2020 Midyear Global Outlook

Activity restart

Economies are slowly restarting, but at different paces. We are tracking the evolution of the virus and mobility. The longer it takes for activity to restart, the more cracks might appear in the financial system.


Asymmetrical assessment
Impact of mobility and lockdown severity on services sector, June 2020

Impact of mobility and lockdown severity on services sector, June 2020

Source: BlackRock Investment Institute, Oxford University and Google with data from Haver Analytics, June 2020. Note: This chart shows the impact that a 10 point move up or down in consumer mobility data and stringency measures have on the service sectors of the U.S., Japan, France, UK, Canada, Spain, Italy, Germany and Sweden. We use Google data on retail and recreation activity for the mobility score and Oxford data on lockdown stringency. “Tightening” means increased lockdown severity and reduced mobility. We use a panel regression to measure the effect of mobility on services activity, and how this differs between tightening and easing.

View our Midyear Outlook in charts


  • Mobility is key to tracking the virus shock. Metrics that gauge the movement of people using mobile phone location data can help capture individual behaviors. They are more closely tied to economic activity than the severity of lockdowns, our analysis shows.
  • This means the response of people to the virus is more important than government policies alone. We also find restricting mobility and imposing lockdowns has a bigger effect on the key services industry than easing those measures. See the Asymmetrical assessment chart above.
  • The longer it takes for activity to normalize, the deeper the economic scars will be. The pace of the activity restart depends on how successful countries are in suppressing the virus as they reopen.
  • Our mobility research suggests the risk of renewed virus outbreaks may be highest in the U.S. among developed nations. China is on the leading edge of economic reopening.
  • The pandemic’s longer-term investment implications are about changing societal preferences, sectoral adjustments, digitalization and the relocation of global supply chains. Alternative data sources are key to getting a handle on this.

Bottom line: We find that measures of mobility are more closely tied to activity than the severity of lockdown measures. This suggests investors should focus on mobility rather than government rules.

Strategic implication: We are moderately pro risk, and express it in an overweight to credit.

Tactical implication: We have closed our underweights in cyclical assets, with a preference for Europe.

Meet the authors
Philipp Hildebrand
Vice Chairman
Philipp Hildebrand, Vice Chairman of BlackRock, is a member of the firm's Global Executive Committee.
Jean Boivin
Head of BlackRock Investment Institute
Jean Boivin, PhD, Managing Director, is the Head of the BlackRock Investment Institute (BII).
Wei Li
Global Chief Investment Strategist – BlackRock Investment Institute
Wei Li, Managing Director, is Global Chief Investment Strategist at the BlackRock Investment Institute (BII).
Elga Bartsch
Head of Macro Research
Scott Thiel
Chief Fixed Income Strategist