City & Business: Look closer to home for investment gains

Next Sunday will be the 10th anniversary of the October 1987 stock market crash, and you don't have to be superstitious to fear that another calamity is around the corner.

Last week, US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan cautioned that stocks were overvalued. European bourses suffered one of their worst weeks of the year. Technical analysts pointed to two Merrill Lynch charts (see top right) making the rounds, which highlighted ominous similarities between the pattern of the present bull market and those of the bull markets that preceded not only the 1987 crash, but the big one in 1929.

Despite the bearish indications, however, the odds against a crash remain strong. The bull market is on its last legs, but it is likely to go with a whimper rather than a bang. What lies in store after the present period of transition is a question taken up by Hamish McRae on page 7. Meanwhile, the real economies of the UK and the US look ready to cool, too.

There has been all sorts of blarney about a "new paradigm" of transatlantic economic activity. Basically, this "paradigm" boils down to a mantra-like reiteration of the benefits to be had from technology-driven productivity gains and low inflation guaranteed by cheap - but increasingly skilled - Asian labour.

These are indeed powerful forces. But the "miracle" they have generated in the Anglo-Saxon world is likely to prove as durable as the "miracle" proclaimed for the Tiger economies of Asia before a cascade of currency crises brought the region low.

What, then, should investors do? Stop searching the world for the markets with the greatest momentum. Pay less attention to global asset allocation, and more to identifying value at home.

The City is a class act on the world investment scene. By choosing Britain as the first site for Microsoft overseas investment, Bill Gates has highlighted the fact that information technology research here is also a class act. Why can't these two class acts get together to build a British IT sector that boasts big, profitable software companies?

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