Going for Gold – July 29th 2012

There seems to be some surprise that the opening ceremony was “very British”. What were people expecting? Mongolian hordes; Eskimo Nells? The very pointed reference to the NHS being at the centre of British values will no doubt have gone over the head of Andrew Lansley (Secretary of State for Health) and most of the audience, who are blissfully unaware that his cunning plan is to emaciate the service so he has an excuse to privatise it on the cheap for the benefit of his “friends”. A tactic Mitt Romney would have approved of along with burying the “special relationship”, which he cares little for, as we have no natural resources, our armed forces are dwindling to mere crowd controllers and republicans have no use for a monarch. Having been part of the organising committee for the 2002 US Winter Olympics he may think he has the right to opine on the ability of the Brits to host such an occasion, but as David Cameron said, putting the games on in the middle of nowhere, Salt Lake City, compared to London, bears no comparison.

 So we have two weeks of sport to take our minds off the global financial malaise. The EU commissars have all gone on holiday, but not before Mario Draghi (ECB Chairman) announced that he will do whatever it takes to save the euro. Really? His statement did knock the Spanish 10 year bond yield back below 7%, but this had become a one way and illiquid trade that was due for break. We have seen it all before with Greece. Denial, denial, denial all the way until days before default restructuring. Talking of which, the Greeks think they are in line for a further handout. Those whirring sounds you can hear in the distance are printing presses knocking out “new” drachma.

 The question being asked now is, “where are the risk free assets?” In truth there have never been any. Cash has rarely, if ever, beaten inflation and are there any bankers left that you trust? Last week Barclays put aside £450 million to provide for “Lieborgate” claims stating they had no idea what the final figure would be. Try adding a few more “noughts” guys and you might be close. Government bonds always manage to flatter to deceive in the end as inflation inevitably finds its way back into the equation. You will have done very well in gilts over the past two decades (10%+ yields in the early 90s) but at 1.5% now I would hardly call that a risk free investment.

 The reverse yield gap disappeared a long time ago and equities (and high yield corporate bonds) are touted as the place to go for income but are certainly not risk free either. And do remember that corporate debt is priced as fixed interest on the way up, but like equities on the way down…LTRO 2 a la Draghi or QE3 from Ben’s helicopter may help for a while but neither of the previous such operations have had any long lasting effect and there are no logical reasons to believe that a further dose should produce a different result, unless you have been taking the Keynesian medicine from an early and impressionable age.

 Along with Team GB, I will be going for gold. Not a totally risk free option I grant you as Cav found out in Saturday’s bike race. My money is on Bradley for the time trials; he does have a “yellow” jersey to his name after all.