Games will not offer a winning opportunity

The Olympics are expected to give a £5.1bn boost to the economy. But UK investors are unlikely to benefit.

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The Independent Online

Hosting the Olympic Games has consistently failed to give a stock market boost. That's bad news for those backing UK firms over this summer's sporting events.

In January, Your Money looked at the prospects for the UK ahead of the London Olympics.

Then, Jon Wingent of Close Brothers Asset Management, said: "Hosting an Olympics enhances investment opportunities that might not otherwise be there such as travel, tourism, leisure and retail."

But analysis of the investment performance of the last five countries to host the Games paints a depressing picture. Only Greece and the US reported a small gain, but in China, Australia and Spain, the market fell over the period one month before the Games until their end (see graphic). The Barcelona Olympics actually saw an almost 15 per cent fall in Spanish stock markets.

Darius McDermott of Chelsea Financial Services pointed out: "Markets have generally traded sideways in the run up to and during the Olympic Games. This could be due to people's minds being on other things, but also because the Games tend to fall in the summer months when investors and trading can be quieter too."

But he said any potential uplift will have already been figured into markets while investors are, in any event, more concerned with macro issues at the moment.

"The investment benefits from the London Olympics have generally been played out already, with the exception of tourism," Mr McDermott said.

"The wider issues of unsolved European sovereign debt issues will outweigh any Olympic sentiment when it comes to stock market performance in the next few weeks."

Jonathan Barber of Threadneedle UK Monthly Income fund agreed.

"The positive impact of Olympic effects on the UK market pale into insignificance alongside macro events such as the further unfolding of the eurozone debt crisis and the outlook for global growth in 2012," he said. "These macro issues will continue to drive market volatility in the short term, particularly as three-quarters of UK corporate earnings come from overseas."

Julian Chillingworth, chief investment officer at Rathbones, said: "Any longer-term input in the economy will depend on how effectively the Olympic stadia and related buildings are exploited – something China did not do post the Beijing games. What we don't want is another Millennium Dome scenario."

Fen Sung, manager of the Premier China Enterprise fund, said China did see some short-term gains at the time of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"Tourism and construction were working well but the benefit was short-lived. A lot of money was spent, but the Bird's Nest Stadium – the focal point of the Games – is not being used today," he said.

Beyond that, why didn't China get more investment benefit from hosting the Games?

Charlie Awdry of the Henderson China Opportunities fund explained: "In China, investors didn't appreciate how disruptive hosting the Olympics was for business activity. In particular, we saw strong economic activity as business and construction was brought forward ahead of the Olympics.

"But then China seemed to have a national holiday for the duration of the Games and when people returned to work the global economic outlook had deteriorated. Activity levels fell and inventories had to be worked through which made the downturn even worse."

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