Bulls, bears and stags
I am not a successful investor. I classify myself as one who would, at times, buy high and sell low. One who would finally take the plunge to buy tech stocks the day before the market crashed back in 2000 or whenever, and one, when offered Cemex stock at giveaway prices back in 1996, thought that they were over-valued. (Anyway, my defense at the time - and still today - was that it would have been unethical to purchase).
So when people talk about markets in the light of the recent US and UK banking upsets I tread a cautious path, nodding wisely at some erudite analyst in full flow, tut-tutting at the latest financial shenanigans and hoping that the people who manage my pension pot are not, as I write, hot-footing it to the Cayman Islands with the remnants of my fund in a sack.
Are we heading for melt-down? And what does this mean for our own industry. A slow-down or perhaps even an end to continued pronounced globalisation trends? Global economic growth over the past few years has undoubtedly been strong. More importantly India and China have both contributed significantly to narrowing the divide between the developing and developed world, but today, the underlying global tensions look to be rising. The ill-conceived war in Iraq has helped fuel a quadrupling of fuel prices since 2003, Asia now has a massive stockpile of dollars - and America is now in hock to the world. The myth of a strong dollar has also been put to rest.
As Josef Stiglitz, a Nobel Laurate in Economics wrote recently: The game is up. China is now facing inflationary pressures, and if it revalues its currency as it is being pressed to do by the US, this will translate into much higher costs worldwide. At the same time, the rise of bio-fuels as a means of reducing global warming, has meant that food and energy markets are becoming inter-linked, a lethal threat to many developing countries.
The real threat of runaway inflation is apparently returning to an economy near you, says Stiglitz, and unless we see through the need to raise interest rates relentlessly to meet requisite inflation targets, we should prepare for the worst. Another episode of stagflation - and a reminder to some – me included – of the mid-1970s when stags ruled the world.
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