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OPINION - Comment: Amidst the Omicron gloom, there are a few reasons to be cheerful

·2-min read
Shoppers wrap up warm in Regent Street  (PA)
Shoppers wrap up warm in Regent Street (PA)

There’s no denying it’s a bleak end to the year — can we find any reasons for optimism? Perhaps some in the City of London.

Despite the disastrous flop of Deliveroo, 2021 has been a strong year for IPOs. There were more than in 2019 and 2020 combined, according to KPMG. The main market enjoyed its highest total since 2017.

This time last year there were fears that a failure to tap the SPAC boom meant London was at risk of falling further behind New York. While London still has some work to do, this year’s performance is a convincing riposte to the argument that the LSE is losing relevancy and becoming a backwater.

Elsewhere, there’s some cause for optimism when it comes to Brexit. A survey from EY out today shows finance firms continue to revise down the impact of exiting the EU. CEOs now estimate that 7400 jobs will move to Europe as a result of Brexit, down from a forecast of 7600 this time last year.

Of course, that’s still a big number. But it’s far less than the 200,000 forecast at one point (though that looked far-fetched even at the time). And 7400 is a relatively small fraction of City jobs — less than half a JPMorgan.

Small nuggets of hope like these might seem marginal in the face of Omicron running rampant and the prospect of fresh restrictions both here and around the world. Certainly, the path of the pandemic is set to be the only story that matters in the weeks ahead.

But the point is there is some underlying momentum. That is important as we learn to live with Covid.

The economy needs to adapt. Central banks are already learning to live with Covid by putting up rates. Businesses need to keep growing even as more waves crash over us. IPO and jobs data suggest that is happening.

It might be small beer, but it’s at least something to remember in the weeks ahead.

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