United Kingdom country-specific exchange traded funds could be picking up speed after the British economy suffered its biggest slump in over three centuries.
The iShares MSCI United Kingdom ETF (NYSEArca: EWU) has risen 2.8% year-to-date, but has declined 6.4% over the past year. In comparison, the S&P 500 rose 4.5% so far this year and increased 18.8% over the past year.
Britain’s economy suffered through its biggest annual decline in over 300 years in 2020 after the coronavirus pandemic caused the economy to grind to a halt, the Associated Press reports.
The economy shrank by 9.9% last year, over twice the figure for 2009 at the height of the global financial crisis, according to the Office for National Statistics. The economic contraction was the largest since 1709, when the Great Frost decimated what was then a largely agricultural-based economy.
England experienced a third lockdown over the fourth quarter, dampening growth in what should have been a holiday-fueled binge. Restrictions remain in place across Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
“Today’s figures show that the economy has experienced a serious shock as a result of the pandemic, which has been felt by countries around the world,” the U.K.’s top treasury official, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, said in a statement. “While there are some positive signs of the economy’s resilience over the winter, we know that the current lockdown continues to have a significant impact on many people and businesses.”
The service sector, which makes up about 80% of the U.K. economy, contracted 8.9% over 2020, with output from accommodation, food, and beverage businesses down over 55% compared to February levels. Meanwhile, manufacturing shrank 8.6%. Construction dropped 12.5%.
Observers are hopeful that things could quickly turn around as the government aggressively pushes for vaccinations. About 13.5 million people, or 20% of the population, had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine by Wednesday.
Andy Haldane, chief economist for the Bank of England, argued that the vaccinations could help Britain turn a corner in its battle against the virus and lift restrictions, which could unleash a wave of pent up spending among consumers and businesses.
“A decisive corner is about to be turned for the economy, too, with enormous amounts of pent-up financial energy waiting to be released, like a coiled spring,” Haldane said in the Daily Mail.
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