I live near Romney Marsh and my wife and I delight in taking our dog, Pepper, for walks along the nearby beaches especially in winter when they are all but abandoned by tourists. There is something Dickensian about the marshes and you half expect to bump into a latter day Abel Magwitch. We chose different parts of the coast depending partly on how hungry we will feel by the end of the walk and what will available to tuck into. Along Pett Level, near Rye, the beaches are deserted and the tide goes way out. The main attraction though is not the beach or its deserted beauty but a pop up restaurant called The Red Pig. A pop up restaurant with a difference mainly because it is run by an old broking partner, Andy Forbes-Gower.
Andy was one my first true broking partners in the futures market, a renegade with a renegade’s brain and outlook on life. If the whole world said the market was going up he, often correctly, would call the market down. Whether this was for the sheer hell of it or some inner intuition God alone knows, and as my mum would say he ain’t telling. We spent several years drinking, working , drinking and drinking some more and made several hilarious business trips to Dublin ( there is a year’s worth of stories on those trips alone).The markets were a different world in those days and we would enjoy long loony lunches together often followed by a wonder back to the floor whilst singing . I’m not proud of my behaviour but it was on reflection just boyish enthusiasm. Some days we staggered back after several hours of beer and would be unable to focus on the numbers on the screen. Andy inevitably would cover one eye with his hand, to help focus , and declare “ In the land of the blind the one eyed is King “
Beware the Ides of March
Often the markets are blind and not even seeing the reality that a Cyclops could spot. This weekend May and Merkel get together to discuss the future of Britain’s relationship with Europe post Brexit. But why? What’s the point? Merkel is so badly wounded it is unlikely that she or her proposed coalition will survive beyond 4th March and yet Mrs May feels it necessary to pay her homage for one last time. Yet if you read the UK papers you would not get any sense of Merkel’s vulnerability. Ah the 4th of March if only the Italian elections and the German vote were eleven days later, The Ides of March cliché could be wheeled out! Italian elections are elections of a complexity that only a country of Machiavelli’s birth could concoct. I’m not going to predict anything beyond the normal political chaos that involves both a comedian Bepe Grillo and Bunga Bunga Berlousconi. Really you couldn’t make it up yet Italy has dire immigration problems with over 600,000 immigrants settling in the last four years leading to a recent violent neo-nazi outrage in Macerata. Take that and combine with these statistics: unemployment of 11.2%, youth unemployment 32.7%, growth still 6% below pre-crash levels and 12.7% of families living officially in poverty. Add a soupcon of a fascist leader in the recent past and it’s a heady cocktail. The political odds looked stacked against Renzi but Italy is always surprising and may yet be sensible. All this in the Eurozone’s third largest economic area.
I do love Italy very deeply as a country and its people and I know that they are strange but please don’t change .Meanwhile little Nappy Macron sails on serenely believing for all he can his own publicity. With approval ratings dropping to below 50% and relatively little change to labour laws France is still stuck in a time warp. Again if you read the MAINSTREAM (?) press all is great and no mention of the recent elections in Corsica where the nationalist parties have made great gains. Now not to belittle Corsica it is not of overriding importance to France, in general, but remember the Scottish Nationalists and Catalans. Small problems at the outsets that became and are still major irritants. Gad about with the world princes all you like but don’t ignore nationalist problems at home as they will not go away.
If it was only Germany, Italy, France and Spain with problems Europe would be looking good. Wouldn’t it? Yeah right. It is however worse as the Eastern block of Poland Czechoslovakia and Hungary are still causing problems with their right wing agendas. I am not going to dissect the rights and wrongs of what is happening politically in these countries but it is happening and it is unsettling
Barnier, Juncker and the rest carry on as if they have all enjoyed a really good lunch with Andy and me at the Red Pig (by the way bring your own case of wine as it has no licence). Britain must be punished at all costs to discourage the others and every last penny should be extracted from the UK to enable them to carry on steering the ship of fools that Europe has become. Look at the overall picture and it is one of barely concealed chaos. As these stories unfold the spreads between European instruments are going to be interesting. Who is now the strong man of Europe? It’s a brave man who calls the price action on BUNDS over BTPs!
Maybe the crypto kids are right as so many of our traditional instruments look toxic there seems to be increased interest in these new markets. Whether it’s because of my background as a futures broker, dealing in things that don’t exist and will never be delivered, I am finding increasing interest from some serious players in the crypto markets. Hands up I’ve brokered some deals in Cryptos which is very satisfying. It would be more satisfying if my commission had been paid but I’m sure it will or someone will be featured in next week’s column! Now this is not me changing tack but just tipping my hat towards them and from someone who started with a book and pencil the joy and wonder of still being involved is fantastic to behold. As Andy also used to say when markets were particularly volatile “it looks like the lunatics have got control of the lift in the asylum”.
This one is for you Andy –never change!
The Red Pig is situated in a layby near Pett Level and is open only at weekends highly recommended if you fancy a hot drink, good food and an even better chat!