it was properly mapped from when we started compared to everyone else.

  • 55 Andrew January 8, 2021, 2:48 pm

    “So I won’t be concerning myself with whether I’ve rolled back anything to your satisfaction, cheers.”

    Where’s the like button when you need it?!

    “When you put it like that maybe I could approach the year with a slightly opened mind as well”

    Fair play. And it honestly cheered me up to read that.

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