It seems that nobody knows how to enjoy themselves anymore. The stock market bull run has now lasted more than eight years but are investors celebrating? Absolutely not. Most are anxiously waiting for the whole thing to come crashing around our ears.
The FTSE 100 has been breaking all-time highs, so where’s the exuberance? Investors are having none of it. Instead they moodily pin it on central banker stimulus and the Brexit-induced collapse in the pound.
If the FTSE 100 hit 10,000 by the end of this year most people would probably see this as sign of imminent national collapse.
This isn’t just a UK phenomenon. The US stock market is flying, either despite or because of President Donald Trump. So are the naturally upbeat Americans walking tall?
Once again, no. They are fretting about a technology crash, noting that 40 per cent of this year’s gains on the S&P 500 have been generated by just five stocks: Amazon, Google, Facebook, Netflix and Microsoft. They reckon it is the dot.com crash all over again.
We live in strange times when good news is being seen as bad, and bad news as disastrous.
The general election may have been ended in disarray but it may also deliver some surprisingly positive consequences, such as a consensus-driven transitional path out of the EU, which could limit the impact of a cliff-edge Brexit.
Is anybody happy about that? Apparently not, although I am hoping that will change, as negotiations progress.
Analysts and experts routinely talk about today’s challenging conditions and the slowing global economy.
They forget that in April the IMF forecast that global growth would increase to a healthy 3.5 per cent this year, then climb again to 3.6 per cent in 2018. That doesn’t sound like the end of the world to me.
There are reasons for all the gloom. First, this is the bull run nobody has ever really believed in, because we know it has been fuelled by QE and near-zero interest rates.
We also accept that the West has failed to solve its structural problems, primarily debt and demographics. In fact, they have only got worse, and China and other emerging markets seem destined to follow us down the same path.
Stagnating wages, particularly in the UK, have added to the sense of misery, while social media has given everyone a forum for division, rage and sudden political enthusiasms.
Against this backdrop, stock market buoyancy is an anomaly. Share prices have been whipped ever higher because the alternatives have dropped by the wayside, notably cash and bonds, and now house prices.
Investors continue to put their faith in stocks and shares, and rightly so. They don’t always like it, and that is understandable as well. Either way, you have to admire stock market resilience.