October historically has always been a big month for investors. In my formative years back in the 1980s during one October, there was a major market crash (and weirdly simultaneously in the U.K. an extreme weather event in southern England), meanwhile those interested in older historical events will recall the events of October 1929 and the infamous capital market events back then. A lot has happened in the month of October that has just passed and whilst it is unlikely the history books will remember the tenth month of 2019 assertively, for investors thinking about prospects over the next year, it may have been critical.
Celebrating the 25-year anniversary of the Academy Award-winning movie Forrest Gump, we revisit many of the movie’s themes which remain relevant in today’s world. Forrest Gump’s mother always said that “Life was like a box of chocolates.” This memorable observation could just as easily be applied to the financial markets, as you never know what volatility-inducing headline you’re going to get next.
With ‘fast fashion’ being so prevalent in today’s world, perhaps we should not be surprised that Oscar Wilde’s dictum looks a little slow as the world only racked up four successively positive months before a reversal. May 2019 will not go down in the financial market almanacs as anything other than a shabby month, with the regional pan-European share index falling around 5% and more than reversing any gains seen earlier in the quarter. Broadly speaking, this performance pattern in May – supplemented by the compression of sovereign bond yields – was repeated all over the world.
Thinking about everyone’s favourite subject, it was striking to read that a well-known UK consumer confidence index indicator released in the last few days was flat for the third month in a row, with an accompanying write-up that included the comment that ‘despite political carry-on in the Westminster bubble with the clock ticking on Britain’s eventual departure from the EU, consumers are holding firm and remain unshaken by the daily headlines of turmoil and intrigue’. Too right that there is a real and breathing UK economy still out there… and that the ongoing Brexit debate does not need to exclusively define the UK economy and its prospects.
Welcome to March, a time in the past when I have gone all Shakespearean in my written musings and quoted the famous words imagined uttered to Julius Caesar before his assassination. It looks as if the Ides of March (typically regarded as the fifteenth day of the month) will be just after a series of further Brexit related votes which could provide the greater clarity consumers, industrialists, politicians and investors seem to desire. As one economic survey, focused on the view of UK manufacturers, strikingly put it recently: ‘The march of the makers has turned into a painful crawl, where only certainty about the Brexit way forward can ease the sector’s pain’.
The Spring Statement is not meant to be a major event. In announcing the date of the Statement this year, the Treasury emphasised that “there will now only be one major fiscal event each year”, i.e. the Autumn Budget. However, on the day after a 149 vote government Brexit defeat, the Chancellor’s view on the UK’s financial and economic situation could hardly be classed as a routine report.