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November market commentary

Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

November market commentary

Thursday, November 9th, 2023


All eyes have been on the Middle East following Hamas’ terror attack on Israel on October 7th, which led to the deaths of more than 1,400 people.

The resulting conflict has led to a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, fears of a possible escalation across the wider region, and a surge in oil prices.

We will be keeping a close eye on the unfolding situation in the Middle East and if it has an effect on the wider global economy.

As always, let’s take a closer look at what’s been happening in key markets across the world over the last month.


Economic growth in the UK remains sluggish, as official figures showed that GDP went up by just 0.2% in August 2023. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), this was driven largely by strong growth in services, but offset by falls in sectors such as manufacturing and construction. Data also showed that the fall in GDP in July was bigger than originally thought, with the figure being revised from 0.5% to 0.6%.

Meanwhile, ONS figures indicated that efforts to drive down inflation are still yielding limited results. The rate of inflation remained unchanged from the previous month in September at 6.7%, which is well above the Bank of England’s target of 2%. The ONS attributed the high rate partly to petrol and diesel costs, but noted that food and non-alcoholic drink prices have fallen.

This was backed up by the British Retail Consortium, which reported a 0.1% fall in food prices in September – the first monthly drop for more than two years. However, food prices are still 9.9% up on where they were a year earlier.

Ken Murphy, Chief Executive of supermarket chain Tesco, believes the pace of rising food prices will continue to slow this year. Speaking to BBC News, he insisted that Tesco is trying to “lower prices wherever we can”, and acknowledged “how challenging it is for many households across the country”.

There was another indication that cost of living pressures may finally be easing, as ONS data showed wages rose by 7.8% between June and August year-on-year. This means that average pay growth rose above inflation for the first time in nearly two years.

With a general election looming, you might expect the government to start talking about or dangling tax cuts in front of a hard-pressed electorate. But while recent figures may suggest we may be starting to turn a corner, the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) believes there is no compelling case for net tax cuts “any time soon”.

“The UK economy remains stuck between weak growth on the one hand and the risk of persistently high inflation on the other,” the IFS said. “An ill-timed fiscal loosening – such as an unfunded package of pre-election tax cuts – might give a short-term economic sugar rush, but could prove unsustainable and ultimately mean a protracted recession as interest rates rise even further to bring inflation back under control.”

The IFS added that the “Chancellor is in a terrible bind, as will be whoever is Chancellor after the general election”.

There was more positive news from credit rating agency Moody’s, which has dropped its negative outlook on the UK, partly in response to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s decision to scrap most of the measures announced in last year’s Mini-Budget.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund has been forced to defend itself against criticism from the Treasury that its UK economic assessment is too pessimistic. Chief Economist Pierre Olivier Gourinchas told the BBC that its growth forecasts exceed the Bank of England’s estimates, and that it is trying to be “honest interpreters of the data here”.

October also saw confirmation that the UK’s biggest infrastructure project would be dramatically scaled back, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announcing that the leg connecting the West Midlands and Manchester would not go ahead.

It has been a mixed few months for the banking sector, with Metro Bank recently being denied permission from the Bank of England to use its own internal models to assess its mortgage risks. However, a £925m deal was later struck that enables the business to raise extra funds from investors – an agreement that secures its financial position, but means it has to cut about £30m in costs every year from 2025. By contrast, Lloyds revealed a pre-tax profit of £1.9bn for the three months to September, up from £576m a year earlier.

October also saw the removal of the cap on bankers’ bonuses, a move first announced in last year’s controversial Mini-Budget, and one of the few measures announced by Kwasi Kwarteng to be retained by Jeremy Hunt. The government hopes that the move will help to make London a more attractive place to do business post-Brexit.

On the high street, fashion retailer Next has confirmed it is to buy clothing brand Fatface for £115m. This follows Next’s acquisition of Cath Kidston and Joules in recent months.

Meanwhile, a proposed merger of Vodafone and Three is still under close scrutiny, with bosses having to deny it would lead to price rises after concerns were raised by the Unite union. If the merger goes ahead, it would lead to the creation of the UK’s biggest mobile network and service around 27m customers.

The pound ended October unmoved against the dollar, and on the financial markets, the FTSE-100 Index ended the month at 7,321 points, up 3.76% on September.


The European Central Bank (ECB) left its interest rates unchanged for the first time in over a year, following ten consecutive rate hikes.

Policymakers had been rating hikes in order to tackle the rising cost of living, but thankfully, inflation across the eurozone has started to come down. The rate of inflation hit 4.3% in September, which is well down on the peak of 10.6% seen in October 2022.

The ECB believes that while inflation is likely to remain fairly high for some time yet, interest rates are now at a level where they could substantially contribute to it meeting its 2% target.

Christine Lagarde, President of the institution, added: “The economy is likely to remain weak for the remainder of this year. But as inflation falls further, household real incomes recover and the demand for euro area exports picks up, the economy should strengthen over the coming years.”

The eurozone economy contracted during the last quarter, according to new data from S&P Global, as rising borrowing costs and higher prices led to consumers limiting their spending. The report also showed that declining output in the services and manufacturing sectors also contributed to the downturn.

Speaking after the data was published, Franziska Palmas of Capital Economics said it still expects the eurozone economy to fall into recession in the second half of 2023.

Germany, in particular, is going through a tough period economically right now, with the European Commission predicting that the country will face a prolonged recession this year.

It is likely to be the only major economy in Europe to see its economy shrink during 2023, and according to the latest European Commission estimates, output will fall by 0.4% this year. The body has also downgraded its growth forecast for Germany in 2024 from 1.4% to 1.1%.

This comes after the International Monetary Fund predicted that Germany’s economy would contract by 0.3% in 2023.

It was a much more positive picture in Spain, where officials are hopeful it will outpace eurozone growth in the coming months. Pablo Hernández de Cos, Governor of the Bank of Spain, believes the country is performing relatively well because it relies less on sectors such as manufacturing than many other key European nations, and is less dependent on exports from China and Russia.

October also saw progress in the European Union’s efforts to bolster the banking system and make it more resilient. The European Banking Authority has published guidance for banking regulators in each member state, which includes a call for specific checks on the impact of higher interest rates on their business models, as well as their liquidity and funding risks.

The move is being taken in the wake of the recent collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and UBS’s forced takeover of Credit Suisse to ensure regulators in Europe learn lessons from what happened across the Atlantic.

Francesco Mauro of EBA said: “This is an exercise that has always looked at supervision, but the novelty is that, being more targeted, we can be more specific on what are the expectations that we are putting on supervisors. The spring events reminded us of the importance of proper management of liquidity risk.”

October also saw voters come out for the Polish general election. While the incumbent Law and Justice (PiS) party secured the biggest share of the vote, opposition parties secured enough votes to oust the government. Donald Tusk’s Civic Coalition, which attracted almost a third of the popular vote, looks to be in the strongest position to be able to form a coalition.

On the financial markets, Germany’s DAX index fell by 3.75% in October to end the month at 14,810 points. Meanwhile, the French CAC 40 index fell by 3.50% to end at 6,885 points.


October ended with better than expected economic figures, official data showing GDP rose by 4.9% between July and September, up from 2.1% in the previous quarter. This was the biggest increase in economic output since the final quarter of 2021, and was attributed partly to healthy levels of consumer spending.

This was welcome news, particularly as last month began with the US government narrowly avoiding a federal shutdown, after a short-term deal ensuring funding until November 17th was agreed.

However, the congressional budget deal did not include further military funding for Ukraine, which had been a key demand for the Democrats. Despite this setback, President Joe Biden has insisted the US will continue to support Ukraine, and said it cannot “under any circumstances allow US support to Ukraine to be interrupted”.

Meanwhile, economists are keeping a close eye on interest rates and wondering which way they will be heading over the coming months. In a poll by Reuters, 45% said they don’t expect to see any rate reduction until the second half of next year at the earliest.

Interest rate movements will also be of particular interest to anyone planning to take out a mortgage on a property in the coming months. According to Mortgage News Daily, the average interest rate on the typical 30-year fixed rate home loan rose to 8% for the first time in 23 years.

Consumers across the board were under financial pressure as a result of higher housing and petrol costs, which contributed to the inflation rate remaining static in September at 3.7%. Although inflation is significantly lower than it was this time last year, it is still well above the Fed’s target of 2%.

Nevertheless, the retail sector has continued to perform strongly, with figures showing that retail sales went up by 0.3% in September, when adjusted for inflation.

There was also positive news in the employment market, with figures from the Labour Department showing that employers added 336,000 jobs in September. This was almost double the amount that had been widely anticipated.

In the business sector, chip company Nvidia and iPhone maker Foxconn confirmed they are collaborating to create new data centres capable of powering various applications, including AI-powered electric vehicles and other AI-based services.

However, many sectors have been hit by ongoing industrial action. For example, more than 75,000 nurses, pharmacists and technicians at healthcare company Kaiser Permanente went on a three-day strike to call for improved wages and staffing levels. A tentative deal has since been struck, although the terms of the agreement have not been disclosed.

Industrial unrest also hit the car manufacturing sector, as the United Auto Workers union has been taking strike action against Ford, Stellantis and General Motors (GM) since September. GM believes the strikes could cost the company approximately £164m a week.

The ongoing actors’ strike in Hollywood also continued throughout October. Negotiations between actors’ union SAG-AFTRA and major Hollywood studios had been on hold for almost two weeks but have since resumed. Members of the union have been on strike since July over issues such as pay and the use of artificial intelligence.

In the tech industry, Microsoft is in dispute with the Internal Revenue Service over its allocation of profits across various countries and jurisdictions. The tax authority has asked for the tech giant to pay an additional £23.5bn in back taxes for the years 2004 to 2013. However, Microsoft is contesting the request, arguing that the issues raised by the body are “relevant to the past but not to our current practices”.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has announced that about 670 roles are set to go at professional networking site LinkedIn. This follows the loss of more than 700 jobs in May and accounts for approximately 3% of its current workforce.

On the financial markets, the Dow Jones fell by 1.36% to end the month at 33,052, while the more broadly-based S&P 500 index fell by 2.20% to end at 4,193.

Far East

Embattled Chinese real estate giant Evergrande saw its shares soar after it resumed trading in Hong Kong following a two-day suspension. The property company’s chairman Hui Ka Yan is currently under police surveillance “due to suspicion of illegal crimes”.

Evergrande also recently filed for bankruptcy protection in the US, after it defaulted on its debts two years ago. Real estate developer Country Garden has also defaulted on its US debts, Bloomberg reports, which could prove problematic for the wider Chinese economy, as the sector accounts for a significant share of its GDP.

According to the latest official figures, China’s economy grew by 4.9% between July and September, down from 6.3% in the previous quarter.

Ongoing tensions between the US and China have shown no signs of easing, following the US government’s decision to place restrictions on advanced chip exports. China’s foreign ministry argued the curbs, which affect major companies such as Nvidia, “violate the principles of the market economy and fair competition”.

