With Greek turmoil dominating much of the financial news in the last few months, much merit can be subscribed to Franklin Roosevelt's: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."
Fear strangled markets. This version of a Greek Tragedy secured a Dracula-level of fear across markets, with the Gulf News last week also blaming Greek debt contagion concerns for weighing down UAE bourses.
Wouldn't it be nice if Europe's answer to sunny Dubai recovered? According to Jim Lipsky of the IMF, the Greek vote was an important first step in terms of what he calls a ‘restructuring reform programme,' and not, as the press and protestors label it a, ‘grim austerity package.' Same, same really, as one deals with the longer term positive objectives, and the other with short term realities.
To Lipsky, the vote was necessary to secure the ‘beginning-of-the-end' refinancing projects and enable Greece to become (sometime) ‘competitive' within Europe as well as providing ‘sustainable growth.'
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What does it mean for investors? If you believed the likes of Lipsky, then buying upward-bound markets through ETFs and other cheap routes would make sense. The sceptical, however, will say it is Lipsky's job to be a positive ‘solution-finder.' The sceptical will point out Greek debt is 150 per cent of GDP. Ask your bank if they will lend you 150 per cent of what you earn over the next few years to find out how much that is. Or look at Greek Sovereign debt now with the lowest ever credit ratings for its ilk and wonder why.
Out of this Grecian Urn I pick up the phone to Stan Lock, stock broker, and consultant to Brewin Dolphin. "Stan, what stocks are going to go up, regardless of where markets are at?" The background to such a question: any idiot can make money in a rising market, so if we are at the beginning of a sustainable upward surge, then most stocks and most indices will do. Hence the value of market trackers.
But, we don't know, so back to Stan. "I am pro the US over Europe and Emerging Market stocks at the moment, so if investment decisions are going to be backed by rising markets, I would rather be in the US."
This leads to two ‘flavour-of-our-time' choices. The first one up is Mine Safety (MSA). On the back of some high profile mining tragedies around the world, the Schadenfreude would be attracted to the fact that disasters will have brought attention to this company who describes themselves as the ‘innovative world leaders' on mine safety. They have just announced a dividend to shareholders.
The second one, and Lock's big play of the moment is ‘Cardinal Health Inc (CAH)' which is a pharmaceutical company and immune from what Lock says is: ‘The current short sightedness of markets over-indulged in commodities. We still need medicine, and the health sector will never be out of demand." For those shopping in Europe, it's a sort of Boots the chemist with a broader distribution chain but a track record of profitability despite the uncertainties of current markets.
Interesting stocks to watch then, especially for the more experienced investors concerned about whether global macro-economics will remain a drag on market prices generally.