a faded picture of annie lennox, with the words of a song starting 'sweet dreams'

Sweet Dreams

Here we talk about the delights of the Conservative Party Conference in rainy Manchester, the failure of the in-built two-year time horizon in inflation models, and what may happen to interest rates.



At times in Manchester, it felt like everyone was looking for something. As government steps up spending initiatives, and empowers regional governance, and drives big spending on not achieving net zero, the chorus of demands for more taxpayers’ cash grew deafening.

There was utter silence on efficiency or capital allocation; it was all just “a good thing” to spend more.

And oddly too, with so much lip service to the long term and reducing debt and halving inflation, the ‘how’ of those was also ignored. Surely halving inflation is not even a government task? It was devolved to Bailey of the Bank - yet we heard not a word of criticism. If ever an eight-year commitment to a disastrously run project needed cancelling, his appointment looks to be just that.

This would spare him (and us) those endless letters on why he’s failing to control inflation.

For all that Conference was oddly cheerful - quite a bit of steel on show, from Suella of course, the only natural politician involved - some guts from Steve Barclay at Health, and Stride, a little less convincingly, at work and pensions - else, all rather wooden and on autocue. Although you could not help but notice that Farage still charms the fringe crowds.



The abiding issue remains competent delivery. It was odd to hear the government on HS2 arguing for accountability by sacking their own Euston delivery team. As if the failure of HS2 is not theirs, and theirs alone.

Instead of penny packet incrementalism, government needs a holistic delivery view - perhaps why France can build a TGV, and we simply cannot.


From this report of the Institute for Government

The Maude/Osborne “reforms” destroyed half our domestic contractors, by a short-term focus and ceaselessly moving the goalposts. As a result, home grown firms are in the minority on the HS2 contractor list, and giant multinationals with more lawyers than bulldozers were the main bidders.

They want top dollar to take on the risk of a lazy, indecisive government machine - no wonder.




We have been very clear since 2019, that the Tories can’t win another term, none of that changes, but the scale and composition of the anti-Tory majority next year is rather less clear.

In many ways, the best case for a Labour defeat, at the next election, is that the Tories have done it all already. They have blown the bank on out-of-control spending, splurged on unaffordable welfare, and raised taxes to unsustainable levels.

From this website

This government also crashed the pound, let inflation loose, let rhetoric overtake sense and has gone in hock to foreign debtors. I suppose they have yet to invade a sovereign country without a UN mandate, but they are working on that too.

So? Well oddly Starmer is still slightly boxed in, and in terms of polling data, not really getting much help from the weak Lib Dems, in those critical three-way marginals in the South. While Scotland clearly has had enough of the SNP running Scotland, it is less clear that they don’t want the cause of independence to be heard in London. The Rutherglen by-election could be sending both messages, but in a general election voters only send one. I would not assume that genie is back in the bottle just yet.




We continue to see US rates above inflation, which is very different from UK rates which are still below.

So exactly what Powell (and Bailey) are doing with selling down the Central Banks balance sheets at a time of maximum new issuance, is not clear; it solidifies vast paper losses, creates new losses on the rest, so seems to be quite a pricey warning shot to politicians. But it is a plausible reason (along with super high levels of new issuance) for current bond market nerves.

We have always felt the Central Bank models, where whatever the question the answer is “it will be fine in two years” are a fiction. The awareness that rates and inflation are staying high, is long overdue. But we have been in no doubt about it, for two years, nor have we ever flinched in our aversion to bonds, we were never being paid enough for the risk.

The jitters in the bond market feel more like a turning point, the sudden chop as the tide turns. The dollar has risen; people want to be there; if there is enough demand, that will lower bond yields again. So, I am not looking at US rates rising, so much as at the battle switching back to fiscal policy. Although in the end if Biden really wants 7% rates, I guess he can try to have them.

The UK and Europe are less contested, the labour market in Europe at least is not that tight, although still at record low unemployment levels, but with a lot of surplus workers in France, Spain, and Italy, and especially amongst the young. Euro interest rates are also really quite low still and are not yet looking restrictive.

So, it looks like another round of softening currencies, stagnant inflation and rate rise pressure. Central Banks still hope they have done enough. Even so it is quite odd that UK long rates are only just touching the level of a year ago, logically they should be two points higher. As for oil, we have seen this autumnal spike as a little surprising but transient, and as ever at this time of year, the short-term path is weather related.

Overall if the start is any guide, October yet again could be rough for markets, but longer term still looks brighter.


