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Experts have made clear that they don’t expect economies around the world to bounce back from the Covid-19 shock at the same speed. But developments this week underscore the risk that Europe could fall even further behind the United States and China.
What’s happening: Countries across Europe — including Spain, Germany, France and Italy — have suspended the use of the AstraZeneca (AZN) Covid-19 vaccine over concerns that blood clots could be a possible side effect. The moves go against the advice of international medical agencies, which have said there is no evidence of a link with clotting, and that rollouts should continue while reports are investigated.
“As of today, there is no evidence that the incidents are caused by the vaccine and it is important that vaccination campaigns continue so that we can save lives and stem severe disease from the virus,” the World Health Organization said in a statement to CNN.
The pauses come as a third wave of infections looms over the continent. Italians are back under lockdown restrictions as the government tries to contain a recent surge in cases, forcing the cancellation of plans over Easter.
What it means: Last week, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimated that the US economy would grow by 6.5% this year, while China’s economy would expand by 7.8%. The 19 countries that use the euro, meanwhile, would see relatively muted growth of 3.9%.
Snarls in vaccine rollouts will only exacerbate those gaps — particularly with the United States, which is not reliant on the AstraZeneca shot for its vaccine campaign. Millions more Americans will be eligible to get vaccines this week as many states broaden their pools.
“Faster progress in vaccine deployment in all countries would enable restrictions to be lifted more quickly and enhance confidence and spending. Slow progress in vaccine rollout and the emergence of new virus mutations resistant to existing vaccines would result in a weaker recovery, larger job losses and more business failures,” the OECD warned in its report.
The disparity is playing out across markets. Europe’s Stoxx 600 index was flat on Monday while the S&P 500 gained nearly 0.7%, reaching yet another all-time high.
Watch this space: US airline stocks, in particular, logged huge gains Monday. Speaking at an investor conference, executives from American Airlines (AAL), United (UAL), Delta (DAL) and JetBlue (JBLU) all reported strong bookings going into the traditional spring break period, and several said they’re selling a growing number of tickets into the summer.
American Airlines’ stock rallied 7.7%, while Delta saw shares rise more than 2%. JetBlue jumped nearly 6%.
What comes next: European stocks are rising Tuesday as investors wait for more information on how long the suspensions will last. The European Commission also announced that Pfizer will speed up the delivery of 10 million doses to the bloc this spring.
Investing’s newest superstar is having a rough month
Cathie Wood of ARK Invest has become one of the top voices on Wall Street in recent years, thanks to big bets on Tesla (TSLA), Square (SQ) and Roku (ROKU).
But backers will need resolve to deal with gut-wrenching volatility in her company’s ARK exchange-traded funds, my CNN Business colleague Paul R. La Monica reports.
The latest: The ARK Innovation ETF, which counts Tesla as its top holding, has gone on a wild ride as of late. Tesla makes up more than 10% of the fund’s assets — so Wood’s success is closely aligned with what the market thinks of CEO Elon Musk.
Tesla has soared in the recent days, but is still roughly 20% off its record high. That means the ARK Innovation ETF is up more than 15% in the past week — but remains down sharply from its 52-week high.
Big swings have also hammered other ARK ETFs that focus on autonomous technology and robotics, genomics, next-generation internet services and fintech. The company is also planning to launch a space exploration ETF.
But Wood and her colleagues embrace the volatility that comes with investing in high-growth stocks. Ren Leggi, the company’s client portfolio manager, told CNN Business that recent moves into banks, oil stocks and retailers — which investors believe may be undervalued because of the pandemic — is just a “short-lived rotation.”
“Value industries are becoming more and more vulnerable to disruption,” Leggi said, noting that Wood and the rest of the ARK team think about investments over a five- to 10-year horizon.
He added that ARK is more than willing to place bets on companies it believes in should their stock prices fall — seeing an opportunity to get in at a bargain.
“If there are dislocations in market and big sell-offs, that doesn’t scare us,” Leggi said. “It excites us, because you can pick up a good stock at a lower price.”
Ray Dalio thinks market dynamics have ‘become stupid’
Ray Dalio, the billionaire founder of Bridgewater Associates, has some choice words about the wisdom of investing in government bonds right now.
In a new LinkedIn post, Dalio notes that “the economics of investing in bonds (and most financial assets) has become stupid” given extremely depressed — and even negative — yields.
His take: “Rather than get paid less than inflation why not instead buy stuff —any stuff — that will equal inflation or better?”
Dalio acknowledges that there are “bubble dynamics” across financial markets thanks to unprecedented stimulus efforts by central banks.
“There’s just so much money injected into the markets and the economy that the markets are like a casino with people playing with funny money,” he writes. “They’re buying all sorts of things and pushing yields on everything down.”
Dalio avoids passing judgment on recent policy decisions, calling himself a “practical” investor just “trying to stay one step ahead of the crowd.”
What that means: According to Dalio, investors should avoid cash and instead “buy higher-returning, non-debt investment assets.” In other words, things may be wonky — but he still thinks it’s time to get spending.
US retail sales for February post at 8:30 a.m. ET, followed by industrial production data at 9:15 a.m. ET.
Coming tomorrow: The Federal Reserve latest policy decision will be watched closely — especially Chair Jerome Powell’s press conference following the announcement.