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Weekend reading: Winging it when it comes to the economy

What caught my eye this week.

Right now it can be hard to picture the economic damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

We know it’s bad. The leading indicators – joblessness, factory orders, early GDP reports – tell us that.

But the full impact is being softened by government and central bank countermeasures.

Also, the more insidious affects will take years to be appreciated.

Consider the massive hit to the gazillions of small businesses that aren’t listed on markets, and are currently sheltering-in-place behind furlough schemes and cheap loans. Or the disruption and perhaps permanent impairment of some supply chains and other inter-linkages. The mental and physical health consequences. The loss of innovation.

The list goes on – but happily the world’s best minds are on the case!

Here’s an illustration of the woes in the start-up ‘unicorn’ space from the full-year results [1] of Softbank, the firm behind the $100+billion venture capital Vision Fund:


Don’t expect to understand this graphic unless you have an MBA.

Oh SoftBank, I’m only teasing you.

As someone who reads company reports like normal people read about the Beckhams, it’s fun to come across a graphic like this.

(Although, SoftBank, I’m not sure unicorns have wings? Are you suggesting start-ups will have to mutate to survive? Or was it just too messy to illustrate a unicorn receiving a giant capital infusion at a massively lower valuation to float it out of that ditch?)

If in the future there are fewer identikit software start-ups with names that sound like forgotten children’s toys (Preppy! Snoozer! BarfBoy! TimeTurd!) raising millions to no useful end, then maybe some good will have come out of the crisis…

Oh dear – Covid-19 has turned me into a cynic. The list of symptoms keeps growing, eh?

Have a great weekend.

From Monevator

Salary sacrifice: the potential downsides in a crisis – Monevator [3]

The revenge of the latte factor – Monevator [4]

From the archive-ator: the recession is not a lifestyle choice – Monevator [5]


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 [6]

At least 5% of UK has had coronavirus, with 17% in London, antibody study suggests – ITV [7]

The UK just sold its first-ever negative-yielding government bond – CNBC [8]

Top 1% of UK earners get 17% of income – Guardian [9]

Why should companies use bankers to issue equity when an app [Primary Bid [10]] does the job? – Yahoo Finance [11]

Taxpayers set to be saddled with £10bn of bad emergency loans as 43% of borrowers say they don’t expect to be able to pay them back – ThisIsMoney [12]

UK house prices rose 2.1% in March before lockdown hit, says ONS – Mortgage Strategy [13]

Jacinda Ardern flags four-day working week as way to rebuild New Zealand after Covid-19 – Guardian [14]

Face masks and no duty free: EU issues coronavirus air safety guidelines – Guardian [15]


Roughly 66% of hedge fund assets are run by about 5% of managers [Search result]FT [17]

Products and services

Mortgage holidays extended by three months: How do you get one, and what will it cost you? – ThisIsMoney [18]

Superdrug is now selling a Coronavirus antibody test online – Superdrug [19]

Sign-up to Freetrade via my link and we can both get a free share worth between £3 and £200 – Freetrade [20]

Saving rates continue to decline: how to find the best accounts… – Which? [21]

…though note that NS&I is now offering many of the best deals – ThisIsMoney [22]

Here’s when the shops could reopen – Which? [23]

Homes for growing your own food [Gallery]Guardian [24]

Comment and opinion

Who invented the index fund? A brief history – Get Rich Slowly [25]

Will UK taxes have to rise to pay for the pandemic? [Podcast]FT [26]

Why failed predictions don’t matter – Of Dollars and Data [27]

A poisoned chalice – Humble Dollar [28]

Have the record number of investors in the US stock market lost their minds? – New Yorker [29]

Doppelgänger – Indeedably [30]

Should UK pensioners be forced to pay the bill for coronavirus? – Guardian [31]

Seven pieces of advice for new graduates – Morningstar [32]

Low bond returns are nothing new [US specifics but relevant]A Wealth of Common Sense [33]

What will we do with our world when this is over? – Simple Living in Somerset [34]

Factor diversification and why it matters in a new market regime [Allegedly!]Wisdom Tree [35]

The case against factor investing – Factor Research [36]

Naughty corner: Active antics

Scottish Mortgage trust: The biggest and the best? – IT Investor [37]

Know what you don’t know, and other tips from Howard Marks – CFA Institute [38]

Merryn Somerset-Webb: Neil Woodford, Mark Barnett, and the case for active management – FT [39]

Wow! – The Brooklyn Investor [40]

When and how to take risk in bonds – Verdad [41]

The crypto price-innovation cycle – Andreessen Horowitz [42]

Covid-19 corner

The meaning of R – John Kay [43]

Early data shows Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine generates immune response – Stat [44]

The case for reopening economies by sector – Harvard Business Review [45]

At least six countries reimposed lockdown when Covid-19 flared up again. Here’s how – Business Insider [46]

Assessing the UK’s public health response to Covid-19 – The BMJ [47]

The ‘just stay at home’ message will backfire [US but relevant]The Atlantic [48]

I’m an NHS doctor, and I’ve had enough of people clapping for me – Guardian [49]

Covid-19 – Epidemic ‘Waves’ – CEBM [50]

A pandemic plan was in place. Trump abandoned it — and science — in the face of Covid-19 – Stat [51]

The 13 kinds of pandemic ads – Slate [52]

People who believe Covid-19 conspiracies have these seven tendencies – Fast Company [53]

The cult of Elon is cracking – The Atlantic [54]

Kindle book bargains

Pig Wrestling: The Brilliantly Simple Way to Solve Any Problem by Pete Lindsay – £0.99 on Kindle [55]

The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity by Carlo Cipolla – £0.99 on Kindle [56]

Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction by Thomas Siebel – £0.99 on Kindle [57]

Money: A User’s Guide by Laura Whateley – £0.99 on Kindle [58]

Off our beat

The three sides of risk – Morgan Housel [59]

As machines get smarter, how will we relate to them? – Wired [60]

Doordash and pizza arbitrage – Margins [61]

Farewell office. You played a crucial and happy role [As often with these links, I have a different view]NYT [62]

The US can prevent another Great Depression. It’ll take $10 trillion – The Atlantic [63]

How many people die each day? [Infographic]Visual Capitalist [64]

Have AI developers created a model that can learn to write code? [Video, v geeky, probably not]YouTube [65]

“I’ve dealt with this before” Seth’s Blog [66]

And finally…

“There is such a thing as too much choice. Last time I checked (and the number has probably already crept up), there were 4,987 different insurance policies available for you to pick from. That is over 1,200 more than there were in 2015, and almost 4,000 more than in 2003, according to money analyst Defaqto. This number includes 976 separate annual travel insurance policies and 952 single-trip travel insurance policies; 159 to cover mobile phone and gadgets and 721 car-breakdown policies all offered by 1,579 different insurance ‘providers’. There were just 560 such providers in 2003.”
– Laura Whateley, Money: A User’s Guide [67]

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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”. [ [73]]