Life & Culture

Thank you, Royals


The Royal Wedding, the capture and death of the world's most wanted terrorist, continuing fighting in the Middle East and the fall in commodity prices - and we are not even half way through the year.

The first quarter of 2011 was certainly more challenging than might have been expected, and it was to be hoped that the second and third quarters would see a little less volatility. This is clearly not the case. But it was comforting to see that retailers Next and Morrisons reported that the Royal Wedding allowed for a boost in terms of sales of bunting, canapés and fascinating hats. Usually it is the weather that helps or hampers sales, but at least the happy couple have provided a temporary upward blip.

Inflation on an international basis has continued to feed into market figures. The newer economies such as India and China have both food and labour inflation at high levels and all monetary authorities are well aware of the increase in fuel prices and commodities. But looking at their stricken economies, they have resisted the pressure to increase interest rates.

Glencore, the commodities firm which recently released its prospectus for one of the world's biggest ever floats, may well have cornered the top of the market in that sector. The top five or six directors have become billionaires and their stock is likely to be well supported. A fall in commodity prices may well provide a boost to the beleaguered consumer, and it will be interesting to see if a fall in the oil price translates to an appropriate fall in petrol prices at the pump.

Americans are looking at a price of $4-a-gallon for petrol, which makes them very unhappy and President Obama will watch the price keenly as the Presidential election season gets underway. Investors are clearly rattled in current conditions, which is understandable and the fighting in Libya and Syria provide further good reasons for caution.

The happy couple have provided a temporary upward blip

The Middle East has always been a troubled region and threats to so many regimes at one time is destabilising. There are too many unknown political and economic long-term implications and the risk for investors is high. Some are clearly waiting on the sidelines but the appetite for equities remains, and economies such as Brazil are benefitting with low wage costs and an ability to make it easy for companies to flourish.

The international interest in the Royal Couple is not hard to understand - everyone wanted something else to think about and the British provided it in style.

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