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Electricity Use and Economic Activity Fall Across EU — but UK Is an Outlier

Source: Entso-e, Euler Hermes, Allianz Research

*Note: X-Axis represents European countries (DE=Germany, UK=United Kingdom, ES=Spain, IT=Italy, FR=France)

The U.K. is registering lower levels of activity compared to the EU — and is forecasted to see a 20% decline in GDP for Q2 this year. Compared to neighboring countries, the U.K. has had one of the longest and strictest lockdowns, according to a Euler Hermes report, which used electricity production data to measure relative levels of activity by country. 

The data shows the U.K. as a regional outlier, with “a -21% drop on average in both energy production and consumption since mid-March, compared to -17% in France and -11% in Germany,” according to the report. This has been caused largely by closures of office buildings, schools, factories and retail centers. Factors also include the length and severity of the shutdown, which has been extended to June 1.

On a larger scale, coronavirus has delayed the Brexit negotiations and complicated the transition period, as economic pressures from the pandemic continue to drive the U.K. and EU apart. With the current transition plan set to expire at the end of 2020, the report notes that an extension into 2021 looks likely.

Too Much Free Time May Be Almost As Bad As Too Little

Source: American Psychological Association

Having too much free time can be detrimental to a person’s well-being, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association. Much has been discussed regarding balancing work and free time, but the benefits apply only to a point.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and UCLA analyzed data from the American Time Use Survey, conducted from 2012-2013, and found that the beneficial effects of free time on a person’s well-being began declining at around 5 hours. They also found that those who were asked to imagine a day with 7 hours of free time reported a lower satisfaction level than those imagining a day with 3 hours per day of free time.

The key to workers’ happiness is the feeling of being productive. Those who spent their time in a productive way (e.g., working out or doing hobbies,) reported a higher level of well-being than those who used it in an unproductive way (e.g., watching T.V.) Furthermore, the amount of free time spent socializing led to a higher well-being rate than free time spent alone.

Public Views of US Business Sectors Are Plummeting

Americans rated U.S. business industries at their lowest points since 2011 during the COVID-19 pandemic. The average record-low, according to Gallup, was during the 2008 Great Recession at 34% — just five percentage points lower than the current average of 39%.

Of the 25 industries ranked, the federal government, the most negatively rated industry since 2014, was again viewed the most negatively by the American public at 31%, followed by the oil and gas and pharmaceutical industries. This year, Americans rated a mere four industries positively — farming and agriculture at 59%, restaurants at 58%, the grocery industry at 54% and the computer industry at 51%. In the past three years, farming and agriculture and the restaurant industry were the top-ranked sectors.

Public sentiment toward certain sectors is related to how they responded to the pandemic, states Gallup. However, as a whole, the public has trusted businesses more than other institutions during the pandemic.

China Is Dominating E-Commerce Activity

Source: Statista Digital Market Outlook

Global e-commerce sales are expected to increase by nearly 50% by 2050. Most of this growth will come from Asia — the region expects a 51% increase in e-commerce activity — and predominantly from China, according to Statista

The Chinese e-commerce market rose notably faster compared to the rest of the world — even prior to COVID-19 — driven by high-speed internet and smartphones, high consumer confidence in online shopping and a larger variety in e-commerce and payment platforms. The pandemic did, however, speed the region’s adoption of e-commerce: It registered $1.3 trillion in sales last year. By 2025, sales will grow to nearly $2 trillion, indicating that “almost every second e-commerce dollar could be spent in China.” 

The pandemic has significantly impacted consumer trends across the world, especially related to online shopping. To keep up with this market trend, large retailers are accelerating their investments in e-commerce to ensure their survival both during and after the pandemic.

Net-Zero-Aligned Investments Increase Nearly Fivefold in 6 Months

The Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative has grown from 30 signatories with $9 trillion in AUM at the end of 2020, to 128 signatories managing $43 trillion today

In order to facilitate the global transition to net-zero emissions by 2050 and reduce the risks climate change poses to their investments, investors are setting commitments to steer their portfolios to net-zero emissions. With COP26 approaching, the first half of 2021 has seen rapid growth in the number and value of assets under management (AUM) aligned with the net-zero goal.

The Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative has grown from 30 signatories with $9 trillion in AUM at the end of 2020, to 128 signatories managing $43 trillion today, representing around 36% of global AUM. The Initiative has joined with the Net-Zero Asset Owners Alliance and Net-Zero Banking Alliance to form the Glasgow Alliance for Net Zero, with over $70 trillion of assets between them.

As more investors align their portfolios with net-zero targets, companies will face mounting investor pressure to adopt credible net-zero transition plans and improve their disclosures of emissions and climate risks.

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