markets will triumph over political parade

The Greek Prime Minister Papandreou has fallen, Berlusconi is on his way out and Nicolas Sarkozy has only just survived the severe palpitations he experienced when France’s prized AAA credit rating was “accidently” cut by S&P.

markets will triumph over political parade


At some point, surely, investors will stand back from what has become a political parade and recognise that fundamentals in certain areas deserve more credit than they are receiving.

In recent weeks stock market valuations, and those of the companies that contribute to them, have become increasingly detached from reality.

Previously I have questioned the arguments of equity managers and stock pickers who point to the strength of corporate balance sheets and the restructuring many companies have undergone since the last crisis as reason enough to believe in a future stock market bounce.

But now we are at a stage where politics is virtually the only driver of markets and perhaps a saturation point when political fatigue sets in is not so far away.

Investment professionals based in a number of financial hubs – Hong Kong, Zurich and London – have said to me this week a sustained period of calm in equity markets will not be seen until a more serious policy response is presented in Europe.

They say it with a look of despair in their eyes, almost as if they know they are clutching at straws to hope for such a thing.

But for people who spend their lives researching, meeting and investing in companies, seeing the way the shenanigans of Berlusconi can indiscriminately send markets down, or down even more, must be dispiriting.

Head in sand?

So what can be done? According to a commentator at Fidelity, one approach is to switch off your Bloomberg terminal altogether (Or in laymen’s terms, ignore the day-to-day market fluctuations related to the colour of Sarkozy’s socks – red means bourses will close down for the day.)

This is particularly useful if you are a long-term investor and believe that over a two to five-year, or five to ten-year horizon, politicians, markets and the professionals we put our faith in, will pull through.

Obviously, some managers will do better than others, but that has always been the case and isn’t unique to these difficult times.

Should you change the way you make investment decisions? It depends on whether you believe the world is going to transform beyond all recognition in the aftermath of the crisis, or if, similarly to other crises, it will return to some form of "normality".

Basic principles of due diligence, quality research and listening to those you can trust are never going to lose value.

Politicians might be adding to uncertainty in markets, but they always have done.

In the end markets have a funny way of phasing them out, much like we do when we switch off the TV.



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