City Watch: Corporate world appears in good shape despite some disappointments, says Brian Tora

Brian Tora of J M Finn & Co

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

Markets have maintained their steadier tone in recent days, albeit making little real progress.

On the other hand there has been little for investors to get their teeth into, though company results – mainly third quarter updates – are emerging thick and fast. While there have been some disappointments, by and large they demonstrate that the corporate world is in good shape.

The news that a rescue deal has been struck for the Co-operative Bank, without recourse to government funds, will have brought a sigh of relief in some quarters, though the cost-cutting exercise that accompanies it will be less welcome. Banks remain very much in the news, with details of the RBS restructuring announced last week and some encouraging numbers from HSBC yesterday.

For the rest of the week the European Central Bank and Bank of England interest rate announcements on Thursday are arguably the most important events, not that any change is expected. US unemployment figures are due on Friday. With the Fed watching these closely, any improvement might be taken as a sign that the tapering of quantitative easing is moving a step closer.

Outside equity markets, the bond world looks remarkably calm, with yields little changed on the week. Gold and oil, on the other hand, have been weaker. These two commodities, both priced in dollars, often move in tandem, although the factors influencing their behaviour can be very different. With oil it is usually economic activity that drives the price, though on this occasion expectations that Iran could return to the market is more important.

As for gold, after a strong performance in the wake of the financial crisis, the yellow metal has been rather out of favour recently. Selling pressure has come from investors who have been more easily able to access this asset through vehicles like Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). Even though jewellery accounts for nearly half of gold usage, and governments also influence the price, investor disenchantment has been sufficient to drive the price lower.

: : Brian Tora is an associate with investment managers J M Finn & Co.