Greek drama is driving deep market cynicism

When I began my career, I did so with the most pigeon-chested of intentions: to right wrongs, expose injustice and topple tyrants. I was young and idealistic, you see. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but experience and the peaks and troughs of life usually lead one to grow out of it.

Not that I am a cynic. Far from it. My definition of a cynic is someone who evades disappointment by anticipating it.

Cynics miss out on all the fun of failure and disappointment because they stop trying and instead satisfy themselves with self-doubt and the ubiquitous question: 'What's the point?' However, recent events have tempted me to fall prey to cynicism.

Good journalists are in many ways just like decent soldiers: idealistic, pugnacious, challenging and possessed of a healthy sense of duty. What makes them different is their irreverence towards orthodoxy and their big dollop of insolence.


So I am disappointed. I am forced to act, because on two counts the media has talked the markets into cynicism and self-doubt.

First, in regard to Greece. It's very simple. There isn't any money - it's gone; the country can't repay the debt and it can't get any worse for the population. Yet the technocracy that runs Europe continues to defy logic and procrastinate over a Grexit.

Greece never managed more than 0.2 per cent of European GDP - go on, I defy you, name me three famous Greek brands. I have sympathy, but leave them to it - it makes no difference to us investors.

Secondly, we have just had the first Tory Budget since 1996. And it was a classic Tory Budget. Take a little off the top, say by abolishing permanent non-dom status and pinching buy-to-let investors; take some from the bottom, with benefit cuts for those unfortunate people who made the mistake of having more than two children; and fluff up the middle classes.

Ultimately, in this widely leaked and totally predictable Budget, the dogma is to get everyone into work so they stay still, pay their taxes and become middle-class Tory voters.


My old mum used to say one should never believe what one reads in the papers. Everywhere I look there is glumness and brow-furrowing as one bullshitter - sorry, pundit - after another tells us we should follow some slavish path already littered with the faeces of long-gone bears.

It is this systemic cynicism that might destroy the eurozone, not natural market forces, in my view at least. It's like a stroppy teenager slamming his door and screaming: 'Why do you hate me?'

So I have slammed the door. I have eliminated from my portfolio some hitherto sturdy, if unspectacular, funds with major European exposure.

I have dumped Fidelity European Values and Premier Pan European Property, which I have held for more than three years, because I perceive the risk of them being dragged down by market sentiment to be greater than their ability to reward me.

I have put more than 20 per cent of my portfolio into cash, and I am waiting to pounce on the distressed blue chip. In the past two years, I have gained traction from ITV (up 39.4 per cent), BT (up 24.8 per cent) and Tesco (up 13 per cent). While I wait for things to settle down, I will remain overweight in cash.


Yet there are bargains to be had: Rolls-Royce, for example, following three profit warnings in a row and a fall in its share price from more than 1,050p in spring to below 760p. The three-year price chart shows an average of around £9. This is a serious company with serious products that will not go away. I fancy some.

Likewise BP. I bought some of it in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Mexican Gulf at 388p, and it has rewarded me, by and large.

It has now agreed to pay more than $18.7 billion (£12 billion) in damages, yet the price has dipped by just a few pennies and sits, at the time of writing, at 422p. This makes me believe this vast sum was priced in, which leads to me to think I will be topping up.

A quick chat with my venerable stockbroker chum, Mac the Stack, yielded some insights on 'smart money' market sentiment, which is apparently leaning this month towards classic defensive stocks, such as Morrisons at 167p, big-time brewer SAB Miller, viewed as a potential M&A play, but at £33.57 too rich for me, and British American Tobacco, again too heavy for me at more than £35 a share.

This is good market intelligence, yet it's the same tired old story. When people feel down, they go to the supermarket, light a fag and get pissed. Mind you, if I were Greek, I might too.

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