Friday, October 28, 2011

The quest for green shoots

Good news has been thin on the ground recently. Very thin. However, a number of positive items have made the headlines in the last few days:

1. the European Union reaching an agreement to deal with Greece and European banks . Sure, there are a lot of important details which are still missing and the fundamental problem of governments spending too much is not going to go away, but it's still a major step forward from where we were as recently as last week;

2. the inane Occupy movement has failed to gain mainstream support, has lost much of what limited media interest it ever had and is fading away . If anything, most people are sick of the self centred hypocrisy of the "movement" as are the overly tolerant politicians who are finally dealing with the disruption, sanitation and increased crime associated with the protesters' actions. Hopefully the people involved will go and do something constructive in the future;

3. US housing data has improved with both new home sales rising and the inventory of unsold homes falling. The improvements were modest and the overall numbers are still weak (especially average prices), but they are heading in the right direction;

4. US economic data has shown a small improvement;

5. expectations that China has finished monetary tightening and may actually consider easing;

6. declining oil inventories, may suggest that economic activity is picking up again;

7. fears that international trade would fall victim to protectionism have not far;

8. although I couldn't lay my hands on any consolidated data, generally I have been left with the impression that corporate earnings have, on average, exceeded estimates and, most importantly, there appears to be top line revenue growth.

Sure there are still huge problems out there - government spending (especially in the US and Western Europe), inflation (especially food inflation in developing nations), housing in the US and China and many other problems (not least on environmental issues), things look at least a little better now than they did a month ago.

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