Elsewhere in the tech industry, Apple Chief Executive made an unexpected visit to China, meeting with gamers in the city of Chengdu. Meanwhile, MG Motors, which is owned by China’s SAIC Motor Corp, believes it is in a “very strong position” to capitalise on growing demand for electric cars, after posting pre-tax profits of £54.2m in 2022.

While relations between China and the US remain frosty, the same cannot be said of China and Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently attended a global summit in Beijing, hosted by Xi Jinping, where he was the guest of honour.

In Japan, business sentiment has continued to pick up, according to a survey by the country’s central bank.The headline big manufacturers’ confidence index rose to 9 in September from 5 in June, exceeding analysts’s expectations of 6. Meanwhile, the non-manufacturers index rose from 23 to 27, again beating forecasts. This bodes well for Japan’s economic output in the coming months, against the backdrop of sluggish growth worldwide.

Nevertheless, inflation remains a problem in Japan, as the central bank is expected to raise its core consumer inflation forecast for the year to March 2024 from 2.5% to 3%. How this affects interest rates remains to be seen, although a poll of economists by Reuters suggests that Bank of Japan will end its negative interest rate policy in 2024.

The export market looks set to be one ray of light for Japan’s economy, as exports from the country rose by 4.3% in September year-on-year. This upturn was driven by increased shipments of electronics, machinery and vehicles.

In South Korea, meanwhile, the central bank has opted to leave its policy rate on hold at 3.5%, partly in response to rising private sector debt and growing inflationary pressures.

The central bank believes inflation will average at 3.5% this year, down from 5.1% last year but still well above its 2% target. Furthermore, it is predicting that South Korea’s economy will grow by 1.4% in 2023, following an upturn of 2.6% in 2022.

On the financial markets, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell by 3.91% to end October at 17,112. Meanwhile, Japan’s Nikkei index slumped by 3.14% to 30,858. China’s Shanghai Composite index fell by 2.95% to 3,018 and the Korea Composite Stock Price Index went down by 7.59% to 2,277.

Emerging Markets

India’s status as one of the world’s leading emerging markets was reinforced recently by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which predicted that India and China will jointly account for about half of all global growth in 2023 and 2024.

The IMF expects to see growth of 6.3% in 2024, thanks to strong domestic demand and a steady inflow of investment. This is higher than the 5% growth it is predicting in China. For the Asia Pacific region a whole, the IMF is forecasting growth of 4.6% in 2023, up from 3.9% in 2022. This will then slow to 4.2% in 2024.

In sanction-hit Russia, the government confirmed it would force many exporters to convert their foreign revenues into roubles, in order to help prop up the struggling currency as its invasion of Ukraine continues. Russia’s financial regulator will monitor and enforce the capital controls on 43 companies in industries such as metal and energy.

Andrei Belousov, First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, commented: “The main purpose of these measures is to create long-term conditions for increasing the transparency and predictability of the currency market, [and] to reduce the opportunity for currency speculation.”

Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin has confirmed Russia will continue increasing the production of military equipment “not by some per cent, but by several times”. This suggests that the prospect of Russia standing down and ending the war in Ukraine is remote and the country is preparing to continue with its invasion for some time.

In Brazil, economic growth has remained robust, with a survey of investors by the Central Bank showing their median GDP growth projection has risen from 2.56% to 2.92%.

This strong performance was reflected in the labour market in particular, as employers added nearly 221,000 jobs in August. This was well above the expectations of many economists, who had expected an upturn of between 180,000 and 200,000.

On the financial markets, India’s BSE Sensex index fell by 2.97% to end at 63,874 points. Russia’s MOEX index rose by 2.16% to close at 3,200 points, while Brazil’s Bovespa index ended the month down 2.94% at 113,143 points.

And Finally…

When you hear the words “on the run”, we’re betting that a tortoise doesn’t spring immediately to mind. But a runaway tortoise that went missing in 2020 has amazingly been found.

The tortoise was seen happily crossing a major road in Florida and was taken to a local animal refuge, which launched an appeal to find the owner.

Thankfully, a person came forward and they revealed that it had been missing for more than three years. We hope to find out what measures they put in place to prevent the pet from, er, running off again.



October Market Commentary

Wednesday, October 4th, 2023


Sluggish growth and high inflation have stubbornly persisted across much of the globe in recent months, and September was no different.

But some major economies are performing better than others as they grapple with global economic headwinds, and emerging markets in Asia are bucking the prevailing trend by enjoying strong rates of growth.

As always, let’s take a look at the details…


The UK economy shrank by 0.5% in July, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This was worse than many analysts had been predicting, and was driven by factors including ongoing industrial action and poor weather.

However, there was some good news to be found elsewhere, as inflation fell from 6.8% in July to 6.7% in August. This was the third consecutive month in which inflation has come down.

Nevertheless, a new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suggests there is no room for complacency, as it warned prices will rise faster in the UK this year than in any other advanced economy.

The OECD predicts that inflation will average at 7.2% in 2023, a higher rate than in the likes of the US, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Canada.

August’s surprise fall in inflation influenced the Bank of England’s unexpected decision to keep interest rates on hold at 5.2%, following 14 consecutive rate hikes.

Andrew Bailey, Governor of the Bank of England, said there were “increasing signs” that higher rates were harming the UK economy, an observation borne out by recent house price figures.

According to Nationwide, property values in August 2023 were 5.3% lower than they had been 12 months earlier. This was the biggest year-on-year decline since 2009 and was attributed in part to higher borrowing costs.

Weak economic growth was not reflected in the latest wage figures, which revealed total earnings in the three months to July 2023 were 8.5% higher than they had been a year earlier.

Similarly, August saw a surge in retail sales, according to the British Retail Consortium and KPMG, as sales on non-food items rose to their highest level since February.

The retail sector recently took a knock with the collapse of high-street retailer Wilko. However, it has now been confirmed that Poundland owner Pepco Group will take on the leases at up to 71 Wilko stores, with Wilko staff being given priority when applying for jobs at these outlets.

Elsewhere in the retail sector, Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group is reportedly in discussions about selling its Missguided clothing brand to fast fashion company Shein, just a year after purchasing the brand for £20m.

There was a big development in the UK’s manufacturing industry, as German car company BMW confirmed it is to begin production of two new electric Mini cars at its factory in Oxford. About £600m is to be spent on updating its plant in Cowley in order for production to begin in 2026.

September was a turbulent month for the UK’s finance sector, with the state-owned British Business Bank reporting an annual pre-tax loss of more than £147m. This, it said, was because a “challenging economic environment” led to the valuation of businesses it has invested in falling.

Meanwhile, the ongoing controversy over the closure of former UKIP leader Nigel Farage’s Coutts account rumbled on, with the Financial Conduct Authority saying it has not found any evidence that politicians’ bank accounts are being closed because of the views they hold.

The London Stock Exchange was recently dealt a blow when chip designer Arm Holdings opted to list its shares in the US rather than the UK. The company’s market value soared to £48.3bn upon its return to the stock market as investors snapped up shares.

The pound ended August up 0.2% against the dollar, and on the financial markets, the FTSE-100 Index ended the month at 7,648 points, up 2.46% on August.


Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the UN General Assembly in New York in September, in which he called on the world to unite behind his country in the face of the ongoing Russian invasion.

He also visited Canada during his latest round of international diplomacy, which comes at a time when discussions of “war fatigue” are growing in many of the nations that have, thus far, backed Ukraine, such as Poland.

In a reflection of its continued solidarity, the US has agreed a £265m military package with Ukraine, although this itself came after a disagreement in Congress about how much money it was willing to spend.


September saw the European Central Bank raise eurozone interest rates for the tenth time in a row from 3.75% to 4%. The move, which was taken in response to continuing high inflation, takes interest rates to a record high.

Germany continues to struggle in the face of the weak global economy and inflationary pressures, as it slipped into a technical recession in the first quarter of 2023. The OECD believes Germany will be the only G20 economy apart from Argentina to see its economy shrink this year.

Unsurprisingly, the gloomy environment is having an impact on business sentiment, which fell for the fifth month in succession during September, according to the Ifo institute.

Peter Oppenheimer, chief global equity strategist and head of macro research EMEA at Goldman Sachs, believes Germany’s problems are down to a number of factors, such as high energy costs, weak growth in China following the easing of Covid restrictions and continuing challenges in the manufacturing sector.

Speaking to CNBC, he said: “It’s … not a deep recession but it’s obviously been more hit by obvious headwinds.”

The German Bundesbank agrees that Germany’s reliance on China is partly behind its current problems, and said this is one reason why its “business model is in danger”.

In France, supermarket chain Carrefour has taken the unusual step of naming and shaming products where packet contents are getting smaller while prices are going up.

The company is putting stickers on the shelves of offending products, which include Vienetta ice cream and Lipton Ice Tea, to warn customers of “shrinkflation” and letting them know if the packaging is smaller or the contents are lighter.

Carrefour hopes this strategy will give companies an incentive to keep the prices of their products down. Director of Client Communications Stefen Bompais said: “Obviously, the aim in stigmatising these products is to be able to tell manufacturers to rethink their pricing policy.”

September also saw an interesting development as the UK’s opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer met with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris. The meeting, which was described as “very constructive and positive”, comes as Sir Keir’s Labour Party is riding high in the opinion polls at home and he is aiming to position his party as a government in waiting.

On the financial markets, pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk, manufacturer of weight loss drug Wegovy, has become Europe’s most valuable company, achieving a stock market valuation of £339n at the close of trading on Monday 4th September.

On the financial markets, Germany’s DAX index fell by 2.65% in September to end the month at 15,508 points. Meanwhile, the French CAC 40 index fell by 2.35% to end at 7,200 points.


Gross domestic product in the US grew by 2.1% in the second quarter of 2023. This was thanks in part to increased consumer spending, as well as an increase in state, local and federal government spending.

Speaking to MSNBC’s Morning Joe programme, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said: “We’re investing in America in ways we haven’t seen for decades.”

However, she acknowledged that there is a “disconnect” between how the economy is performing and how the American public feel about how it has been handled by President Joe Biden.

A poll of registered voters by the Wall Street Journal revealed three-fifths of people disapprove of Biden’s handling of the economy, while nearly two-thirds don’t like how he has handled inflation, which rose from 3.2% in July to 3.7% in August.

The Federal Reserve, meanwhile, kept its key interest rate on hold at 5.25% to 5.5%, as it aims to bring inflation under control.

Ms Yellen said it will “take some time” before people feel more positive around the economy and feel the effects of the Biden administration’s legislation and policies.

The jobs market is one bright spot in the US economy right now, with official figures showing that employers added 187,000 jobs in August – the same number as in July. President Biden hailed the figures, saying the US is “now in one of the strongest job-creating periods in our history”.

“Some experts said to get inflation under control, we needed higher unemployment and lower wages, but I’ve never thought that was the problem,” President Biden added.

One factor that has been putting the brakes on economic growth in recent months is industrial action in various sectors, including the automotive industry, where members of United Auto Workers have withdrawn labour.

Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, believes the immediate impact of the auto workers strike will be “limited”, but said “that will change if the strike broadens and is prolonged”.

