The business suit was always incongruous as a symbol of radical protest - but last week things changed. A small but significant number of financial professionals in the besieged City of London ignored HR’s motherly advice to dress casually and instead buttoned down collars and straightened up ties before boarding the morning train.
Standing proud in their carriages these tailored rebels and erstwhile strangers exchanged approving looks and sneered sideways at anyone wearing jeans.
At London Bridge, Cannon Street and other City transport hubs, it was ‘sleeves-up time’ as the alighted double-vent defenders instinctively ganged together to walk square-shouldered through the Square Mile as G20 protesters gathered.
But was last week a week of change for anything other than the suit as a symbol of conservatism?
Early signs this week, after the G20’s decision to pump another $1 trillion into the banking system, seem good. European equities were seen opening higher today, following strong gains on Wall Street last Friday. In Asia there are also signs of recovery with banks leading the market upwards in Taiwan.
"As we move towards Easter there is spring in the markets. It is because the general economic data that has been coming through, although none of it has proved we are out of it, it has just changed sentiment to be a little bit more positive," Justin Urquhart-Stewart, director at Seven Investment Management, told Reuters.
"However, we need to be careful as we are coming up to the corporate reporting season. A lot of results are going to be really quite atrocious and expectations are going to have to be reset."
Andrew Cole, director of asset allocation at Baring Asset Management, notes that after a disinterested response by markets to quantitative easing in Europe and the US, more recently leading banks have announced trading statements that highlight conditions have significantly improved.
“In some countries the policy frame-work has been muddled which has led our recovery scores to have been trimmed back but this is more a case of delaying rather than cancelling the bounce. It is hopeful that greater clarity will emerge following the united pledge last week by world leaders at the G20 summit in London to tackle the global downturn with a $1,100bn package.”
Let’s also note that HSBC had a 96.6% take up of its recent rights issue.
Of course, we have to be wary of talk about ‘turning corners’, but despite this the arrival of Spring couldn’t be more timely. Next year there might be less to protest about.Nick Fitxpatrick, Editor©2009 funds europe