Putting my money where my mouth is, it seems appropriate to try to pluck out a stock or two that long-term investors can tuck away in the belief that things can only get better. Short-term stills looks very fuzzy around the edges.
No cheer is emerging from Asia, while Russia looks set to implode. The Bank of England has refused to confirm that interest rates have peaked and news abounds of job losses and cancelled export orders, suggesting manufacturing industry at least is heading into recession. It takes a brave m an to make buy recommendations in circumstances such as these. Still, here goes.
The trick, so any sage investment manager will tell you, is to buy low and sell high. One advantage of a shake out such as that seen in our market since the middle of July is that a number of shares have been soundly hammered by the market. Take the BSkyB. Reporting lower profits for the year just ended on a higher turnover, the company was obliged to point to higher-than-expect costs for the launch of digital TV, a rise in the number of consumers cancelling (known as the "churn rate") and more spending to gain subscribers.
Add in the likelihood that Pearson will shortly sell its stake, while Granada may not be in there for the long term, given its involvement with ONdigital it is no wonder the shares are friendless. But this is a growing market and BSkyB has demonstrated how successfully it can operate in competitive conditions. If buy low is the trigger for action, then the shares are, relatively at any rate, low.
Talking about media, what about Reed International? Now here is a company that is similarly bombed out. First you have all the embarrassment of Reed Travel, then they apparently can't decide which half of the company should provide the chief executive. Actually, this last could be a plus. Industry watchers believe that the outsider they will attract will not only be a serious player, he will hold the whole group together. Reed is a class company. Its transition to electronic publisher has been impressive and, rather unlike BSkyB has it happens, it tends to own the material it puts out across the new media.
Then there are store shares, hit by a wet summer and falling consumer confidence. Our retail analyst pointed out to me that the Stores Index was at a 30-year relative low compared with the market as a whole, so you can see how out of favour they are. But retailers are a very mixed bag and it is clear that some are benefiting at the expense of others.
In particular, supermarkets, discounters and, indeed, anyone who can offer value for money appear to be gaining ground at the expense of department stores and fashion chains. Moreover, the spending is coming from the 35- plus age group, with youngsters amongst us actually spending less.
Value for money, older customer base - it must be Marks & Spencer we are talking about. And they have fallen by more than twice as much as the market from their peak. The firm has an ambitious expenditure programme underway, aiming to increase its trading space dramatically and to improve information systems. One to tuck away, even if you will not be able to take the shares back to exchange them for another, more profitable company if you are not satisfied with the performance.
Brian Tora is the chairman of the Greig Middleton investment strategy committeeReuse content