Hollywood writers, meanwhile, have ended their strike after almost five months, after the Writers Guild of America reached a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on issues such as pay and the use of artificial intelligence.

While this means writers are free to return to work, many productions will still be unable to resume, as the Screen Actors Guild remains on strike and no deal has yet been struck.

In the tech sector, the ongoing drama surrounding X, formerly known as Twitter, continued, when owner Elon Musk suggested that users may soon be charged each month to use the platform. Meanwhile, Apple’s share valuation took a hit after reports that government workers in China were banned from using iPhones.

On the financial markets, the Dow Jones fell by 2.96% to end the month at 33,821, while the more broadly-based S&P 500 index fell by 4.40% to end at 4,299.

Far East

China’s economic recovery remained sluggish, which was reflected in a fourth consecutive monthly fall in exports. According to official figures, exports in August 2023 were 8.8% down on the previous year, while imports fell by 7.3%.

Nevertheless, a poll of 78 economists by Bloomberg suggested that China will meet its economic growth target of 5% this year.

One major drag in the Chinese economy has been the crisis-hit property market. The problems at Chinese property giant Evergrande continued throughout September, as shares in the company were suspended after its chairman was reportedly placed under police surveillance. This came in the wake of the company filing for bankruptcy protection in the US, after it defaulted on its debts two years ago.

Another major Chinese property developer – Country Garden – saw a surge in its share values after securing an extension to a key debt payment deadline. This came after the company reported a £5.2bn loss for the first half of 2023, which it described as an “unsatisfactory performance”.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government’s crackdown on corruption in the financial sector continued with the imprisonment of Wang Bin, the former chairman of China Life Insurance. Mr Wang was found guilty of taking £35.7m in bribes earlier this year.

In Japan, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that a new economic stimulus package designed to ease the impact of inflation will be put together in October. Mr Kishida has instructed his cabinet to also devise measures that could help to increase wages, although no indication of the possible size and scale of the package has yet been disclosed.

This comes as the Japanese government aims to discourage investors from trying to sell off the yen. Mr Kishisa said: “It’s important for currencies to move stably reflecting fundamentals. Excessive volatility is undesirable.”

There was more positive news for Japan’s space programme, after the country successfully launched a rocket with a lunar lander, in preparation for a planned moon landing in February next year.

India recently became only the fourth country to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon’s surface, after the US, Russia and China, and Japan is bidding to become the fifth.

South Korea, meanwhile, has been stepping up its efforts to increase its global influence, with President Yoon Suk Yeol spending five days in the US engaged in talks on foreign policy. His trip also included a keynote address at the UN General Assembly in New York.

This came as the country continued its bid to host the 2030 World Expo, a global showcase of cultural, commercial and technological accomplishments, in Busan.

On the financial markets, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell by 3.65% to end August at 17,809. Meanwhile, Japan’s Nikkei index slumped by 1.15% to 31,857. China’s Shanghai Composite index fell by 0.81% to 3,110 and the Korea Composite Stock Price Index went down by 1.92% to 2,249.

Emerging Markets

India continued to enjoy strong growth, with official figures showing its economy expanded by 7.8% between April and June 2023 year-on-year. This was up from 6.1% in the previous quarter.

V. Anantha Nageswaran, India’s Chief Economic Adviser, is therefore confident the country is still on course to achieve 6.5% growth this year, saying that “growth prospects appear bright”.

This sense of optimism was bolstered by new estimates from the OECD, which raised its gross projection for the 2023-24 financial year from 6% to 6.3%.

According to the OECD, India’s strong performance is likely to help Asia drive “a disproportionate share of global growth in 2023-24”, despite the “weaker than expected” recovery in China.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is similarly confident, telling the Business Standard newspaper that India is likely to achieve its growth target of 10.5% this fiscal year.

Global trade will be a key factor that supports India’s economic growth in the coming growth, and talks over a possible trade deal with the UK have been ongoing in recent months.

India recently hosted the latest G20 summit, during which UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed “we’re not there yet” regarding a possible deal.

Brazil is another emerging market that is bucking the wider global trend, with the Central Bank recording stronger than expected growth in 2023. The country’s finance ministry has also raised its GDP growth projection for 2023 from 2.5% to 3.2%.

This was driven partly by a strong performance in the agriculture and service industries, while industrial output also exceeded expectations.

In sanction-hit Russia, efforts to bolster international support amid the ongoing war in Ukraine continued.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in Moscow, a move which reinforced the view among critics of China that Beijing indirectly backs the invasion. President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, met with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, where they discussed possible military cooperation.

On the financial markets, India’s BSE Sensex index rose by 0.67% to end at 65,828 points. Russia’s MOEX index fell by 2.90% to close at 3,118 points, while Brazil’s Bovespa index ended the month at 116,603 points.

And Finally…

You might have thought aliens had finally landed on earth in recent weeks, but as ever, proof that extraterrestrials are walking among us proved elusive.

Mummified remains discovered in the city of Cusco, Peru were displayed in Mexico recently, but UFO enthusiasts became convinced they had stumbled across the body of an alien lifeform.

However, Mexican doctors disappointed the alien hunters by insisting the two alleged extraterrestrial corpses each belonged to a single skeleton.

But this wasn’t the only would-be close encounter to hit the headlines, as a family in Las Vegas have spoken out about apparently seeing two ten-foot tall aliens in their back garden.

In an interview with Inside Edition, dad Bobby and 16-year-old Angel both presented drawings of the beings they claimed to see. But curiously, the two images didn’t actually look much like each other, so who knows what they actually did or didn’t see…?

When should you update your will?

Friday, September 22nd, 2023

Any financial planner will tell you that your will is a vitally important element of your financial plan.

With this legally binding document in place, you can take control of your destiny and be sure that your assets will be distributed in line with your wishes.

But simply writing a will isn’t enough, as your circumstances can change dramatically over time.

So when should you be thinking about updating this vital document, so you can be sure it remains fit for purpose at any given time and reflects your current wishes?

Getting married

If you’ve entered into a marriage or civil partnership, you must update your will to include your spouse or partner. Otherwise, they might not get everything you wanted to leave them if you pass away.

Getting divorced

If you’re coming out of a marriage or civil partnership, you should again update your will, so any references to your ex-partner are updated accordingly.

This is especially important if you move into a new relationship after ending your marriage, but don’t remarry, because if you die, your new partner won’t have any automatic right to inherit your assets.

That’s still the case even if you cohabit with your new partner for many years and have children together. In this scenario, it will still be your ex who has a legal claim to your estate.

Estrangement from a loved one

It may be that you fall out with a close family member who is mentioned in your will and no longer want them to be a beneficiary. If this happens, it’s important to update your will accordingly, so there aren’t any family conflicts further down the line.

Having a child

The birth of a child is the perfect opportunity to revise your will so you can safeguard their financial future in the event of you passing away.

A change in your financial circumstances

Your financial situation could change dramatically without warning, perhaps because you’ve received an inheritance or windfall. Or perhaps you’ve moved into a job with a much higher salary.

In that case, you should look again at your will, as this could make a big difference to how you plan to distribute your assets after your death.

For example, if you find yourself with a much larger estate, you might be more likely to consider leaving some of your wealth to a charity or good cause.

Buying a property

For most people, a property will be the most valuable asset that they own, so if you’re on the housing ladder, make provision for your home in your will so it can be passed smoothly to your chosen beneficiary.

It’s been a long time since you wrote your will

Even if you haven’t experienced any of the life events we’ve described, it’s still a good idea to review your will after a few years, so you can be 100 per cent sure it’s accurate and relevant in the here and now.

At the very least, various laws that affect your inheritance and how it can be distributed may have changed, and that could affect how your estate is distributed.

Ultimately, a will is there to make sure your wishes are carried out to the letter after you pass away, and to make distributing your wealth as simple as possible for your loved ones.

But an out-of-date will can significantly complicate matters and lead to entirely avoidable conflicts arising, along with potentially costly legal disputes – and this will be the last thing you want for your nearest and dearest.

So if it’s been a while since you’ve looked at your will or you’ve gone through major life events in recent years, don’t delay updating it. After all, you never know when it might be needed.

Why asset allocation matters

Friday, September 22nd, 2023

Investing is an uncertain pursuit, as you have to carefully navigate an ever-changing financial climate.

Perhaps the only certainty is that the value of your investments will go up as well as down, so it’s really important that you allocate your assets carefully to help you stay on course.

So what key issues should you be considering when you’re making these crucial decisions?

Exposure to risk

If your portfolio is based around only a few asset classes, you could lose large sums of money if any of these experience a downturn.

It’s therefore really important to diversify your portfolio across many different asset classes, so you can limit your exposure to risk in the event of a downturn and preserve your capital even during the most challenging times.

Maximising your returns

You can achieve higher returns if you optimise your portfolio around the best performing options, so you’re able to take advantage of growth in certain markets and move away from weaker alternatives.

Make sure your portfolio matches your goals

It’s important that your investment portfolio reflects your wider financial objectives. Perhaps you want to send your child to private school or university, or maybe you’re looking to buy a second home or save up for retirement.

By thinking about the spread of your assets through this lens, you can build a portfolio that helps you work towards and achieve your specific objectives.

Adapting as circumstances change

Your investment portfolio doesn’t operate in a vacuum. In fact, it can be affected by countless factors way beyond your control, from economic shifts to political upheaval at home and abroad.

With that in mind, it’s really important to be flexible and adjust your portfolio when it’s appropriate to do so.

However, it’s crucial that you don’t panic in the face of market movements, as making impulsive decisions could backfire on you. Think carefully and strategically about adjusting your asset allocation and keep a firm eye on the long-term, and stay informed so you can respond to both opportunities and risks in the right way.

Your age

If you’re five years away from retirement, you might have a different appetite for risk than someone who’s forty years off stopping work.

So if you’re a younger investor, you can probably afford to favour higher-risk, higher-reward assets such as stocks, whereas an older person might prefer safer alternatives.

Creating and managing a lucrative investment portfolio can seem a daunting task, particularly if you’re new to investing.

We’re here to guide you throughout the entire process, so please get in touch with our team of friendly, specialist financial planners.

We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have, so you can get started on this exciting and potentially lucrative journey.


July Market Commentary

Wednesday, July 5th, 2023


Sluggish growth and high inflation were recurring themes in many major and emerging economies last month, as central banks across the globe sought to manage the impact of global economic headwinds. But interestingly, many emerging markets bucked this trend.

As always, let’s take a closer look at the details.


The UK economy saw surprise growth of 0.2% in April 2023, despite many analysts predicting a decline. However, other positive economic news has been hard to find in recent weeks, with the Bank of England raising interest rates by half a percentage point to 5% – the highest level in 15 years.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt argued that the UK has “no alternative” but to hike interest rates in order to tackle inflation, which remained stuck at 8.7% in May – the same as in April. This has caused huge concerns about the impact of rising mortgage rates, which led to the bank bosses meeting with Mr Hunt, and agreeing to offer more flexibility to mortgage holders who are struggling to keep up with their payments. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, meanwhile, called on homeowners and borrowers to “hold their nerve” over rising interest rates.

