Page last updated at 23:03 GMT, Tuesday, 1 April 2008 00:03 UK

Markets brave recession fears

Jamie Robertson
By Jamie Robertson
Business presenter, BBC World

In the month when Bear Stearns went to the wall, it is perhaps surprising that financial stocks round the world didn't collapse utterly.

BBC Global 30, March 2008
BBC Global 30

The truth is that an 8.3% fall for Citigroup shares, a 4.8% fall for Mitsubishi and a 8.4% rise for HSBC is not a bad performance bearing in mind the doomsday scenario being painted by a number of economists and analysts.

But the less than awful results from Lehmans' and Goldman Sachs and the successful initial public offering of Visa, which contributed a useful few billion to several banks' balance sheets in the space of a week, restored some equilibrium if not optimism.

JP Morgan Chase shares have risen 18% since it agreed to take over Bear Sterns.

Buying GE

But it's still hard to find an economist who doesn't believe the US is either in recession or so close it's not worth arguing about, so it's perhaps more remarkable that there are four North American stocks in the top five on the Global 30.

Visa IPO
Visa's market entry was warmly welcomed

GE (up 10.4%), with its wide international operations, started to climb after the chief executive Jeffrey Immelt told investors that sales in Europe, Asia and Africa were compensating for the drag of the US economy, and after he repeated what he said in December - profits would be up 10% this year.

Between 50% and 90% of GE's goods being churned out of Ohio and South Carolina factories go for export, helped on their way by the falling dollar.

What's more, he said there would be no "substantial" write downs from the sub-prime crisis at GE's finance units.

Mr Immelt has put his money where his mouth is and personally bought $2m in GE stock this month, and is today already sitting on a $250,000 paper profit.

Bigger debts

The diversification argument has also helped HSBC's 8.4% rise in March.

Five Biggest Losers on the BBC Global 30
Siemens -16.04%
CNOOC (Red Chip) -14.26%
Nokia -13.13%
BHP Billiton -11.63%
Takeda Pharmaceutical -10.86%

The shares (after last months rises) are down just 8% on the year ,which makes it one of the best performing of the world's big banks.

Ironically, the bank itself says that Asia may not escape the US slowdown.

Its faith in the region though is undiminished: it is expecting to complete the take-over of the Korea Exchange Bank this month and is opening 25 branches in Malaysia.

Mobile fortunes

AT&T's rise of around 10% is largely due to the $6.6bn it spent on buying wireless spectrum in the US, confirming its domination of the airwaves with its rival Verizon Wireless which spent $9.4bn.

NYSE traders
Traders fear recession, yet hope for the best

Even though the regulator insisted there were new entrants into the wireless broadband market, the two big players have bought themselves a controlling presence - outbidding even Google, which had been expected to challenge their dominance.

Vodafone, which owns 45% of Verizon Wireless, has been grumbling over the lack of a dividend for the last two years as profits have gone to pay off debt at its fellow shareholder Verizon Communications - a debt that, since the auction, has just got a whole lot bigger.

Vodafone's shares were down 7.3% in March.

Meanwhile, Nokia shares are down 13.1% after a set of gloomy forecasts from Texas Instruments and Sony Ericsson.

Siemens had the biggest fall on the Global 30 Index - 16% - after it warned that it would make some $1.4bn less than it had forecast, thanks to losing a contract with the UK government and seeing profits fall at its energy and transport divisions.

Commodity demand

Five Biggest Winners on the BBC Global 30
General Electric 10.44%
AT&T 10.06%
Exelon Corporation 8.67%
HSBC 8.36%
Wal-Mart Stores 6.32%

There is a growing question mark over the value of the big commodity stocks.

No one denies that the emerging markets of China and India have provided a new bedrock of demand for all commodities.

The question is, how much have share prices been inflated by speculators?

Lehman Brothers insists prices are closely linked to real supply and demand, and says commodities such as iron ore or cobalt, that are traded over the counter rather than in a market, and which are relatively free of speculation, have risen some 96% over twelve months.

Traded metals have risen just a quarter of that amount.

But the price of commodities has fluctuated wildly this last month, with gold alone swinging from over $1000 an ounce to under $900.

The spot price of copper has moved between $8,780 and $7,950 a ton. Oil has also had rapid swings of around 10%.

Analysts and economists have started to talk freely about the commodity "bubble".

The big miners and oil companies on the Global 30 all fell, BHP Billiton was down 11.6%, Anglo American down 6.4%, BP down 6.3% and Exxon down 2.7%.

BBC Global 30 intraday chart


FTSE 100
22.84 0.42%
18.55 0.32%
Cac 40
14.37 0.38%
Dow Jones
78.53 0.76%
35.31 1.58%
Data delayed by at least 15 minutes

Volatility haunts global shares
03 Jul 07 |  Business
Strong sales boost Canon profits
29 Jan 07 |  Business

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific