Phhhhew, we got through the summer. So often, certainly in recent years, August has been a wicked month when it comes to financial markets. Back in August 2010, the Dow Jones index of leading American stocks lost a hefty 4.5pc. In 2011, the August sell-off was bigger, as US equities fell 5.1pc.
Last summer, of course, throughout August sovereign bond yields spiraled across the Eurozone periphery. Numerous well-manicured nails were bitten to the quick as investors fretted about one or more nations crashing out of the single currency.
“When the music stops,” Chuck Prince famously observed back in mid-2007, “things will get complicated”. The then Chief Executive of the US banking giant Citigroup was admitting that growing concerns about sub-prime loans could ultimately shatter what we now know was “irrational exuberance” on global financial markets.
“As long as the music is playing, though, you’ve got to get up and dance,” Prince continued. “And we’re still dancing”. There’s a “we’re still dancing” mood on global markets today, just as there was six years ago, in the run-up to what turned out to be the disastrous market melt-down of September 2008.
Late last Tuesday, after months of intense lobbying, and campaigning visits to 47 countries, Roberto Azevedo was confirmed as the next director general of the World Trade Organisation. Amidst the Queen’s Speech and the resignation of a certain football manager, Azevedo’s appointment barely flickered on the UK news radar. Yet it was an event of some significance that could have major implications for the future shape of the global economy.
While less well-known than the International Monetary Fund, the WTO is the most important economic multilateral on earth. With 159 member states, this Geneva-based organisation can be likened to a vast and highly specialised international court, designed to arbitrate on complex trade disputes between governments that come into conflict, so as to keep protectionism in check.
Political tensions on the Korean peninsula have lately escalated. In February, North Korea carried out a nuclear weapons test, defying tighter United Nations sanctions.
Kim Jong Un’s regime has since been threatening pre-emptive nuclear strikes against Pyongyang’s enemies, the recently-installed 30-year old “supreme leader” clumsily attempting to rally the moribund population of one of the world’s most secretive states.