Concern about Greece remains the number one issue influencing market sentiment and largely overshadowed everything else today, including the UK budget. Meanwhile, the crash in Chinese stocks continued apace earlier today, at one point seeing over 37% wiped off the A50 index from the June high. Hysteria surrounding what it could mean for markets seems overdone, for this market is one which seems far removed from anything fundamental – despite the Chinese economy's global reach. The market stormed higher as Chinese data showed a slowdown, and the current weakness comes amid very little change in the overall outlook. It seems like a gamblers’ market where fundamentals play little part.
Continued government intervention reeks of a regulatory environment as financially immature as the hairdressers and taxi drivers that trade the markets themselves. So while falling valuations could ultimately affect Chinese consumption, the market remains 60% up over the past year, and as Chinese investors have found out, what goes up must come down; but will also go back up!
Sunday represents the new day of reckoning for Greek negotiations, or so they say. It feels like we have heard it all before, and thus expectations are low for any deal to be agreed. Unfortunately, just as Alexis Tsipras has felt emboldened by his newly confirmed mandate, so the creditors have become increasingly frustrated by this whole process, and it is difficult to know where the concessions will come from to drag a deal over the line. A Grexit has never seemed more likely than it currently is and quite frankly, there is the feeling that some would prefer the Greeks to leave the room already.
The decision to replace your finance minister at such a crucial time was yet another signal of political immaturity for Syriza, leaving poor old Euclid Tsakalotos sat in bewilderment as creditors demanded the new proposals promised by his predecessor. Urgency seems to be lacking for the Greeks and with the country on the brink, perhaps this illustrates exactly why many believe that any newly-agreed austerity measures are unlikely to ever see the light of day.
The UK budget provided little in the way of significant surprises today, with the focus largely upon marginal changes to factors such as tax thresholds, welfare and most notably a rise in the living wage. However, the decision to delay the expected budget surplus to 2019/20 flies in the face of George Osborne's plan to enshrine in law a necessity for each government to post a surplus in years when the economy is growing. Quite frankly, if Mr Osborne cannot manage to post a budget surplus, then who is he to enforce the rule on everyone else in the future?
Barclays' decision to sack Anthony Jenkins marks the almost inevitable demise of someone who’s had a near impossible task of retaining profitability while cutting costs and reducing the highly profitable investment banking arm. The will to move away from the 'fat cat' image drove Jenkins' hire to appease the FCA, yet ultimately money talks, and with revenue, earnings and profits falling, his departure was only a matter of time.