THE MARKETS ARE RIGHT – AT LAST

Headlines to the effect that the Dow Jones and the FTSE 100 are back to the “high” of the end of 2008 rather miss the point!

Yet the news has both positive and negative significance.

The glass-half-empty is that the first half of 2009 was a disaster in its own right – on top of the even bigger disaster of the previous autumn. It is something to have recovered from that second disaster, but that should not blind us to the fact that we are still behind the game.

The good news is not so much the recovery but the nature of the recovery: it has been slow and steady, not spectacular. This is what we need: dramatic swings, first one way and then another, are a sign of instability, not confidence.

The really good news is that this means that the markets – after being overvalued for years – are becoming, once again, the reliable and realistic economic indicators they are meant to be.

This is important for those of us whose businesses are not – yet – included in the Dow Jones or the FTSE 100.

One of our greatest challenges over the next year will be planning in the face of continuing uncertainty.

In this respect, small business used to be able to hitch a ride with the big boys – watching the stock markets was in effect taking advantage of the analysts and economists employed by the major investment houses. Part of the reason for last year’s crash was that most of those analysts and economists were in a world of their own for several years.

Now the stock markets are once again a fairly accurate reflection of the economy – still very cautious, and definitely unimpressed by stimulus packages and fiscal deficits, but, on balance, positive about the future.

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