Fund Manager’s Diary

Saturday Up and out early for my son’s school open day for next year’s new intake. He is very keen to show off the school’s merit to potential pupils, so I take him along to take part in a variety of art and swimming demonstrations. This is followed by a haircut (for him) and some shopping for Dad’s birthday present.

Sunday The sun is shining (a rare occurrence here) so we spend a leisurely day on the beach, searching in the rock pools and flying my son’s pocket kite. Take my husband out for dinner at Oloroso – one of my favourite Edinburgh restaurants – to celebrate his birthday.

Monday Global stockmarkets remain in buoyant mood, ignoring the continued rise in the oil price above $50. Encouraging economic data out of the US on Friday boosts Asian and European shares and hurts bonds. German employment data continues to show a modest improvement, providing some support to our optimistic Euroland consumption forecast for 2005. July data issued by the Bundesbank reports a 2,000 increase in jobs. This is consistent with signals from the monthly EC sentiment survey, which has been reporting a steady increase in firms’ hiring intentions over the past six months. Indeed, anecdotal evidence from staffing agencies also points to an improvement, though this is currently limited to temporary workers.

Tuesday Chair the pension fund trustees meeting. We debate an interesting report from our actuaries about rising life expectancy. We should all be happy that we are living longer, but as a pension trustee, paying for that ever-growing pension liability does tend to take the shine off it.

Wednesday Lunch with the managers of Baillie Gifford Japan, one of my favourite Japanese investment trusts in my fund of funds portfolios. Having visited Japan myself earlier in the year, I am very much in agreement with their view that the domestic economy is improving and there are plenty of interesting stock ideas to be found.

The Japanese stockmarket’s recent decline has been all about external factors such as the rising oil price, increasing interest rates in the US and China, rather than any domestic issues. We are unlikely to see a tightening of monetary or fiscal policy. There is likely to be slower growth in the months ahead but the prospects are still bright against the standards of the last decade.

Japan now feels like a “normal” market. The risk of systematic financial failure is past, the economy has made a recovery, the “lost decade” of deflation appears to be over, and the savage de-rating of the equity market over the last few years means it now trades on a comparable valuation to other global stockmarkets.

Thursday A busy day begins with the British Assets Trust board meeting, where I present my annual strategy review following the September 30 year-end. Main topics of conversation are the surging oil price and dividends – the former rising as speculators continue to focus on any likely supply shortages, and the latter rising as investors realise that cash in your hand as a dividend has a lot going for it. This is followed by the Association of Investment Trust Companies’ annual Scottish dinner at the Signet Library in Edinburgh. An enjoyable evening is had with all of Scotland’s investment trust managers and our advisers.

Friday Have a meeting this morning about a new India fund. An interesting market, and one that has to some extent been ignored while attention focuses on China.