The wider economic situation led to annual house prices falling for the first time in 11 years, according to UK’s largest mortgage lender Halifax. Figures showed typical house prices in May were £3,000 down on the previous year. However, retail sales did hold up, with the Office for National Statistics reporting that sales volumes rose by 0.3% in May, partly because of better weather in the second half of the month.

Energy prices have also been a huge contributor to the ongoing cost of living crisis, but the government has confirmed that if prices fall to normal levels for a sustained period, its windfall tax on oil and gas firms – which has helped to fund a support scheme for struggling households and businesses – will be scrapped.

On the international stage, Rishi Sunak and US President Joe Biden unveiled the Atlantic Declaration. While this is some way short of the full trade deal that the British government has hoped for following Brexit, it does still represent a strengthening of economic ties between the UK and the US.

The UK has also signed a new pact with the European Union, which will see the two parties meet twice a year to discuss financial regulation and standards. Mr Hunt believes this forum will be mutually beneficial, as the UK and EU financial markets are “deeply interconnected”.

It was a difficult month for the London Stock Exchange, with natural soda ash producer We Soda scrapping plans to sell shares on the index, and cinema chain Cineworld confirming it is to file for administration and suspend trading on the London Stock Exchange as part of a major bankruptcy restructuring plan. This comes shortly after microchip designer Arm Holdings opted to list its shares in the US rather than London.

There was brighter news in the mobile phone sector, with Vodafone and Three agreeing a deal to merge their operations and create the country’s biggest mobile phone operator.

The pound ended June up 0.82% against the dollar, and on the financial markets, the FTSE-100 Index ended the month at 7,544 points, up 1.32% on May.


Global leaders and bodies such as the World Bank attended the Ukraine Recovery Conference in June to discuss what can be done to rebuild the war-torn nation.

World Bank Managing Director of Operations Anna Bjerde pointed out that Ukraine will need the help of the international community for many years. However, she told the BBC that the country also has great potential to turn “a lot of its assets into economic opportunity and recovery”.

Among the topics under debate was the idea of fast-tracking Ukraine’s entry into Nato, which the British government said it supports.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the conference by video link, and told attendees that Ukraine could be “the largest source of economic, industrial and technological growth in Europe for decades and decades”.

The meeting came amid a military counter-offensive to recapture Russian-occupied areas of the country, which President Zelensky has admitted has led to slower progress than he hoped for.


The European Central Bank (ECB) increased its benchmark rate of interest by 0.25 percentage points to 3.5% – its highest level in more than 20 years. The cost of borrowing is being hiked as part of an effort to tackle inflation, which fell from 6.1% in May to 5.5% in the year to June – a welcome fall but still a stubbornly high figure.

Rising prices led to the eurozone falling into recession over the winter, official figures have revealed, with the 20-nation bloc’s economy shrinking by 0.1% between January and March. This followed a contraction in the final three months of 2022. Falling household spending contributed to the drop in economic output, as this fell by 0.3% in the first quarter of 2023, following a 1% slump in the previous three months.

There was some positive news, however, with the ECB reporting that the international role of the euro was resilient in 2022, with its share across multiple indicators of international currency use averaging close to 20%. This means the euro is still the second most widely used currency, despite high inflation and geopolitical problems such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The invasion has led to another problem for the EU, as member states are set to be asked to make bigger budget contributions following recent crises. Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Budget and Administration, argued that the EU budget has been “instrumental” to its recovery from the pandemic and continued support for Ukraine. However, he said “the multiple challenges over the past years have exhausted its flexibilities and capacity to react to future crises”.

Europe’s largest economy, Germany, has been in particular difficulty over the last few months, but the German Bundesbank believes its recession will end in the April to June quarter, thanks to factors such as improving supply chains and falling energy prices. The Bundesbank has predicted that GDP will fall by 0.3% across the whole of 2023, but grow by 1.2% in 2024 and 1.3% in 2025.

Ireland also provided some positive economic news for the EU, as its economic output went up by 2.7% in the first quarter of 2023, compared with the final quarter of 2022.

On the financial markets, Germany’s DAX index rose by 3.14% in June to end the month at 16,156 points. Meanwhile, the French CAC 40 index went up by 4.39% to end at 7,410 points.


All eyes were on the US Congress after a deal to lift the country’s borrowing limit was agreed. The US had risked defaulting on its £25trn debt had the measure not been approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Interest rates remained another key focus of attention, as the US Federal Reserve opted against increasing the cost of borrowing for the first time in over a year. The benchmark rate remained at 5%-5.25%, as the Fed wants time to assess the effects that previous rate hikes have had in recent months.

However, interest rates do not look set to remain at this level for much longer, as many analysts are forecasting further increases in the coming months. Inflation, meanwhile, fell from 4.9% in the year to April to 4% in the year to May, according to official figures, which means the rate of inflation has now fallen for 11 months in a row.

Curiously, high inflation and interest rates failed to dent job creation in the UK, with employers adding 330,000 jobs in May. This has led to some analysts becoming increasingly confident that the economy could avoid slipping into recession this year, although figures also showed that the unemployment rate rose from 3.4% to 3.7% month-on-month.

According to a poll by The Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, just 34% of US adults currently approve of President Biden’s handling of the economy. Against this backdrop, the President has been talking up his economic approach, which has been termed “Bidenomics”, which involves growing the economy “from the middle out and bottom up, not the top down”.

Business activity in the UK expanded in early June, according to the latest S&P Global Composite Purchasing Managers Index. However, the index fell 1.3 points to 53, which indicates growth is at its slowest level in three months, partly because of a decline in manufacturing activity. Chief Business Economist Chris Williamson said: “Growth remains dependent on service sector spending. The question remains as to how resilient service sector growth can be in the face of the manufacturing decline and the lagged effect of prior rate hikes.”

Nevertheless, small businesses in particular appear to be quite confident about the future. According to the latest MetLife and US Chamber Small Business Index, a record 71% of small business owners expect to see an increase in revenue over the next year, while the share of respondents expecting to hire more staff in the coming 12 months has gone up from 37% in Q1 to 47% in Q2.

On the financial markets, the Dow Jones rose by 4.52% to end the month at 34,376, while the more broadly-based S&P 500 index went up by 6.22% to end at 4,439.

Far East

China’s National Bureau of Statistics has revealed that the country’s industrial output went up by 3.5% in May year-on-year. This was slightly down on the 5.6% increase seen in April, indicating that demand for Chinese manufactured goods is easing both domestically and worldwide. Retail sales, meanwhile, also dropped off slightly, falling from 18.4% growth in April to just 12.7% in May.

Commenting on the figures, analysts at Nomura said the post-Covid recovery “appears to have run its course” and that “an economic double dip is nearly confirmed”. Nevertheless, Chinese premier Li Qiang remains bullish, insisting that the country remains on course to achieve its economic growth targets of 5% this year.

Ongoing diplomatic tensions with the US continued to cast a shadow throughout June, although a visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Beijing saw both sides seek to improve their relationship.

President Xi Jinping said progress had been made and Mr Blinken stated that while there are major differences between the two nations, both sides are open to additional talks.

Shortly after Mr Blinken’s visit, President Biden criticised President Xi, referring to him as a “dictator”, who was embarrassed after the US shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon.

Thankfully, there appears to be little appetite for any escalation, as China’s Defence Minister General Li Shangfu said war with the US would be an “unbearable disaster” for the world. He added that the Earth is big enough for both nations and that they should try to find common ground.

Against this backdrop, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates met President Xi in Beijing. However, iPhone maker Foxconn has said it is planning for the worst-case scenario in case relations between Washington and Beijing deteriorate further by moving some of its supply chains away from China.

Speaking to the BBC, Foxconn Chairman Young Liu said: “We hope peace and stability will be something the leaders of these two countries will keep in mind, but as a business, as a CEO, I have to think about what if the worst case happens?”

In Japan, gross domestic product went up by 2.7% in the first three months of the year, exceeding forecasts from economists polled by Reuters of 1.9%. This was fuelled partly by a 1.4% increase in capital spending, although exports and imports both fell by 4.2% and 2.3% respectively.

The Bank of Japan remains cautiously optimistic about the economic outlook, saying it expects to see a moderate recovery this year. However, it noted that the global economy and markets pose a risk to Japan’s future growth.

South Korea, meanwhile, saw minimal growth of just 0.3% in the first quarter of the year. However, this was enough to prevent the country slipping into recession, following a 0.4% contraction in the final three months of 2022.

The Bank of Korea has revised down its 2023 growth forecast of 1.4% slightly, partly due to sluggish conditions in its semiconductor industry, which Bank Governor Rhee Chang Yong said is “pivotal to our exports”. He also noted that exports to China are not “picking up as fast as we wish”, although he was hopeful the overall economic growth rate would pick up in the second half of the year.

On the financial markets, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose by 3.74% to end June at 18,916. Meanwhile, Japan’s Nikkei index rose by 7.45% to 33,189. China’s Shanghai Composite index fell by 0.08% to 3,202 and the Korea Composite Stock Price Index fell 0.50% to 2,564.

Emerging Markets

Foreign ministers from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa met in Cape Town to call for the global order to be rebalanced away from western countries. Speaking at the meeting, Brazil’s Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira described the Brics nations as an “indispensable mechanism for building a multipolar world order that reflects the devices and needs of developing countries”.

Brazil has seen impressive economic growth in recent months, with the Central Bank’s economic activity index showing growth reached 0.56% in April. This was the biggest monthly increase since December 2013 and well above many analysts’ expectations.

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is confident about the country’s economic outlook, saying he expects to see growth of at least 2% this year. Speaking after S&P revised its outlook for Brazil from “stable” to “positive”, he said the nation is regaining its international credibility under his leadership.

Meanwhile, S&P is expecting India to be the fastest-growing economy in the Asia Pacific region during 2024, with growth likely to be about 6%. Louis Kuijs, Asia-Pacific Chief Economist at S&P Global Ratings, said: “The medium-term growth outlook remains relatively solid. The Asian emerging market economies remain among the fastest growing ones in our global growth outlook through 2026.”

Fitch Ratings is also confident about India’s outlook, raising its growth forecast for the current fiscal year from 6% to 6.3%. In a statement, it described India as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, as it is benefiting from “high bank credit growth and infrastructure spending, with more to come from the latter”.

The Indian government has sought to build on this strong performance by consolidating its global relationships. June saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi go on a state visit to the US, where he met with President Biden and enjoyed a lavish reception at the White House.

India’s tech sector, meanwhile, received a boost when Foxconn announced it would start manufacturing iPhones in the state of Karnataka by April 2024, in a move that will create around 50,000 jobs.

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s grip on power was questioned after Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of mercenary group Wagner, staged an apparent mutiny. Following a day in which Wagner fighters moved towards Moscow, the insurrection was eventually called off. Commenting on the rebellion, Antony Blinken said it represented a “direct challenge” to Mr Putin that shows “real cracks” in his authority.

