Fund Manager’s Diary

Oliver J Russ is co-manager of the Britannic Argonaut European Alpha fund. His diary runs from June 22-29.

Wednesday One of the pleasures of working in a boutique in Belgravia is walking to work. Although this takes the best part of an hour, it does mean a leisurely saunter up the King’s Road, minus the usual shopping crowds. This is immeasurably more relaxing than my previous pedestrian commute to Hammersmith, which included all the glamour of the Hammersmith flyover, combined with a frisson of terror as I negotiated the gangs of “hoodies”. The only hazards here are the Bentleys in Belgrave Square, driven with all the care and attention one would expect of a holder of diplomatic immunity.

Thursday Just after 6pm oil futures hit a new record high. Markets appear relatively unfazed, as the Nasdaq remains in positive territory. I contemplate the ability of markets to shrug off ever-increasing crude prices – either this is a sign of underlying strength, or everyone’s head is stuffed firmly in the sand. I consider that, in this heat, reflection could well be aided by distillates of another kind…

Friday This morning we discover that the oil price does matter after all, as the Dow closed down 166 points, followed by another swift 120-odd point decline today. Why oil doesn’t matter at $50.80 but does at $60 is one of life’s mysteries. Another is the Agricultural Bank of Greece, in which the Greek government is attempting to place a stake. It appears to be offered at a 10% discount to the National Bank of Greece, which seems a bit pricy for a bank brought to the verge of bankruptcy by bad loans. An awful lot of Greek farmers seem to have taken out large loans that they had no intention of repaying, and have now had them written off. It looks like a rather creative application of the EU’s farming subsidy programme to me. Management remains unchanged, and nor do they appear to have any equity stake. We remain unconvinced and decide not to participate.

Saturday Having dinner in my local, the Ifield, a young lady asks for my autograph. I am impressed with her enthusiasm for the investment industry, but slightly dubious that there may be a case of mistaken identity, especially when she says she reads all my columns religiously. I enquire as to who she thinks I am, and the answer is some chap called Malcolm Gluck, wine critic of The Guardian. I sign her napkin anyway – Grauniad readers can’t be too concerned about accuracy. I make a note to find out what Malcolm Gluck looks like; hopefully he is the Brad Pitt of the oenophile world.

Sunday I am somewhat perturbed that Malcolm Gluck, while radiating an air of quiet distinction, is clearly some years older than myself. I decide it’s time to put my new trainers to the test around Battersea Park, as merely buying them and keeping them in a box does not seem to have effected the desired weight-loss (except on the wallet).

Monday The Agricultural Bank of Greece issue has been pulled after all – it seems the Greek government and the investing community had different views on its value. Nonetheless, I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of it, as the Greek government needs to pay for the last Olympics. What will Ken Livingstone sell to pay for the London Olympics? Probably London taxpayers – down the river.

Tuesday I spend some time looking at potential German property investments. There are so many bears on Germany now that it begins to look interesting from a contrarian perspective, if nothing else. My attention is focused by my German sister-in-law coming to stay – self-preservation demands that I remain positive on our allies, especially in print.