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Investment View: Put America on the map

Last week had a global feel about it so far as I was concerned. Aside from the spectacle of England regaining the Ashes from a cricket-mad nation on the other side of the world, I was privileged to receive presentations on the US and Japan from leading investment houses.

Couple that with the last but one of the AITC’s roadshows for this year and I now feel fully up to speed with perceived wisdom on world markets from a variety of sources.

You have to accept that investment managers seldom rubbish the markets in which they specialise but there was a sufficient commonality of opinion to be rather comforting. That the global economy seems to slowing overall was taken as read but it is by no means a uniform slowdown. Indeed, the Chinese economy may be slowing but only to a rate of growth that remains truly impressive.

Among the brighter spots is Japan. It was not just Koizumi’s landslide victory that pushed the Nikkei 225 index up at the beginning of last week as some fairly robust numbers on all manner of economic data were coming through. It seems that the long period of Japanese economic stag- nation may be coming to an end and the market is reflecting this new optimism.

But it was the presentation from the US team at Threadneedle that gave me most cause for thought. Threadneedle is part of the American Express group so it struck me as unusual that all the US money it looks after is run out of London by, so far as I can see, Brits and Irish people. Moreover, the level of co-oper-ation which appears to go on with its US counterparts appears to be limited. In a way, I can understand this. The sheer buying power of its US parent could create problems if they all try to pile into the same stock at the same time.

The message from this off-site team of US investment managers is positive. Growth stocks should prosper despite the slowing world economy, and the US has plenty of growth stocks. They see little risk from the US consumer despite the fact that they consider further monetary tightening is more likely than not. This prompted a debate. Surely, I opined, the Fed’s record on coping with shocks suggests that Hurricane Katrina will cause it to stay its hand? Not so, in their view. With corporate earnings having surprised on the upside, even valuation levels look undemanding while, for the first time for many years, the supply of equity is actually shrinking. The US is, of course, the world’s biggest economy and has the world’s biggest stockmarket – by a margin. Yet we have a tendency in this country to be underweight in the US when it comes to building inter- national portfolios. The message is that we shouldn’t.Bearing in mind how much depends on the health of the US economy all round the world, that seems good advice.

Before the next edition of Money Marketing hits your desks, I will have celebrated my 60th birthday. I have no plans yet to retire but it seems appropriate to hand over the reins of the Gerrard intermediary division to a younger team. With the investment world in a state of constant change and an ever-widening variety of products available, it is inevitable that the IFA will become even more important to us in the future. In these circumstances, a vigorous team will be needed.

Not that I will be taking too much of a back seat. I intend to play my part through my role as investment communications director. This will include speaking at many events targeted at IFAs, including the investment question time sessions at Money Marketing roadshows. I shall look forward to meeting those of you who attend at these events.


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