The results showed how themes that had previously been dominating the news agenda, most notably Brexit, had taken a backseat, whilst attention quickly shifted to factors such as ESG, recessionary fears, and issues of market liquidity, as the economic implications of the virus became apparent.
Six months on, and with a second wave all too apparent, we have repeated the research to see how things have changed between March and September 2020, in order to determine which themes are at the forefront of the minds of financial media, as well as those have declined in dominance.
The most dominant topic is fear of a technology bubble in the stock market, which rose 100% in terms of articles written on the subject. The news was driven by the fact that in August the S&P 500 had recovered all of its pandemic sell off. Amazon, Alphabet, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook together accounted for 25% of the entire S&P’s rally since March – whereas the average S&P 500 stock was down 7%.
This rally has continued in the months since and even fears of increased regulation on the tech industry in the event of a Biden victory in the US Presidential election has not dented their outperformance. In fact, the stories just keep coming, as the Financial Times recently cited research suggesting that these firms’ monopoly positions and profitability could help them retain their stellar rises.
Negative interest rates
The topic of negative interest rates has also been a star performer in terms of media coverage, rising 65% over the six months. The governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey refused to rule out the possibility of rates dropping below zero in the UK towards the end of September, while news also surfaced in October that the BoE had begun a fact finding mission to assess if banks could cope should negative rates be introduced.
The rise of alternative assets, particularly in the context of the current investment landscape, where many investors are struggling for returns through more traditional asset classes, appears to be picking up speed as the volume of coverage increased 20%.
As interest rates look set to remain artificially low for the foreseeable future, and with equity market valuations remaining expensive, it could well be the case that alternatives continue to gain increased traction within the financial media.
Specialist bonds also saw a notable increase in attention over the last six months, gaining 18%. This was helped by the launch of Germany’s first green bond as well as the creation of covid-bonds, which aimed to allow investors to support the fight against the covid-19 pandemic.
Demand for these types of specialist bond products is set to keep this topic high on the agenda, as investor appetite for sustainable solutions continues to grow. Conversely, as the industry continues grapple with questions on how to accurately categorise the types of impact bonds and how to track how the proceeds are used, specialist bonds are likely to remain a topic of interest.
Interestingly, whilst covid bonds became a new buzzword, articles on greenwashing saw a significant decrease, dropping 48% between April and September compared to the previous six months. This is in direct contrast to a finding in JPES Partners’ 2020 Asset Management Trends report, which revealed that 94% of asset managers surveyed are concerned about the level of greenwashing in the industry.
In a year in which little has been predictable, no one can safely say what the media landscape will look like in another six months’ time. What we can draw from this is a reminder that it remains as paramount as ever to stay on top of an ever-changing news agenda, and to align content and messaging to reflect the current news agenda.