As Russia continues with its assault on Ukraine and continues to suffer global sanctions, the economy looks set to suffer, with Bloomberg Economics predicting growth of just 0.8% this year. By contrast, Russia’s central bank is forecasting growth of 2% in 2023.

This comes as Russia aims to raise about 300bn rubles by imposing a one-off windfall tax on big companies. It is hoped the move will boost its coffers after posting a first-quarter deficit of nearly 2.4trn rubles.

On the financial markets, India’s BSE Sensex index rose by 3.47% to end at 64,718 points. Russia’s MOEX index rose by 2.63% to close at 2,789 points, while Brazil’s Bovespa index ended the month at 119,110 points.

And Finally…

Many of us might have wondered how people would react if we died suddenly, but one Belgian TikToker took it a step further by faking his own death. His wife and children, who were in on the prank, announced news of his “death” on social media, and even went as far as holding a fake funeral to see who would turn up and hear what they really thought of him.

Staying on the funeral theme, funeral firm Go As You Please is offering people the chance to pick their own custom-made coffins before they die. Among the suggested themes for the caskets are a Greggs sausage roll, a pint of Tennent’s Lager and Doctor Who’s Tardis. Each to their own…

To end on a lighter note, spare a thought for Iain Grant, 49, who ordered a curry online after arriving in Falmouth, Cornwall for a holiday. So far, so good, but upon arriving at the restaurant, it was clearly closed. Although he admitted to seeing the funny side, he was clearly incensed enough to contact the newspapers to share the details of his ordeal.

June Market Commentary

Friday, June 2nd, 2023


Economic growth remained subdued at best in many major markets throughout May, as high inflation continued to affect households and businesses across the world and hit confidence.

But significantly, some emerging markets such as India have bucked this trend and seen impressive rates of growth.

As always, let’s take a closer look at the details to find out more about what’s been happening over the last month…


The UK saw weak economic growth of just 0.1% in the first quarter of 2023, with output hit by factors including poor weather and industrial action. Although the economy remains smaller than it was pre-pandemic, the Bank of England is confident about its prospects and believes the UK will avoid slipping into recession this year.

The International Monetary Fund also believes the country will not see a recession, and upgraded its growth forecast for 2023 from 0.3% to 0.4% However, it warned that inflation is still “stubbornly high” and that interest rates will need to remain high if it is to come down. According to official figures, the UK inflation rate fell from 10.1% in March to 8.7% in April, which is the first time it has fallen below 10% since last August.

Meanwhile, the number of people on UK employers’ payrolls fell by 136,000 between March and April. This was the first drop since February 2021 – and suggests that the labour market is now feeling the impact of subdued economic growth. By contrast, house prices in the UK rose by 0.5% in April, according to Nationwide, following seven consecutive monthly declines, raising hopes of a slight recovery in the housing market over the coming months.

It was a mixed picture among UK businesses, with bakery chain Greggs reporting a 17% increase in sales year-on-year. By contrast, online fashion retailer Asos saw a 10% drop in sales during the six months to the end of February year-on-year, and posted a loss of more than £87m. BT, meanwhile, announced it was seeking to cut costs by cutting up to 55,000 jobs over the next few years, with many outgoing customer services staff being replaced by artificial intelligence.

Unsurprisingly, oil and gas companies continued to perform strongly, with Shell reporting profits of £7.6bn in the first quarter of 2023, and BP seeing profits of £4bn over the same period. This was despite energy prices coming down slightly in recent months.

The impact of Brexit continued to loom large in the business community, with carmarker Stellantis warning it may have to close factories in the UK if the government doesn’t negotiate a new deal with the EU. The company, which owns Fiat, Citroen, Peugeot and Vauxhall, said that under the current deal, it would face tariffs of 10% on exports to the EU from next year.

Despite ongoing concerns over the effects of Brexit on the economy, there was good news for the UK capital when London came top of Brand Finance’s new City Index, making it the best city brand in the world.

Although London is clearly well regarded around the globe, concerns have been raised about businesses choosing to list in the US rather than the UK. British technology firm Arm, for example, recently filed to list its shares in the US rather than London. In response to these worries, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) confirmed plans to revise and simplify listing rules to encourage more companies to list shares on UK stock markets.

The pound ended May down 0.3% against the dollar, and on the financial markets, the FTSE-100 Index ended the month at 7,458 points, down 5.23% on April.


President Volodymyr Zelensky met with leaders in Paris, London, Rome and Berlin in an effort to secure further military support for Ukraine. While they all committed to supplying extra weapons and equipment, they have so far ruled out sending Eurofighter jets to combat Russian forces.

May also saw the UK host the Eurovision Song Contest on Ukraine’s behalf, as the ongoing war meant it was impossible for last year’s winner to stage the competition itself. The event was another significant show of international support for Ukraine, but the hometown of Ukraine’s Eurovision act was struck by Russian missiles shortly before they were due to perform.


The European Commission revised its growth forecasts for EU members upwards, predicting that its 27 nations will see average growth of 1% in 2023 and 1.7% in 2024. Eurozone members, meanwhile, are expected to see growth of 1.1% this year and 1.6% next year.

However, these average figures hide a number of issues in individual member states. For example, the German economy shrank by 0.3% in the first quarter of the year, which sent the country into recession following a 0.5% contraction in the previous three months.

The French government announced a significant new measure to tackle climate change during May, banning domestic short-haul flights if train alternatives that take under two-and-a-half hours are available.

Meanwhile, the European Union has sought to prepare for climate change-related forest fires by doubling its supply of aircraft that can tackle blazes. Janez Lenarčič, the EU’s Commissioner for Crisis Management, said 2023 has already been “much drier than average” in places such as Spain, Portugal and the south of France, and that its 28 aircraft will be ready to act in what is expected to be a “busy, busy summer”.

In the technology sector, the clash between policymakers and artificial intelligence developers took a new turn, when OpenAI boss Sam Altman backed down on a threat to leave the European Union. Mr Altman had said he would leave the trading bloc if it imposed tough regulations on the AI market. According to the European Commission, agreement among member states on laws governing AI is likely to be reached this year, but it could be up to two years until these rules come into effect.

EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton has announced that social media giant Twitter has pulled out of its voluntary code to tackle disinformation, although the company itself has made no official comment.

On the financial markets, Germany’s DAX index fell by 1.61% in May to end the month at 15,665 points. Meanwhile, the French CAC 40 index fell by 5.24% to end at 7,099 points.


The US government has faced the very real prospect of running out of money and borrowing to keep funding essential operations. As a result, President Joe Biden has been working to reach an agreement on raising the debt ceiling, which has now been approved by the House of Representatives.

This comes amid a period of sluggish economic growth in the US, as GDP grew by just 1.3% between January and March 2023, when compared with the same period of the previous year. Inflation, meanwhile, dropped from 5% in the year to March to 4.9% in the year to April. That means inflation has slowed for ten months in succession.

The US Federal Reserve has been seeking to control inflation by raising interest rates, and at the start of May, its key interest rate was increased by 0.25%, taking the benchmark rate to between 5% and 5.25%. Despite the rising cost of borrowing, employers continued to create new jobs, with 253,000 jobs being added in April. The unemployment rate dropped to 3.4%.

Ongoing woes in the banking sector continued throughout May, with shares in PacWest and Western Alliance falling after recent banking failures led to a loss of confidence in sections of the market. The US Treasury Department has sought to ease concerns by insisting that the banking system has “substantial liquidity” and “deposit flows are stable”.

Elsewhere in the banking industry, First Republic was bought by JP Morgan Chase for $10.6bn after it was closed by the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation was appointed as receiver. It has subsequently been reported that about 1,000 jobs at First Republic will be cut following the takeover. Jobs are also expected to be lost in Silicon Valley Bank’s US Operations following its takeover by First Citizens.

In the technology sector, Apple saw a 3% drop in revenue during the first three months of 2023, when compared with the same quarter of 2022. That means sales at the tech giant have fallen for two consecutive quarters.

There was better news for the travel industry, with the White House confirming that international air travellers no longer have to show proof that they’ve received a Covid-19 vaccination.

On the financial markets, the Dow Jones fell by 3.89% to end the month at 32,771, while the more broadly-based S&P 500 index went up by 0.09% to end at 4,173.

Far East

China’s economic recovery following the end of Covid restrictions took a blow during May when its official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index fell to 48.8 in May, down from 49.2 in April. Any figure below 50 indicates contraction and means factory activity is now at its lowest level in five months.

However, China’s automotive industry was a relative bright spot for the economy, with official figures showing the number of car exports in the first quarter of 2023 was 58% higher than it had been a year earlier. 1.07m vehicles were exported from China between January and March, compared with 954,185 from Japan.

China also saw an upturn in domestic tourism, with people making 274m trips within the country during its five-day May Day holiday period. That’s nearly a fifth up on the number recorded in 2019.

The tourism industry received a further boost in May with the first commercial flight of the C919 plane. The aircraft, China’s first domestically-manufactured large passenger jet, was built by the Commercial Aviation Corporation of China and flew from Shanghai to Beijing on its maiden flight.

It was a different story at Chinese fast fashion brand Shein, as Republican and Democrat lawmakers in the US have called for the company to be investigated over claims that some of its clothes are made by Uyghur forced labour. Shein has insisted it has “zero tolerance” for forced labour, but the US lawmakers insist they have heard “credible allegations” against the firm.

Growing tensions between China and the US were also laid bare when China’s cyberspace regulator said that products made by US memory chip maker Micron Technology pose a serious national security risk. Products made by Micron will now be banned from major infrastructure projects being carried out in China.

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk visited China at the end of May for the first time in more than three years, and met with Foreign Minister Qin Gang and Industry Minister Jin Zhuanglong. China’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed that Mr Musk is seeking to expand Tesla’s presence in the country, which is the company’s biggest market outside the US.

China is not alone in seeing a slump in factory output, as industrial production in Japan fell by 0.4% in April, when compared with the previous month. This was a disappointing figure, as analysts had expected to see a rise in output of about 1.4%.

All eyes were on Japan during May when it hosted the G7 summit, where world leaders met to discuss issues such as further sanctions against Russia. The summit also saw Japan sign a renewed science and technology deal with the UK, which will see it deepen their relationship in this area.

The scale of attacks by North Korean hackers and ransomware users was highlighted in a new report by Elliptic, commissioned by Nikkei, which revealed that Asian nations account for nearly two-thirds of losses in these attacks. Japan alone accounted for 30% of the world total of over $2.3bn in 2022, seeing losses of $721m throughout the year.

In South Korea, President Yoon Suk Yeol had meetings with several international dignitaries in his diary. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with him to discuss boosting security ties and how to manage relations amid growing tensions between the US and China.

The President also met with European Council President Charles Michen and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during the 10th EU-Republic of Korea summit in Seoul. This marked the 60th anniversary of EU-South Korea diplomatic relations, where they discussed issues such trade, sustainable development and supporting Ukraine.

