City Watch: Brian Tora on why markets are still in nervous mood

Brian Tora of J M Finn & Co

Brian Tora of J M Finn & Co - Credit: Archant

Two weeks ago British Gas was in the news for not the best of reasons. This week, its had returned to the spotlight, again under circumstances it would wish had not taken place.

The energy minister clearly thinks that British Gas and other energy giants are making too much money at the expense of the poor consumer. Gas and electricity companies seem to have taken over the mantle of those businesses we love to hate from the banks.

Still, at least markets have settled down a little. With many major markets peaking in early January, investors have had a troubled ride for the past few weeks as fears abound over the consequences of the ending of monetary easing and problems in emerging markets are thrust into centre stage. Some recovery has now taken place, even if the underlying tone remains one of nervousness.

Matters were not helped by some disappointing manufacturing numbers from the United States last week which cast doubt over the robustness of the economic recovery there. While there are undoubted worries over how fast the US can make up the ground lost in the wake of the credit crunch, it seems most likely that these latest figures were affected by the atrocious weather suffered across a large area of America.

So we are settling into a pattern which suggests central banks are still likely to keep interest rates down to avoid damaging economic growth, but with monetary easing being progressively withdrawn, encouraging capital to flow back to the US. It is this latter development that has so upset some developing nations, with Turkey having pushed up interest rates significantly to help protect its currency.

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Perhaps the flow of company results will provide more support for shares, although it is always difficult to be certain what message the corporate world will be delivering. The devil might be in the detail of what they expect the future to hold.

Brian Tora is an associate with investment managers JM Finn & Co.

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