Personal Finance: July heatwaves leave the world markets sticky and uncomfortable

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Indy Lifestyle Online
IS JULY the new October? Once upon a time, market- moving moments carried with them that autumnal chill, telling you it was time to hibernate and wait until spring brought a touch of blue to the trading screens as well as green to the fields.

October saw the Yom Kippur war, a General Election or two and, most notably, the great stockmarket crash of 1987. But these days it looks as though July, as well as giving sticky, uncomfortable nights, is providing a sticky and uncomfortable time in the stockmarket. The start of the Asian crisis in 1997, Russian freefall in 1998 and, this year, Argentina and China delivering their own market shocks.

Argentina has been here before. We could be forgiven for not taking it too seriously, but when a potential leader of one of the biggest countries in South America starts talking about discussing debt re-scheduling with the Pope, you realise matters have become pretty serious.

Rumours of a Chinese devaluation have been around before, but dismissing the world's most populous country is not a pastime to be undertaken lightly.

A devaluation of the yuan would reverberate around the region. Hong Kong was close to its year's high earlier this week, but shed 4 per cent as rumours built. At the very least it demonstrates the fragility of the Far Eastern recovery.

But does it really matter if Latin America and the Far East are in turmoil?

If you look at the Association of Private Client Investment Managers and Stockbrokers Private Investor Indices, then the Far East, ex-Japan, and Emerging Markets count for little in terms of the weighting accorded them by investment managers.

This is not the complete picture, of course.

Some 65 per cent of the Growth Index is committed to the UK market. Nevertheless, it does not help to exaggerate the importance of what is going on in smaller stockmarkets.

If there are implications for the rest of the world's economy then we should be worried.

I have seen so many scares evaporate as bankers with real clout, like Mr Greenspan of the Federal Reserve, act to head off problems that I feel tolerably comfortable on recent events.

But I am beginning to question whether traditional indices and measures are still as important as they used to be.

This week Dow Jones Indexes launched an Index of Titans. The world's 50 largest multi-national companies - dominated, by the US, but with a fair sprinkling of UK, European and Japanese names - provide this new measure.

These are the businesses, according to DJI, set to dominate the world's economy well into the 21st century.

With these companies all operating substantially outside the boundaries of their country of origin, you can see this approach is not fanciful. Expect more indices - and some funds - in this vein.

Brian Tora is chairman of the Greig Middleton investment strategy committee

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