On the financial markets, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell by 8.35% to end May at 18,234. Meanwhile, Japan’s Nikkei index rose by 7.04% to 30,887. China’s Shanghai Composite index fell by 3.57% to 3,204 and the Korea Composite Stock Price Index rose 4.66% to 2,357.

Emerging Markets

India’s economy accelerated to 6.1% in the first quarter of 2023, which means the country is now one of the fastest growing economies in the world. This is up from 4.4% in the previous quarter. Nevertheless, the Reserve Bank of India has suggested this impressive rate of growth might be hard to sustain, due to “slowing global growth, protracted geopolitical tensions and a possible upsurge in financial market volatility”.

May also saw Indian budget airline Go First file for bankruptcy. This was despite domestic air traffic in the country hitting a record high in the previous month, with 456,082 passengers flying on April 30th. Writing on Twitter, Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said: “The skyrocketing domestic passenger traffic post-Covid is a reflection of India’s high growth.” Domestic airlines carried more than 37.5m passengers in the first quarter of 2023 – up 51.7% on the same period of 2022.

India’s burgeoning status as a technology hotspot hit the brakes slightly, as the International Data Corporation (IDC) reported that although 31m smartphones were shipped in India between January and March this year, this was 16% lower than in the same period of 2022. This was also the lowest first-quarter figure for four years, and was blamed partly on uncertainty over the economic outlook.

In sanction-hit Russia, the economy contracted by almost 2% in the first quarter of 2023 year-on-year. Match Group, owner of dating apps Hinge and Tinder, is the latest company to pull out of Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, and is aiming to have completely withdrawn from this market by the end of June.

Meanwhile, concerns about Russia’s revenues from oil and gas have been raised by Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, but this was downplayed by President Vladimir Putin, who attributed lower revenues to “voluntary cuts” in oil production, and said the situation was “absolutely stable”.

In Brazil, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva met with his counterparts from Colombia, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile at the South American Summit at Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia. The visit of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was particularly notable, as he had been banned by former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in 2019. “What’s important about Maduro coming here is that it’s the beginning of Maduro’s return,” President Lula said.

Meanwhile, the Brazilian government has declared a six-month animal health emergency following outbreaks of avian flu in Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo.

On the financial markets, India’s BSE Sensex index rose by 2.47% to end at 62,622 points. Russia’s MOEX index rose by 3.05% to close at 2,715 points, while Brazil’s Bovespa index ended the month at 108,564 points.

And Finally…

We’re used to seeing leaves and crisp packets flying around during strong winds, but during one particularly bad storm in Turkey, a sofa was blown off the balcony of a block of flats. The furniture was caught on camera flying through the sky for several seconds before crashing to the ground.

Another neighbourhood that saw disruption recently was Framlingham in Suffolk, where locals complained about the noise being made by a cockerel called Rory. Owner Julie Smith, who has been ordered to keep the noise down, is angry that “someone obviously has a problem with him”, as she claims that her neighbours have told her they can’t hear Rory if they shut their windows.

In other animal news, police in Colorado recently pulled over a speeding driver, but rather than accept his punishment, the motorist tried to switch places with…his dog! Needless to say, officers weren’t fooled and he was detained for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

March market commentary

Thursday, March 2nd, 2023


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 had a huge impact on the global economy, pushing up commodity prices, inflation and living costs around the world.

Last month saw the first anniversary of the invasion, and amid the renewed displays of solidarity from leaders in the UK, the US and the European Union, was the uncomfortable reminder that this could be a prolonged conflict.

Policymakers are therefore having to balance their continued support for Ukraine with minimising the economic fallout, and the effects this will have on households and businesses.

As always, let’s take a look at the details to see what’s happening in key markets across the globe.


The month began with the Bank of England raising interest rates from 3.5% to 4%. This was the tenth rate hike in a row and means they are at their highest level in 14 years. However, there was some slightly better news as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that although GDP fell by 0.5% in December, the economy saw zero growth over the final quarter of 2022 as a whole. This meant that the UK narrowly avoided slipping into recession last year, although it remains to be seen whether this has been merely postponed, rather than avoided.

Inflation, meanwhile, has continued to fall, dropping from 10.5% in December to 10.1% in January. Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt is to deliver his Spring Budget in March, and has already ruled out generous tax cuts, arguing that the “best tax cut right now is a cut in inflation”. However, there has been pressure on the Chancellor to announce tax cuts, given ongoing cost of living pressures, widespread industrial action, and notably, the Government seeing a surprise £5.4bn surplus in its finances in January.

The mixed economic picture led to key sectors seeing varying fortunes. For instance, while retail sales rose unexpectedly by 0.5% in January, figures from Nationwide showed house prices fell for the fifth month in a row, dropping by 0.6% to an average of £258,297.

Meanwhile, it was a good month for energy companies, with British Gas owner Centrica reporting profits of £3.3bn in 2022, and Shell revealing that its profits doubled last year to £32.2bn – the highest in its 115-year history. In addition, BP reported record annual profits of £23bn in 2022, while soaring energy prices helped EDF’s UK arm return to profit last year after seeing losses in 2021.

There were also several notable headlines in the UK employment market, with carmaker Ford announcing plans to cut 1,300 jobs around the country over the next two years. There was better news from Aldi, which confirmed it intends to create 6,000 new jobs in the UK this year.

As ever, Brexit continues to be a huge subject of debate, with many citing it as a key factor behind food shortages across the UK, although high energy prices and freak weather conditions have also contributed to supply issues nationwide.

On the financial markets, the FTSE-100 Index ended the month at 7,857 points, up 1.10% on January. The pound ended February up 0.42% against the dollar.


Last month saw the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and a renewed display of international resolve and solidarity from the UK, Europe and the US.

In early February, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy came to the UK to address MPs in Westminster Hall and meet King Charles at Buckingham Palace, before travelling to Brussels to address the European Parliament.

Later on in the month, as the anniversary approached, US President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv, where he pledged to support Ukraine for “as long as it takes”.

Meanwhile, China has called for Russia and Ukraine to reach a political settlement to end the war, and President Zelenskyy has said he wants to meet China’s President Xi Jinping after Beijing published a 12-point peace plan.


February ended with the European Union reaching a new deal with the UK over post-Brexit trade arrangements for Northern Ireland, although whether this wins the approval of the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland remains to be seen.

Last month also saw the European Commission adopt tougher data protection measures by ordering its staff to remove the TikTok app from their phones and corporate devices, due to concerns that user data is being harvested and sent to the Chinese government.

In other news, Gas Infrastructure Europe confirmed that Europe was on course to end winter with the amount of gas in storage close to a record high – a significant development as it means the continent is becoming less reliant on energy from Russia. However, there was less positive news for French energy provider EDF, which saw record losses of £16bn, despite soaring energy prices in 2022.

Germany, meanwhile, saw industrial action during February, with a walkout by ground crew over pay bringing seven major airports to a standstill.

On the financial markets, Germany’s DAX index saw an increase of 1.59% in February to end the month at 15,369 points. Meanwhile, the French CAC 40 index rose by 2.75% in the month to end at 7,276 points.


The US Federal Reserve started the month by raising interest rates by 0.25%, which leaves the bank’s benchmark rate at 4.5%-4.75% – the highest level since 2007. Many experts, including economists polled by Reuters, believe the Fed will raise interest rates at least two more times in the next few months, as it continues working to stabilise prices.

This comes as inflation continues to cool, falling from 6.5% in the 12 months to December to 6.4% in the year to January. Although this means inflation has now eased for seven consecutive months, it remains well above the Fed’s 2% target, driven by increases in the cost of food, energy and housing.

The US economy performed strongly in the face of continuing pressures on the cost of living and rising interest rates. During the final quarter of 2022, the economy grew by 2.9% year-on-year. Although this was down on the 3.2% figure recorded in the previous quarter, it was slightly better than expected. Nevertheless, it has not eased fears among some analysts that a recession is inevitable.

It’s a mixed picture in the US, with official figures showing slumps in construction activity and home sales. However, data from the Labor Department showed that employers added 517,000 jobs in January, which helped push the unemployment rate down to 3.4% – its lowest level in more than half a century.

Meanwhile, retail sales rose by 3.0% last month, the largest increase since March 2021. This backed up the findings of a study by the Bank of America Institute, which attributed increased spending in January on consumers having “solid cash buffers and borrowing capacity”, even if they were on relatively low incomes.

The difficult global economic climate weighed heavily on the financial markets during February, with the Dow Jones falling by 4.21% to end at 32,656, and the more broadly-based S&P 500 index falling by 3.62% to end at 3,970.

Far East

This month saw China’s top foreign policy official Wang Yi visit Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. But equally significantly, Beijing has called for peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, publishing a 12-point position paper on what needs to be done to end the war.

The Kremlin has confirmed it is paying “a great deal of attention” to China’s peace plan, and is analysing its proposal in detail.

Much has been made of the timing of this intervention, given worsening diplomatic relations between China and the US in recent months. Nevertheless, trade between the two nations hit a record high last year, with imports and exports totalling £572.6bn in 2022.

The recent easing of Covid restrictions in China looks set to trigger renewed growth in China, with the IMF predicting growth of 5.2% this year, compared with just 3% last year.

Meanwhile in Japan, official figures showed the economy is growing at a much slower pace than had been expected. Whereas many forecasts had predicted growth of 2% in the final quarter of 2022, the final figure was just 0.6% – and this slow growth coincides with inflation standing at a 42-year high.

On the financial markets, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell by 9.41% to end February at 19,785, while Japan’s Nikkei Dow index rose by 3.46% to 27,445. China’s Shanghai Composite index rose by 0.74% to 3,279, while the market in South Korea fell by 0.50% to end at 2,412.

Emerging Markets

India looks set to become a much bigger player on the global stage, with the IMF predicting that emerging and developing markets will account for about 80% of global growth in 2023 and 2024. India will contribute more than 15% of this growth.

In what may be a reflection of its growing international status, Air India has ordered 470 new aircraft, which the company says will help it offer a “world-class proposition serving global travellers with an Indian heart”.

Brazil is also enjoying an economic surge, with figures from its central bank showing activity increased by 2.0% in 2022.

Meanwhile, Russia has announced that it will respond to a price cap on oil products imposed by other major economies by reducing production of crude oil by 500,000 barrels a day.

On the financial markets, India’s BSE Sensex index fell by 2.22% to end the month at 17,538, while Russia’s MOEX index saw an upturn of 1.23% to end at 2,252. Brazil’s Bovespa index, meanwhile, fell by 6.58% to end the month at 105,961.

And Finally…

Just weeks after a suspected Chinese spy balloon over the US triggered talk that aliens had finally landed, another mysterious object has led to some wondering if extraterrestrials are walking among us.

A giant sphere, referred to as “Godzilla egg” by a BBC reporter, washed ashore in the Japanese city of Hamamatsu. Police were alerted immediately, but intriguingly, they’ve not yet identified what the strange object is. Fascinating, as Mr Spock might say…

Back to more earthly matters, and the latest in our reports of iconic images being seen in food. Graham and Cathy Bloye were enjoying cauliflower wings at The Stanborough Beefeater in Welwyn Garden City when they noticed that one of the wings resembled the outline of the UK.

