The 2020 Year in Review (Part 1)

2020 was a year of surprises! Many significant events happened which impacted many people’s lives as well as the finance market. The severity of pandemic and lockdown, US election, emerging unemployment rate, and many impactful events took 


A look back at markets in January when the spread of coronavirus saw investors favor “safe haven” assets like government bonds.


  • Global equities, as measured by the MSCI World index, declined in January as the spread of coronavirus reduced investors’ appetite for risk. Assets perceived as safe-havens, such as government bonds, performed well.
  • US shares were flat overall. They carried strong momentum into the new year but mounting fears over the spread of the coronavirus erased the early gains. Energy stocks were especially hard-hit.
  • Coronavirus concerns led to a slower start to the year for eurozone equities. The weakest sectors included energy, materials, and consumer discretionary. Companies with significant exposure to China underperformed.
  • UK equities fell in January. The end of the month marked the UK’s official departure from the EU and its entry into a transition period. Sterling was volatile, gaining sharply after the Bank of England kept interest rates unchanged.
  • Japanese shares fell as news coverage emphasized the spread of coronavirus. The yen was slightly more volatile against the US dollar than in recent months although the actual yen/dollar rate ended January almost unchanged.
  • Emerging markets (EM) equities also lost value. Commodity price falls weighed on sentiment towards a number of countries, notably Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and South Africa.
  • Government bond yields fell significantly over the month (meaning prices rose) amid investor caution and central banks reaffirming accommodative stances.


A review of markets in February when stock markets fell sharply amid worries over the spread of coronavirus.

  • Concerns over the spread of coronavirus and its potential impact on global growth dominated financial markets in February. Equity markets fell sharply and government bond yields were broadly lower (meaning prices rose).
  • US shares fell with the energy and financial sectors leading the decline. Earlier in the month, the S&P 500 had set a new record high on robust jobs data.
  • Eurozone equities also experienced a sharp fall amid concerns that the impact of coronavirus could send the fragile eurozone economy into recession. Data showed that German GDP saw zero growth in Q4 2019.
  • UK and Japanese equities also declined. Japanese Q4 GDP growth disappointed, while UK data showed an improvement in economic growth in December.
  • Emerging market (EM) equities also lost value but outperformed developed markets. Chinese shares saw a small gain for the month as coronavirus infection rates in the mainland appeared to stabilize and some activity indicators started to improve.
  • Government bonds performed well as investors sought out assets perceived to be lower risk. Government bond yields declined markedly (meaning price



  • Coronavirus spread fuels sell-off across global equity markets
  • Perceived ‘safe-haven’ assets shine against a backdrop of economic gloom
  • Major central banks remained supportive
  • US equity markets were under pressure from coronavirus fallout
  • Market turbulence increased call for US central bank to cut interest rates
  • US technology companies warned that supply chain issues could hurt earnings
  • Coronavirus fears fuel sharp sell-off in equity markets
  • EU leaders edged closer to a unified fiscal response
  • Italy readies €3.6bn stimulus package to tackle coronavirus
  • UK equity market fell on fears the coronavirus could pose a serious challenge to economic growth
  • Mark Carney: The UK should prepare for economic growth downgrade
  • A dramatic shift in sentiment from earlier in the month when there were encouraging signs about the direction of the UK economy
  • Japan and Korea saw a sharp rise in reported cases of coronavirus
  • China’s equity market resilient as reported cases peak
  • Political uncertainty weighed on Thailand and Malaysia
  • Equity markets retreat on coronavirus fears 
  • Increased concerns over a global growth slowdown 
  • Interest rates cut in several countries 
  • Coronavirus concerns led the market to favor the perceived relative safety of government bonds
  • Italian bonds came under pressure
  • High yield bonds were the weakest area of the bond market


A look back at markets in April, when shares rebounded supported by stimulus measures and hope that lockdowns could ease.


  • April saw global equities rebound as investors began to focus on expectations that economic lockdowns could soon ease and economies start to recover.
  • US shares gained. The S&P 500 Index saw its strongest monthly rally in 30 years, shrugging off negative data indicating sharply rising unemployment.
  • Eurozone equities advanced as some countries began to allow some parts of the economy to reopen. The healthcare and information technology sectors were among the top gainers.
  • UK equities recovered over the period. The government declared the country had passed the peak of Covid-19 and began preparations to ease lockdown measures.
  • Japanese shares also gained as investors focused on the global picture; however, a gradual increase in Covid-19 cases led to a state of emergency being declared by the central government.
  • Emerging market (EM) equities advanced too but slightly underperformed developed markets. India and Pakistan were the best-performing markets in the EM index, supported by easing from their central banks.
  • Government bonds broadly declined (meaning prices rose), although Italy was an exception. Corporate bonds outperformed government bonds.

Continue into The 2020 Year in Review (Part 2)

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