Business

Don't panic because we're not doomed just yet

Just like in Dad's Army, the message is: 'Don't panic'
Conor Devine

‘DON'T panic' and ‘we're doomed' are two of the most renowned catch phrases in Dad's Army . . . and I can't hear or read these catchphrases without a small smile crossing my face (quite fitting, as the new movie aptly named 'We're Doomed' is to be released within a few weeks).

But on a much more serious note it would seem ‘Don't panic!' and 'We're doomed' have been used far too frequently in the last week as economists around the world watch the downward trajectory of the global market.

In the last month, the crude oil price has fallen 24 per cent and crashed 75 per cent from its 2014 peak price. The US also announced retail sales falling 0.1 per cent in December and going up just 2.1 per cent in 2015 compared with a 3.9 per cent annual gain in 2014.

The oil price crash, which is considered as a symptom of global deflation, and poor retail sales number from the US have panicked the global equity markets. George Soros, one of world's most famous investors, stated at the start of January, that he felt the US was currently in recession.

Many equity markets in the world including those in China, Europe, India, Brazil, Dubai, Russia and Singapore, have fallen more than or nearly 20 per cent from their respective recent peaks and thereby feared to have entered the bear market place.

Looking closer to home the UK market has seen the usually more upbeat Chancellor George Osborne return to his more demur, cautious self and agree with the Monetary Policy Committee who went on record with the view that the domestic outlook had weakened compared with its last full assessment occurred in November. Economists quickly changed their forecasts of when the interest rate might rise, pushing it back to later rather than early in 2016.

In Northern Ireland we are all too aware of financial difficulties given the last eight years. The recent announcements of large redundancies in CoAntrim in the manufacturing sector combined with the public sector facing major redundancies and cuts in budgets means it will be a very frugal four years in this part of the world.

So how does this impact you? For now, you may have a few more pounds in your wallet or purse with the cheaper oil prices and subsequent fuel prices at the pumps, but the global outlook is very troubling and will affect us all.

Many people are still in debt and research from the Money Advice Service recently painted a dark picture where they said one in six households in the north are facing severe financial difficulties.

I can vouch for that given the number of people who have come through our doors this month to discuss and try and find a solution to their financial challenges. Last year we had a record year in the company, achieving over £17 million of debt write downs, and with this year set to be busier, it's clear there are still huge debt challenges in our society.

With major concerns in the Middle East, China, France, Spain, Portugal and even Germany, we are certainly going to face some significant headwinds throughout the course of 2016 – although I don't think ‘we're doomed'.

:: Conor Devine (conor@gdpni.com) is principal of GDP Partnership (@EquityExpertsNI), which specialises in mediating with banks

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