But after sharing images of their patriotic meal on social media, people viewing the post noticed that several key parts of the country were missing – notably the Isle of Wight and the Isle of Man. We’ve also taken a look at the image ourselves, and it’s not just British islands that are missing – East Anglia is clearly missing too.

What is the state pension triple lock?

Wednesday, December 14th, 2022

The Chancellor’s decision to protect the state pension triple lock was one of the most
headline-grabbing aspects of the recent Budget.

But what exactly is the triple lock and what does it mean? In short, it’s a mechanism designed to make sure the state pension doesn’t lose value, so it will go up by whichever is highest of the following measures:

Average earnings
The rate of inflation (as per the Consumer Price Index)
2.5 per cent

So if, for example, average earnings went up by three per cent, the state pension would go
up this amount, provided the rate of inflation was also lower than this amount. Or if average earnings went up by two per cent and inflation increased by three per cent in the same year, the state pension would go up by the latter amount.

The Chancellor’s pledge to protect the state pension triple lock was therefore very
significant in light of the current cost of living crisis and inflation being at a 40-year high.
With this guarantee in place, pensioners are in a stronger position to withstand the tough
economic climate and make ends meet at a time when so many people are really feeling
the pinch.

However, it should be noted that Jeremy Hunt didn’t commit to saying how long the
measure would remain in place.

This is a costly policy for the government at a time when it wants to spend public money
more efficiently and bring down public debt. So there’s every chance we could again be
asking about the future of the triple lock before the end of the next financial year.
We should also stress that the full state pension is currently £185.15 per week, which works
out to less than £10,000 a year.

So even though it’s due to rise by £870 in April 2023, that’s still far from being enough
money to live off, let alone enjoy the quality of life that you aspire to during your

That’s why you should make sure you have plans in place to supplement the state pension,
such as workplace pensions, private pensions and other investments, and ensure that
these represent the bulk of your income.

Then you can set yourself up to enjoy a much more comfortable lifestyle during your
retirement, having the means to live the kind of life that you want and deserve.
If you have any questions about saving for retirement and making the most of your
pensions, we’re here to help and will be happy to speak with you.

Get in touch and take charge of your retirement planning today.

Why it’s important to have a will

Wednesday, December 14th, 2022

If you haven’t got a will, you don’t have control over what happens to your money and assets after you die.

That means your wealth won’t go to your chosen beneficiaries, and could cause lots of lengthy and costly legal issues for the loved ones you leave behind.

Here are our top reasons why you should make sure you have a legally binding will in place.

Put yourself in control

If you die without a valid will, strict inheritance laws, known as the Rules of Intestacy, will apply.

These state that once any tax and debts have been paid, the first £250,000 of what remains, your personal possessions and half of any outstanding wealth will go to your spouse or civil partner, with the rest going to your children once they’ve turned 18.

It’s important to have a will because these rules might not necessarily reflect what you actually want to happen to your money when you die.

Make sure you can leave money to your partner

While the Rules of Intestacy enable a share of your money to go to your spouse or civil partner, there is no provision for unmarried partners. So if you’re living with your partner but not married, they won’t inherit a penny or have any legal claim to your estate, even if you’ve been together for many years and have children together.

Having a legally valid will in place is the only way to guarantee that you can leave money to your partner if you haven’t yet tied the knot.

Reflect your changing circumstances

As time passes, your circumstances can change dramatically. Perhaps you’ve got married, had children, or got divorced, or maybe you’ve bought a property or invested in a business.

You can update your will throughout your life, so it accurately reflects your current situation at any given time.

Make childcare provision

A will allows you to nominate a guardian for your children if you and your partner die. Otherwise, a Court will have to make this decision.

Reduce your tax liability

By writing a will, you can make sure you’re not paying more than you need to in inheritance tax.

Help your loved ones avoid complicated legal processes

If you write a will, you can choose who you want to handle your estate. Otherwise, a Court will have to decide, and this can not only be costly and time-consuming for your loved ones, but also extremely upsetting and could lead to family disputes.

By being clear about your wishes and who is responsible for making key decisions, you’re much more likely to avoid causing any unnecessary friction at a time when feelings might already be running high.

State your funeral wishes

If you have particular wishes for your funeral, such as where you want it to be, whether you want to be buried or cremated and what readings you’d like at the service, a will is a good place to make this known.

Again, it makes it easier for your family and loved ones at a distressing time.

Leave money to a good cause

You can use your will to leave a share of your estate to a charity or cause that is important to you.

Get peace of mind

Ultimately, having a will in place means you can be sure your wealth will go to your chosen recipients and be distributed in line with your wishes.

That can give you great confidence and peace of mind, as you know you’re not leaving anything to chance.

For advice on writing a will and planning your finances to make the most of your inheritance, please get in touch with us, and we’ll be happy to speak with you.

November market commentary

Wednesday, November 16th, 2022


Where did we leave the soap opera that is British politics? At the end of September, Liz Truss was the Prime Minister, and Kwasi Kwarteng was her Chancellor. As we reported last month, Kwarteng presented his ‘fiscal statement’ on Friday 23rd September. 

Three weeks later, he was gone and Liz Truss had to endure the most public of humiliations as new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt fed her ‘plan for growth’, policy after policy, into the parliamentary shredder. Eleven days later, Truss offered her own resignation, replaced by Rishi Sunak, the man she had defeated in the race to succeed Boris Johnson. The shortest serving PM on record was replaced by the youngest for over a century, meaning that in 2022, the UK has had four different Chancellors and three Prime Ministers. 

There was, though, far more to the news than the UK – neither was it the only country to have a new leader. 

As we report below, October brought us the Communist Party Congress in Beijing – and confirmation that Xi Jinping is effectively ruler of China for life. The war in Ukraine continued – and the month ended with Russia pulling out of the grain deal agreed earlier this year, sparking fears of a threat to the world’s food supply. 

And as Russia gave the appearance of mobilising nuclear weapons, American President Joe Biden called it, “the most dangerous time since [the Cuban missile crisis of] 1962”. Finland indicated that it would be willing to host nuclear weapons on its border with Russia. 

How did the world’s stock markets react to all the news? It was a long way from the doom and gloom that might have been expected. All but two of the markets we cover in the Bulletin made gains in October: shares in China and Hong Kong, however, did not react well to Xi Jinping’s third term. As we report below, there are real fears that he will put political ideology, and his zero Covid policy, ahead of economic growth. 

As always, let us look at all the news and its impact on the stock markets we cover in the Bulletin. 


Many of the notes we made in the early part of the month – ‘Kwarteng to bring forward debt plan from November 23rd – were subsequently rendered irrelevant by the events mentioned above. The medium term fiscal statement, at one time due to be delivered on October 31st, has now been pushed back to Thursday November 17th and upgraded to a full Autumn Statement. 

The statement – which will come with forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility – is expected to detail billions of pounds worth of public spending cuts in an attempt to reassure the markets about the stability of the UK economy. The new Chancellor has said he is willing to take ‘politically embarrassing’ decisions. 

The beginning of October was turbulent, to say the least. Kwasi Kwarteng swiftly U-turned on his decision to scrap the 45p tax rate, saying it was a ‘distraction’. A day later, he was forced to bring forward his debt cutting plan from November 23rd. Small wonder that ratings agency Fitch downgraded its outlook for UK government debt from ‘stable’ to ‘negative,’ which put further pressure on the pound. 

Kwarteng’s position had become untenable and, as we reported in the introduction, the Prime Minister – with a new Chancellor calling the shots and the Bank of England supporting the pound – was forced to undergo a public humiliation which wouldn’t have looked out of place on Game of Thrones. 

Even away from politics, good news was hard to find in October. Figures for August showed that the economy had unexpectedly contracted by 0.3%, leading to fears of a recession. September saw inflation at 10.1% – back to a 40-year high – as the BBC reported that people ‘are delaying turning their heating on’. The International Monetary Fund added to the gloom, saying that it expected inflation in the UK to peak at 11.3% before the end of the year. 

Clearly the rising prices are impacting business, with City AM firstly reporting that company insolvencies in the second quarter hit their highest level since 2009, and a few days later suggesting that ’50,000 small businesses in London could collapse’. While that last headline might seem a shade alarmist, there is no doubt that the coming year will be a very challenging one for our clients who own and run SMEs. 

What about jobs in general and the nation’s high street? The month got off to a bad start with Tesco reporting first half profits sharply down on last year. The figure of £413m was 64% down on the first six months of 2021, as the supermarket chain warned that ‘shoppers are watching every penny’.

A day later, City AM was reporting that high street spending had ‘slumped’, with the rate of footfall increase post-Covid slowing sharply, with ‘shoppers cutting back on shopping sprees’. The counter-argument to that, of course, is that shoppers simply went online – but as we will see in the US section, Amazon also reported disappointing figures. 

There were two pinpoints of light at the end of the tunnel. The unemployment rate fell to 3.5%, the lowest figure recorded for 50 years. And we may finally be returning to the office, at least in London. Restaurant chain Itsu declared that the capital was ‘back in business’, with increasing numbers of customers being served from Monday to Friday. 

And what many of our clients have waited so long for might soon be here. ‘Savers rates finally on the move’ reported the BBC. It is, of course, the flipside of the recent higher mortgage rates, but it appears that there is finally some real competition emerging in the savings market. ‘Experts say banks and building societies are leapfrogging each other on best buy tables,’ said the story – music to the ears of many of our clients. 

It is impossible, though, to leave the UK section anywhere other than back with the new Prime Minister and Chancellor. For the time being, their appointment seems to have calmed the markets, with both the pound and the FTSE ultimately making gains in October. Sunak ‘not perfect but the right choice for now’ was how one commentator put it, and that appears to be the view of the markets. Although UK Government debt continues to rise, the cost of servicing it is, at least for now, coming down. 

The FTSE-100 index of leading shares was up by 3% to close the month at 7,095. The pound strengthened by a similar percentage against the dollar, and ended October trading at $1.1490. 


October began with the US committing a further $625m (£538m) in defence aid to Ukraine following a telephone conversation between Presidents Zelenskyy and Biden. This takes the total US spend to date to $16.8bn (£14.5bn) – a figure which has not gone down well with some of the country’s more right-wing commentators. 

The month’s first significant event in the conflict came a few days later when a huge blast destroyed sections of a bridge leading to Crimea – both strategically important and a symbol of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. 

Retaliatory strikes across Ukraine quickly followed and – still evidently not satisfied with progress – in mid-month, Putin sacked two of his senior military commanders and appointed General Sergey Surovikin to lead the next phase of the conflict. Surovikin is apparently known as ‘General Armageddon’, which may give some clue to future Russian tactics. 

Ukraine has huge, untapped gas supplies in the Dnipro-Donets basin, and held talks with American drillers about pumping this gas to Europe, reducing the region’s dependence on Russian gas – and presumably making Europe more willing to supply Ukraine with the weapons it now needs. 