A plane landing on a german autobahn - with the words 'hard landings?' in hand writing

Hard Landings?

Local elections tell us remarkably little about national ones. We reflect on those. Meanwhile US equity markets are in turmoil, and some big numbers are changing very fast - some further musings.

Do English local elections count ?

We start with the UK, or rather English local elections, the devolved governments (oddly) have a rather greater read through from local to national. But overall, nothing in the results changed our view that Boris will probably survive, unless the Tory party unites around an alternative, which is pretty near impossible: it has too many splits.

Nor has our long-standing opinion that all Keir needs to do is keep his head down and he will be the next Prime Minister changed. Although if Labour starts to believe it is a shoo in, and can pick who it likes as leader, it will also self-destruct. Which is just about the only chance the Liberal Democrats have of being relevant.

Just how politically marginal local elections are, is shown by the surge of support for the Greens, apparently the very voters the weird Tory infatuation with hard left environmental policies were meant to entice.

Indeed, a whole set of Tory policies designed to raise energy prices, have gone down like a lead balloon.

What voters want and politicians need to deliver

You do wonder if they will ever get round to realising voters really want just three things, a roof over their heads, bread on the table and a job. Deliver those and do so competently, and politics is easy.

The roof bit is a shambles; it turns out policies designed to enrich cabinet members and senior civil servants with buy to let portfolios, are not so good for anyone else. I suspect the job bit will soon turn turtle, and the bread bit is going off the rails too. See graph below:

Here is a link to the relevant page on Statista

We notice that the big Western democracies still seem hell bent on raising energy prices, which is universally unpopular.

UK local elections - a brief look at opposition policies

So, the other thing markets in the UK (and sterling) will be doing is wonder about Starmer policies, more critically does he have the “bottom” to either appoint radical reformers, or have them lined up in key seats? Let’s say he does. He will still continue the headlong wealth destruction of punitive taxation and the assault on business investment. He will over-regulate (that’s his background). The sole variable therefore feels like any plausible capacity to reform.

He is not afraid of hard choices, or of thinking long, both good points and incidentally he is not Blairite enough to be America’s poodle and get involved in picking pointless foreign wars. Although he will likely dismember the United Kingdom, either of political necessity or by accident. We really can’t see much support for sterling in that package.

Central Banks - are they signalling a hard landing?

Inflation is spiking into double figures, and Central Banks are explaining

1) it is really not their fault

2) they are only responsible for “core inflation” (so without the important stuff)

3) but anyway they must still raise rates to offset the malign effects of other state policies.

It is looking truly absurd.

Not that interest rates are off the floor yet, although the US bond market seems convinced rates over 3% are now nailed on, while oddly the UK Gilt-edged market seems unconvinced of exactly the same thing. This of course is helping an on-going collapse in Sterling.

Meanwhile the possibility of ending negative rates in Europe has caused great excitement and the Euro to strengthen, at least against sterling.  The divergence is related to a belief that the Fed which raised three months after the Bank of England is now more hawkish, a belief which seems more about wishful thinking than anything the Fed has actually done so far.

We are less sure on how high interest rates go. All three Central Banks seem to be hoping something will turn up, and inflation will ease. This is a view we share, but we really doubt the trivial rate rises so far, are the “something”.

Market turmoil - how far will they fall?

This leads on to the current market turmoil: With the US feeling very exposed, partly because it went up so high (relative to other markets), it has further to fall. Nor do we see the valuations on quoted US growth stocks as offering good value at these levels. They had become so detached from reality the gap is just too big, and the repeated attempts to buy the dips, just disguises a long-term trend down. The FTSE100 over five years is down, and the NASDAQ climbed over 100% in the same time. A 25% further US fall is at the least plausible.

Other markets will then get sucked down, and in Europe and Japan they are hard hit by their reliance on imported energy (the US is an energy exporter). While for now, their rates are not moving either, the resulting devaluation makes the value gap to US growth stocks, feel even greater. Buying overvalued stock in an overvalued currency, is not always great.

What do our models say about the markets?

Our MonograM momentum models suggest a turning point for both Europe (including within that bundle the UK) and Japan is close. It is only a model, we remind ourselves, and is quite able to give a false signal. It also sees this as true in dollar terms, not sterling. So, there is plenty of noise and last week had all the elements we dislike, a month end, plus a shortened market week, plus Central Bank meetings, created a baffling miasma of signals.

However, on current policies we anticipate a crash; the only issue now is how hard the landing is.