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An icy black swan


GuestinvestecBy Jeremy Gardiner, director, Investec Asset Management
There is a term in financial markets known as a black swan event. This term describes an event that has a significant impact on financial markets, but which could not / was not predicted by anyone. A volcano in Iceland leading to massive ‘eruption disruption’ certainly could not have been predicted by anyone. Certainly, market commentators were expecting some form of financial explosion out of Europe, but not a volcanic one!

 Fortunately it seems to be ‘blowing over’ and within a week the world should be back to normal. However, this, together with charges against Goldman Sachs and ongoing fears over Greece, could just have provided the catalyst for the much expected correction markets have been anticipating for close on six months now.

 Greece is fixed, for now. The EU and the IMF came to the rescue, which is good because it averted a default, but it is also problematic as it sends out an implicit signal to errant EU countries that there is a lifeline waiting if they need it. Germany is unimpressed, with Angela Merkel even threatening to develop a smaller, more disciplined collection of Euro countries than the current diverse bunch that comprises (or compromises) the EU. Unfortunately, Greece is not alone, and potential financial explosions from a variety of other European countries remain quite possible. Volcano-induced silence in the skies above Europe certainly hasn’t helped either.

2010 thus far has been predictably choppy, with markets generally grinding upward, far more slowly than last year, as the wounds from the financial crisis gradually heal. Equity markets, having run ahead of themselves, are more circumspect this year. Economically, while developed market economies limp towards recovery, the developing world, with Asia and in particular China, remains rampant.