Belfast Telegraph

Never a dull moment on the world stock markets

By David Elliot

I'm sure there was a time when sitting down to write this column was difficult. When the economy was in great shape it must have been hard to find something to take a stern economic line on, because there are only so many times you can talk about blistering hot house prices and bankers' bonuses.

Not so in the current climate, when trying to figure out which piece of economic news to leave out is more difficult.

Take the last 24 hours when billions have been knocked off the value of stock markets around the world. While we're doing our best to try to be upbeat in these pages, it would be churlish not to mention a sell-off which is threatening to drag us all back into recession.

The jitters all come back to Greece, a country which is on the verge of going into bankruptcy. It's unlikely to because some sort of resolution will more than likely be reached at the final hour, but the eurozone finance officials aren't in a rush to sign the cheque.

They have decided to delay a decision on whether to come to Greece's aid with more money and so sparked a selling frenzy from New York to Singapore, Sydney to London.

Fuelling the sea of red on the trading screens has been news that the manufacturing sectors of France and Germany, which had been considered in buoyant health, have followed those of Spain and Italy and contracted.

These nuggets of bad news have sent the FTSE 100 back below 5,000 while the Dow Jones Industrial Average is threatening to test 10,000. These are big round numbers which if broken convincingly will trigger the sell switch in the black boxes - automated trading programs - which reside in the offices of investment funds around the world.

If that happens, then we really will be in trouble.

Meanwhile, at least the Chancellor is trying to help out smaller firms. In fact, George Osborne wants to become a banker.

His new credit easing plan would see the Treasury buying company bonds to try and cut the cost of credit for struggling firms small businesses.

It sounds a bit far-fetched but you can't knock his intentions and at least he's being inventive.

And on a more local note, he gave away his own views on corporation tax on BBC Radio 4 the other morning when asked why foreign companies would want to invest in the UK.

He alluded to the fact a 26% corporation tax rate lower than in many other regions is a big draw for multinationals.

Really George? Well then, you'll know how difficult it is to operate beside a neighbour with a 12.5% corporation tax.

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