Watson’s Weekly 28-03-2020

This is an amalgamation of the “best bits” of the daily weekday newsletter/blog woven together to form a concise and coherent view on the things that matter in the commercial and economic news of the week. 

THE DAY IN BRACKETS REFERS TO THE EDITION WHERE THE STORY APPEARED IN WATSON’S DAILY. Clicking on the day will take you to the appropriate edition of Watson’s Daily.


  • IN THE US, Trump talked about “reopening” the economy by April 12th (Wednesday)! Meanwhile, the Fed committed to buying unlimited amounts of government debt (Tuesday) and then the Senate passed a $2.2tn stimulus package (Thursday) which was then voted through by the House of Representatives on Friday. Markets shot up on anticipation of the package, which includes all sorts of measures for individuals and companies, and then relaxed ahead of the next stage – the implementation
  • IN RUSSIA, the mayor of Moscow questioned Vladimir Putin’s relatively relaxed stance on the coronavirus (Wednesday) but then the President changed his stance (Thursday) and said that he would postpone the vote scheduled for April 22nd that would have given him the right to continue his reign of power for another 12 years. He also announced a mini-lockdown and that he’d finance anti-coronavirus measures by taxing interest from deposits of over around $13,000 (Friday). He implied this would be taking from the rich, but one data source said that over 55% of deposits have more than that amount! Many individuals spend years building up a nest egg in order to boost a meagre state pension, so this pain will be felt by many
  • IN CHINA, it seems that things may be edging slowly towards reality as restrictions in and out of Hubei province are being relaxed (Wednesday), but Wuhan will still have restrictions until April 8th
  • IN JAPAN, Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, warned that the world’s biggest city could be facing an “explosive spike” in new cases (Friday) – in a statement made only 24 hours after the Olympics were officially cancelled! She appealed for residents to work from home and stop going out in the evenings as well as suggesting that universities should delay the start of the school year in April. Supermarket shelves emptied virtually straight away
  • IN INDIA, large areas of the country went into lockdown (Monday) after PM Modi eased Indians into the idea with a “people’s curfew” where everyone was asked to stay in for a day. The main problem at the moment in the country is lack of testing
  • IN SOUTH AFRICA, President Ramaphosa ordered a 3-week lockdown (Tuesday). People were told to stay at home and all non-essential businesses had to shut down. Sound familiar??
  • IN EUROPE, Germany announced big grants, loans and credit guarantees (Tuesday) for companies and individuals and IN THE UK, Rishi Sunak announced a bailout package for the self-employed (Friday) following his recent promise to underwrite 80% of employee wages. Nice promises, but the key will be how this is all executed (speed being particularly of the essence)


  • Supermarkets are just selling product like crazy. In the US, Target is seeing its sales climb (Thursday) but profitability fall as its big margin items (particularly apparel) aren’t selling so well. UK supermarkets are on a hiring spree (Wednesday) because they can’t restock the shelves and fulfil the online orders fast enough, but there’s a risk that the hiring will have to keep going as more workers fall ill. Interestingly, off-licences have been deemed to be “essential” (Thursday), but many of them have been suffering like the supermarkets in terms of the deluge of online orders! Majestic had to take its website offline for one day this week in order to give staff in their shops a chance to catch up with online orders and they are likely to take two weeks to be delivered rather than the usual two-to-three days they normally take. Naked wines, Oddbins and Laithwaite’s also suspended online orders. Meanwhile, independent shops (i.e. corner/convenience-type shops) are also doing pretty well (Monday)
  • Apps that entertain and help people keep in touch with colleagues and friends have seen a huge surge in popularity. Houseparty and Zoom are among those seeing particularly strong growth (Wednesday)
  • At the higher end of the socio-economic scale, luxury yachts and private jets are seeing a major boost in demand (Monday)


  • Boris Johnson tested positive for the coronavirus, Virgin Atlantic is looking to ask for state aid and Sports Direct indulged in a bit of price gouging by raising prices of some sports equipment by 50% (Wednesday) while online retailers were shut down one-by one. Next, Yoox, Net-A-Porter and Paul Smith were among those to close their operations as they bowed to increasing pressure from employees


  • I have added a number of updates to Watson’s Yearly this week. Many of them are already included in THIS report, but stuff I’ve included for the YEARLY are interest rate cuts in Canada and India and developments in Brazil as Bolsonaro’s rather casual treatment of the coronavirus has prompted drug gangs and paramilitary groups to enforce social distancing with violence. I’ve also mentioned Angela Merkel’s comeback as the calm leader needed by Germany and Europe in the current crisis. Other than that, there have been more sporting events cancelled – including the Olympics – and fixtures like Wimbledon are looking pretty shaky at the moment. For a full list of events that have been cancelled, please have a look at Watson’s Yearly. I do all the updates in blue – and it is a SEA of blue unfortunately.


I had no less than THREE favourite “alternative” stories this week! Woman suffers mortifying fail on video chat with colleagues while working from home (The Mirror, Luke Matthews https://tinyurl.com/tqx28tw) just sounds like a nightmare 😂 and there are shocking visions of the near future in People are cutting their own hair during lockdown – and it’s not going well (The Mirror, Paige Holland https://tinyurl.com/vvmbbf5). Yikes! However, I will end this week on what I think must be the greatest cat video ever made in Japan’s Cats and Dominos video warms the heart, makes us want to home and watch it all day (SoraNews24, Casey Baseel https://tinyurl.com/v6ow5ws)