Private Investor: Slick returns are all thanks to the rising price of oil

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The Independent Online

OK, so the Footsie is marking time at the moment, but things could be a lot, lot worse, and indeed they have been. At the mo, I'm happy to report that quite a few of my blue chips are continuing to make steady, unspectacular progress.

Rolls-Royce, in particular, has become a strong performer, and I'm in the money on all the various tranches of shares I've bought in the past 10 years or so. I reckon the average of these is about 200p while the shares are now heading for the 300p mark.

In the dark days of 2001, the City seemed to think that the old girl was about to go bust. Now, in the warm afterglow of the Paris airshow, it can do no wrong. The shares are on an all-time high and all is optimism. It shows that Britain can still have a manufacturing industry, at any rate.

One might have expected the renewed strength in the price of oil to knock all aerospace-related stocks, but the $60 barrel of crude hasn't even taken the shine off my shares in Stagecoach, which now seems firmly on the road to recovery after it, too, underwent a near-death experience a couple of years ago, thanks to an ill-starred diversification into America.

More than anything, though, the upwards trend in oil and widespread expectation that dear oil is here to stay has helped my holding in Shell, long a dog performer. Fortunately, as with Rolls-Royce, I was keen to buy some extra stock a few years ago, when the $10 barrel of oil arrived. I never believed that was going to be sustainable, and so it has proved. Maybe the present high oil price is also an imposter, but I would have thought that, long term, $60 is nearer the mark than $10.

The second punch in this benign double whammy for Shell shareholders is the major improvement in the running of the company, culminating this week in the end of the firm's old double-headed structure.

Now the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company and Shell Transport and Trading have, after an incredibly long engagement, got married and moved in together, they have also dumped some of their old, bureaucratic, paternal ways and faced up to the modern world, just as BP did years ago. Thus the two blocs of shares I bought, at 457p eight years ago and 368p two years ago, are now in the money, with Shell shares running comfortably over 500p now. And you get a 4.7 per cent yield.

I know the returns are way below what some alternatives might have produced, but I'm grateful that Shell has come good at least. I'm rather more optimistic about the next five years' performance, although I wish the company would invest rather more on the renewables/alternative energy side of the business.

The more adventurous ends of the portfolio are also making gains. Every so often, I peak at the share price o f the JPMF Indian Investment Trust and cannot believe my luck. It's had its ups and downs but, as one of the few retail vehicles for investors captivated by all this talk about globalisation and the coming Indian economic revolution, the trust is riding on the exuberant tiger spirits of our times.

I'm no chartist, but if I were, I'd say the JPMF Indian IT share price graph was halfway up another of its periodic spikes. In any case, it scaled another all-time high last week at over 172p, compared with a nadir of 30p in 1998, shortly after which I started buying on a regular monthly basis, by far the most sensible way to approach a volatile stock such as this.

For those of us who think that everyone can win in a globalised world, buying shares in Europe and in India is a perfectly sensible attitude. For those with a more Chiracien turn of mind, you might find putting a few pounds east each month a useful hedge on a troubled future.

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