20 September 2017

Contracting days, expanding valuations

Given the heightened tension on the Korean peninsular, you might have thought that those traders back from their summer holidays would be heading for the hills.

Not a bit of it. Investors seem content to shrug off fears of Kim Jong-un pressing the red button. Even oil, and gold seem little affected by developments out East. For all our sakes I hope the market has judged it right on this occasion.

Elsewhere, business seems to be returning to normal after a rather damp summer season. There are certainly plenty of company results and trading statements for analysts to get their teeth into. So far there has been little to frighten the horses, Provident Financial aside. This is probably just as well, given the valuation levels enjoyed by markets, most noticeably on the other side of the Atlantic.

However, despite the extended bull run that has now clocked up more than eight years without a significant setback, there are those who believe shares in the US have further to go. The key elements in the bull case are consumer strength, slower monetary tightening from the Fed than had been expected, strong employment numbers and a business friendly Administration. With President Trump signally failing to implement campaign promises, this latter argument looks weak, so watching the other drivers seems wise.

There’s less in the way of economic news on the horizon, though there are some interesting numbers on our construction industry and industrial and manufacturing production, while the National Institute for Economic & Social Research gives its take on how domestic economic growth is holding up. Overseas there will be the usual trickle of statistics, but nothing of overwhelming significance in the near term, although the European Central Bank’s statement which accompanied its decision to hold rates where they are is encouraging for Europhiles.

Of course, as the days continue to shorten, more data will emerge. The progress in the Brexit negotiations will also play its part in directing investor sentiment. This is more likely to impact on the second tier FTSE 250 companies, given their more domestic focus, but it will be the geo-political dimension that we will need to watch most closely. The Middle East may be taking more of a back seat these days, but sadly its place has been taken by the Far East. While there seems little reason to act precipitately, keeping an eye on developments is no more than prudent.

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