So how was the holiday in France then? If going abroad means there is a risk that you have to quarantine when you get back, you will think twice about travelling.
For holidaymakers that is a huge inconvenience. For many companies the impact is more radical, for it means they have to rethink everything about business travel.
How do you run an Anglo-Dutch giant such as Shell or Unilever if your executives cannot travel freely between the Netherlands and the UK? How do you organise a global supply chain if you cannot visit a potential supplier’s factory to see how they work?
Shift change: As far as commuting into the office is concerned, we will never get fully back to the old normal
There is a temptation after any shock to try to get back to normal as fast as possible. The surge in restaurant bookings is a sign of that, and a jolly welcome one too. But, as we report on the previous page, as far as commuting into the office is concerned, we will never get fully back to the old normal.
Governments can urge people to stop working from home, but if the new practice of working remotely at least part of the time is both a more efficient and, for many, a preferred option then that will become the new normal.
City centres around the world will become different places. What we’ll see will be as big as the wave of deindustrialisation that swept the developed world from the 1960s on, and which has begun in emerging economies like China.
Whenever there is searing structural change it is easier to see the losers than the gainers. On Friday travel and airline stocks slumped after the quarantine announcement. The fall in commuting will hit urban transport networks too, though since they are mostly controlled by the public sector, the impact will be different.
A whole range of private sector business services in cities will have to be scaled back, and of course commercial landlords will see their rents plunge.
Much less clear are the winners. But if, as seems likely, the total size of the economy has recovered to its pre-crisis peak in 2022, hopefully early that year, then by mathematical logic the gains must be as great as the losses. Anyone interested in investment should be thinking about where those winners might be.
A lot is clear, and that is reflected in the market. We have seen a surge in the share prices of big pharmaceutical groups, driving AstraZeneca to become the most valuable company in the FTSE 100 index. Ocado, the online grocer, is worth £17.5billion and closing in on the UK’s largest retailer, Tesco at £22.3billion.
Poor Marks & Spencer is now worth just £2.2billion. In America the share prices of the high-tech giants have raced upwards, with the US now accounting for more than half of the world’s stock market capitalisation.
Whatever you think of the US administration’s response to the Covid-19 crisis, its high-tech corporations have so far emerged as the big winners.
What is interesting is what is less obvious. If you think in terms of location, small, sought-after towns will do better than large conurbations. There are lots of small businesses that will benefit from simpler supply-chains. Why have something made in China if you can get something better made locally, even at a somewhat higher price? There is already a boom in kit for home offices. Expect there to be a building boom as homes are extended to cope with this.
I suspect there will also be more of a quest for products and services that improve quality of life. A lot of rethinking has gone on, from the simple ‘do I want to commute every day?’ to the more thoughtful ‘if I am to travel less, how do I make each trip worthwhile?’
It is impossible to see the detail, for social change is always hard to predict, but it feels as though we are part of a ‘quality, not quantity’ movement in many aspects of our lives. That, if you think about, is no bad thing.
The S&P 500 index is bouncing around 3,375, close to its all-time high, but Goldman Sachs thinks US shares could go higher still. Its target is upwards of 3,600, given its relatively optimistic US growth forecast and the hopes of a Covid19 vaccine soon.
From a UK perspective, however, the question is: when will London-quoted shares catch up with New York? The fashion against all UK assets will take some time to reverse, but two things would help massively: a working vaccine from the OxfordAstraZeneca team, and that elusive trade deal with Europe. We could have both by October.
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