Markets have hardly excited of late. A combination of indifferent economic news and the absence of many market professionals as they join the bucket and spade brigade has allowed shares to drift – generally lower, though with the odd better day. Perhaps the most worrying trend is that of business confidence, which seems to be slipping down a few notches. The “R” word is once again on economists’ lips.
Whether or not we slide into a recession, it is clear that economic activity is likely to be muted for a little while. Even China is experiencing a slowdown. And the cutback in oil production has seen the price of this so important commodity move higher. Even though energy prices have fallen back a little, we can expect tightening household budgets as the autumn metamorphoses into winter. And don’t forget we have general elections on both sides of the Atlantic coming up soon.
Perhaps as the days continue to shorten, investor confidence will start to return. Certainly, valuation levels are not as demanding as once they were. Even houses are becoming more affordable as prices slip back and wage growth outstrips inflation, though we look to be on track for the lowest level of house sales here for a decade. And the geopolitical outlook appears as cloudy as ever, with yet another coup in Africa. I will be leaving others to analyse these events in the future and let you know what effect they may have on markets.
After more than 60 years in the investment business I have decided to call it a day, fold my tent and steal quietly into the night. I have much enjoyed my career and it will feel strange to no longer share my views on the fascinating world of investment with you all. I first started writing on investment matters in the mid-1980s and have been privileged to have had columns in a variety of publications, national, regional and specialist. No doubt I will continue my writing in some form or another, but for JM Finn I will no longer be contributing my views. I will continue investing, though, through this excellent firm and wish you all success in markets for the future.