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Sunday, 14th April 2024
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A Day in the Life: Vincent Leonard, senior portfolio manager, Bloxham Stockbrokers Back  
Vincent Leonard, senior portfolio manager with Bloxham Stockbrokers in Limerick, traces the highs and lows of a day, which juxtaposed the celebrations of Munster's victory in the European Cup with a nighmare day on global equity markets.
Arrived home from Cardiff last night (Sunday) at 12.00 am having witnessed one of the greatest days in Irish sporting history. Being from Limerick, and having returned two years ago to work with Bloxham Stockbrokers, it is a time of huge pride in Limerick, especially after seeing Munster lift the Heineken Cup, after so many disappointments, all of which I have attended. As my ten year old son William (a rising star with Shannon RFC U 10s, coached by his dad) said to me at the final whistle, 'Dad, this is the best day of my life', and I could only think 'me too son, me too'.
Vincent Leonard

Alarm goes off at 6.45am and it is much easier get out of bed this morning - wonder why! After helping get my four kids ready for school I hit the road to the office at 7.30 a.m. It's a short trek by Dublin standards, five minutes, no traffic! Having lived in Dublin for seven years in the '80s/'90s I developed an aversion to traffic.

Having bought breakfast on the way in, I start my daily routine of reading the papers and looking forward to reading the sports page, today of all days. However the commentators on Bloomberg and CNBC appear very gloomy and I gather that today could be a rough day in the markets, following on from last week's sell-off. As 8.00 approaches I take a snap review of the positions my clients have open. The spread betters are predicting a 50 point drop in the FTSE, and on opening the market drops like a stone, and you can sense the nervousness immediately.

I make a phone call to our head of research, Kevin McConnell, with whom I celebrated the Munster victory in Bristol on Saturday night. No time to talk about matters rugby today. Kevin uses an in-house designed system, called catalyst that uses different technical analysis tools to identify over-bought and over-sold markets and stocks. The indicators from the US, show defensives gaining over cyclicals, which is a negative signal and we both agree that the sentiment has turned negative in the last few days and we could be in for a torrid day.

Considering that the markets have had such a good ride since January, it is not surprising that there would be some sort of correction, but what we see today is a wholesale sell off. As buyers desert the market the selling picks up unabated and the FTSE continues falling. The Irish market follows suit.

A call to our senior economist in Dublin, Alan McQuaid, indicates that while the markets are tumbling the economic back drop globally is still good, but that US inflationary pressure has now taken centre stage. The market always seems to want something to worry about.

Based on the information that I have, I commence ringing my clients. While my clients' base is very much cash investors, I make a point of contacting those who hold Contracts for Difference (CFDs) first. While CFDs allow gearing, we have encouraged our clients to only gear up to three or four times their initial investment, and to concentrate on blue chip stocks. Having discussed the situation with my clients I am relieved at how relaxed they are, and most are satisfied to let the market 'do its thing'. However, as the European markets continue to fall, the open of the US market at 2.30pm is anxiously awaited.

I have scheduled a lunch appointment with a client of mine who has started a charity to raise funds for purchase of specialised equipment for our local hospital. Our venue for lunch is a local hotel over-looking the river Shannon, which looks splendid with the reflection of the tall Riverfront building and Munster flags on all the riverside buildings being clearly visible in the calm river.

After a brief talk on the markets he fills me in on how things are progressing, and how our sponsorship will be used. The charity has gathered a momentum of its own and we are delighted to be associated with this charity as it is locally based and is for an extremely good cause. The details of the good that this charity will do puts the turbulent markets in prospective. I have the mobile on silent mode but I can see the missed calls coming through - portents of the afternoon ahead?

Back to the office at 2.00pm and the FTSE is now down over 100 points, as the US futures point decidedly south. The doomsdayers are out in force on CNBC and Bloomberg, which is typical, but that's TV for you. The important thing today is that markets hold specific technical support levels. So far today there has been a major lack of buyers in the market and the volumes indicate hedge fund activity is strong, pushing the market down.

On the get-go, the US markets drop like the proverbial stone and the FTSE and ISEQ follow suit and continue their fall. As the afternoon wear on there is a sense of capitulation evident as every stock on my screen is significantly down. The calls come to the office fast and furious but interestingly there are more clients looking to pick up value than anything else. I advise to hold off for a while as we are in the 'falling knife' scenario, but valuations are getting compelling. Around 3.30pm I contact some of my colleagues in our head office in Dublin, and the general consensus is that there is an element of panic selling evident, and as we often say, when there is 'blood on the streets' it's the time to buy.

Having spent 20 years in this business and witnessed the October crash, tech bubble and 9/11, you get a sense that today's fall, allied to last week's carnage, may present a buying opportunity. The more experienced of my clients place some buy orders and pick up some blue chip Irish and UK stocks at levels they could only dream of two weeks ago.

Most are prepared to buy again if the market falls further. With the whole SSIA effect on the Irish economy to come through, we get a sense that the market has thrown the baby out with the bath water! Subsequent conversations with brokers in the UK and US with whom we do business bares this out, and there is a feeling generally that the selling is over-done. Time will tell!

The FTSE closes down 170 points, a wipe-out and definitely a capitulation day. The US market begins to recover its losses by 6.00pm and if they can close at these levels, I am confident tomorrow will be a 'big day'.

I get home at 6.30pm and look forward to watching 'Against The Head' on RTE, and the footage from Cardiff and listen to Gerry Thornley's comments on the game. I'm not disappointed and watching the last few minutes I get nervous '..again, but get the tingle down the back when the final whistle goes...again. It's been a long day, and one final look at CNBC confirms the US markets are still recovering, giving me confidence that we had performed well today for our clients in the face of adversity, not unlike Munster really!

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