October saw China order all its citizens to leave Ukraine. Whether this was in response to the escalation of Russia’s shelling following the attack on the bridge, or whether China knows of Putin’s further plans, is impossible to say. What we can say is that the war has now lasted for eight months, and there is no end – either military or diplomatic – in sight. 

The month ended with another twist to the downward spiral as Russia suspended its participation in the grain deal struck in the summer. This followed what it described as a ‘massive’ drone attack on its Black Sea fleet, and prompted the ominous Sunday Telegraph headline, ‘Food prices to surge after Putin chokes grain supply.’ 


While the debate about a windfall tax on energy firms rages on in the UK, the EU has made its mind up. 

The 27 member bloc has confirmed it will impose a windfall tax on energy companies’ profits, aiming to raise funds to provide relief for families and businesses across the continent. The measures include a levy on fossil fuel companies’ surplus profits made in 2022 or 2023, and another levy on excess revenues low-cost producers make from the rising electricity costs. 

At the same time, Sweden all but accepted that it will face power shortages this winter. It was hit by a dry and relatively windless summer, meaning less energy was generated from renewables: in addition the country’s nuclear power plants are not yet ready to supply consumers. 

The Swedish prosecution authority declared the area around the ruptured Nord Stream pipelines a ‘crime scene’, banning divers and vessels from being within 5.8 miles of the leaks. 

There were more twists in the energy tale in the middle of the month, when the biggest oil refinery in Europe, Shell’s Pernis in the Netherlands, suffered what was described as a ‘malfunction’. This came on top of the pressure on fuel supplies caused by a wave of strikes in France. 

In company news, Porsche overtook Volkswagen to become Europe’s most valuable car maker, with shares surging to €93 (£80) before stabilising at around €91 (£78), to give the company a valuation of €84bn (£72bn) and take it past Volkswagen. 

Long time readers of this Bulletin will remember the travails of Deutsche Bank. Mired in scandals and seemingly-endless losses it was long seen as the ‘sick man’ of the global banking sector, but a turnaround under Christian Sewing has just seen the bank record its ninth successive quarterly profit, making €1.12bn (£961m) in the three months to September, up from €194m (£166m) in the same period last year. 

Europe’s stock markets took their cue from Porsche and Deutsche Bank rather than continuing worries about energy, with both the German and French markets rising by 9% in the month. They closed October at 13,254 and 6,267 respectively. 


For much of this year, we have been reporting on Elon Musk’s on/off pursuit of the social media platform Twitter. The deal was finally concluded with the world’s richest man paying $44bn (£38bn) for the company, walking into the headquarters building carrying a sink and promptly cutting a swathe through the senior management team. 

Quite what Musk’s plans are for the company remain to be seen: there is talk that he wants to create a ‘super-app’ that will take care of every aspect of our lives, much like some of the apps in the Far East. You suspect we won’t have long to wait to find out…

Staying with Elon Musk, October was a good month for Tesla. A few days after the company announced that it would deliver its first trucks in December – Pepsi has apparently ordered 100 – came the news that it had sold 83,135 China-made vehicles in September. That was a new record, and up 8% on August, according to figures from the China Passenger Car Association. 

If October was a good month for Tesla, it was emphatically not a good month for some of the tech giants, who were badly hit by the slowdown in the economy and the consequent caution on the part of advertisers. Both Google and Microsoft reported slowing sales growth – Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube reported sales up just 6% in the third quarter – while Facebook shares slumped to a six-year low. 

The chill wind also blew through Amazon: analysts were disappointed with the 3rd quarter figures, as revenue growth slowed to 27% from the 33% recorded in the second quarter. The company said it expected the challenges of inflation, rising fuel costs and weaker demand to persist ‘through the holiday quarter’. CEO Brian Olsavsky said the company ‘will be looking at our cost structure and areas where we can save money’. The net result of all this was a fall of nearly 20% in the company’s shares, wiping $202bn (£174bn) off the company’s value. 

In the wider US economy, jobs growth slowed to 263,000 new jobs in September – the lowest figure since April 2021 – as the fight against inflation continued. Analysts continue to expect further rises in US interest rates. 

We have mentioned above the EU’s decision to impose a windfall tax on energy companies. How they must wish they could get their hands on Exxon Mobil: the company – headquartered in Irving, Texas – is expected to unveil another quarter of huge profits in the coming week, powered by high natural gas prices. The company is currently on track for an expected $54.8bn (£47.2bn) profit this year – more than its cumulative earnings since 2018. 

October also saw the price of coal go above $200 (£172) a ton for the first time ever. We have written previously about China greatly expanding its coal production: you suspect that in the current climate plenty of countries will be following suit. 

On Wall Street, it was a similar picture to the markets in London, Frankfurt and Paris. The Dow Jones index was up by an impressive 14% to close the month at 32,733. The more broadly-based S&P500 index rose 8% to 3,872. 

Far East 

There were two major stories in this section of the Bulletin last month: confirmation that Xi Jinping is effectively ‘ruler for life’ in China, and the Hong Kong stock market. 

Let’s begin with what appears to be absolute power. October brought us the Communist Party Congress in China, an event held once every five years. Previously it has been the rule that a Chinese leader can only serve two five-year terms but, as we have reported in previous Bulletins, that rule has been removed. 

The Congress saw Xi Jinping handed a third term as President, effectively making him the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao. What was noticeable about the Congress – apart from Xi’s fierce defence of his ‘zero Covid’ policy – was that the Politburo Standing Committee, the ‘seven men who rule China’, now consists wholly of Xi loyalists. As several commentators pointed out, Xi prizes loyalty far more than ability. 

Widely believed to be ‘number two’ to Xi is Li Qiang, the Shanghai party chief. Earlier this year, there was speculation that Li’s career was doomed because of the two-month lockdown in Shanghai. But he is a close ally of Xi, showing him absolute loyalty, and is now likely to be China’s next Premier and, effectively, the man in charge of the Chinese economy. 

…And hence the concerns, especially in Hong Kong. The lockdown in Shanghai did huge damage to the Chinese economy but was deemed worth it – and was ruthlessly enforced – as part of the zero Covid policy. The fear now is that in his third term, Xi Jinping will put ideology first and economic growth a distant second. Bloomberg reported that Chinese workers are already experiencing the worst job market prospects on record as the economy continues to slow. 

Shares in tech companies like Alibaba and Ten Cent fell sharply on the confirmation of Xi’s third term, and the market in Hong Kong was especially badly hit: on the 20th of the month the market stood at 16,280 – a nine-year low. But as we will see below, the damage didn’t end there.

Away from China, the other big story was action by the Bank of Japan to support the yen. Speculation was rife on how much the BoJ had spent selling dollars and buying yen: the figure was eventually put at 2.8 trillion yen – equivalent to $19.7bn or £17bn. Did it work? At the time of writing this section of the Bulletin, the Yen was trading at 147 to the dollar – with 140 generally held to be a crucial support level. 

So we come to the region’s stock markets. At the beginning of this year, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was trading at 23,398. It closed September at 17,223 – and it closed October at 14,687, a fall of 15% for the month. For the year as a whole, the Hong Kong market is down by 37%. China’s Shanghai Composite Index also fell, albeit by a much more modest 4% to 2,893. In complete contrast, the markets in Japan and South Korea both enjoyed good months, rising by 6% to close at 27,587 and 2,294 respectively. 

Emerging Markets 

We have, as is now customary, covered the war in Ukraine in its own section above. It may, though, be appropriate to ask, ‘what’s going on in Russia?’ Rumours of a coup have swirled around all year and October brought the sudden death of another of Vladimir Putin’s long-time allies. Nikolay Petrunin, a multi-millionaire, close confidant of the President and dubbed the ‘Gazprom wonderkid’ died, reportedly from complications associated with Covid. The official line did little to quell speculation, with his death coming just five weeks after that of the head of Russia’s biggest privately-held oil producer. 

Rumours also continue to persist over Putin’s health and the inevitable question, ‘who might take over from him?’ One name that came to the fore in October was Sergei Kiriyenko, the so-called ‘Viceroy of the Donbas’ (everyone in Russia seems to have a nickname). A Kremlin insider and the man credited with the recent ‘successful’ referenda in the Donas region, Kiriyenko is apparently the man Putin wants as his successor – at least for this week. 

Everyone reading this Bulletin will know that the world’s population continues to increase, with the latest figures suggesting that the number of people on our planet has doubled since 1973. At that point, there were only six countries with a population of over 100m: today there are 15, with India expected to overtake China next year to become the world’s most populous country, with an estimated population of 1.43bn (compared to 1.425bn in China). India and China are followed on the list by Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia and the US. 

The month ended with a close-run election in Brazil, with former President Lula challenging current incumbent Jair Bolsonaro. Left-winger Lula beat Bolsonaro by five percentage points in the first round of voting, but the run-off was expected to be much tighter. In the event the 77-year-old Luna – who served two terms as president between 2003 and 2010 but was subsequently accused of corruption – prevailed, winning 50.89% of the vote. 

What of the region’s stock markets in October? Like most of the world’s stock markets they made gains in October. The Russian market led the way with a gain of 11% to end the month at 2,167. The Indian market was up by 6%, breaking through the 60,000 barrier to reach 60,747. In Brazil, the market rose by 5% to close October at 116,037. 

And finally…

And so we come to the ‘And finally…’ section of the Bulletin – a bastion of sanity compared to the recent goings-on in Westminster.

Sadly, bizarre stories were in short supply in October so we must content ourselves with discussing cheese – and the end of the world. 

Older clients will remember apocryphal stories of the European Union’s ‘wine lake’ – the overproduction of wine in the EU around 2005-7, with the surplus wine having to be turned into industrial alcohol. 

Quite what the equivalent for cheese is we’re not sure – mountain? Wedge? – but the USA is going to need to find a word for it. A report revealed that the country had approximately 1.5bn pounds of cheese in cold storage as of April 2022, worth an estimated $3.4bn (£2.9bn). 

The largest constituents of this surplus are processed American cheese (there has been a long-running overproduction of milk in the US), Swiss cheese and good old Cheddar. Where does the country store that much cheese – enough to make the Statue of Liberty out of cheese many times over? Much of it is, apparently, stored in a huge underground facility just outside Springfield, Missouri. 

Speaking of going underground, October brought news of Oppidum, a Swiss company which makes luxury underground bunkers in which the ultra, ultra-rich can ride out the coming apocalypse. The L’Heritage bunkers – designed by a French architect – can obviously be customised to an owner’s taste, and can include extra facilities such as an extra-large garage (presumably for Mad Max style vehicles), a private art gallery, meeting lounges, indoor gardens and a spa with a private pool. 

Security is, of course, paramount, with the fortified blast doors controlled by a system that scans a resident’s face, iris, palm and fingerprints. The bunkers are available in the UK, EU and United Arab Emirates. Plus, inevitably, the USA. 

So it’s good to know that whatever happens, Elon Musk will be safe. There may be an apocalypse, ladies and gentlemen, but don’t worry. You’ll still be able to tweet about it…