HAMISH MCRAE: With the world economy firing on all cylinders open Britain will thrive
Let’s step back. For all the noise of the election and all the anguish over terrorism, one thing will be the same on Friday morning.
That will be the state of the world economy. It is an increasingly upbeat story and for good reason. For the first time in a decade all the main engines of global growth are pulling their weight.
The US economy is still climbing, most of Europe at last is recovering, Japan is growing a bit, China seems to have got over its recent collywobbles, and India is powering ahead.
Nothing is forever, and anyone can round up the usual suspects that might put an end to this synchronised expansion.
Boom time: From China (pictured) to Ammerica, for the first time in a decade all the main engines of global growth are pulling their weight
Somewhere out there in the future is another cyclical downturn. But if you want to know why share prices worldwide are at, or close to, their all-time highs, that is it.
This is an unusually favourable background for a general election.
The UK is a bit under 4 per cent of world GDP, but it is an unusually open economy so if the world is growing decently it will pull us up along with everyone else.
It is a struggle to grow if your trading partners are stagnating, as we found in the initial stages of the recovery.
But if everyone else is trotting along, you trot alongside them. There is a temptation to see market movements as signals of approval or otherwise of political policies.
So the 7 per cent rise in the Dow Jones index this year is presented as an endorsement of Donald Trump. The 5 per cent rise in the FTSE 100 index could be seen as support for Theresa May.
Actually both markets reflect something much more general: a growing conviction that this expansion has some way to run, and that the best way to have a stake in that growth is to buy the shares of companies that benefit from it.
Of course, it is possible for governments to mess things up. There are plenty of reasons to feel that the UK’s performance has been uneven.
But for those of us old enough to remember the 1970s – the three-day week, the bail-out by the IMF, the winter of discontent – our weaknesses now are nothing to the dire situation we were in then. We are not going to go back to that, are we?
A change of route
The British car market is flashing amber, with sales in May 8.5 per cent down on last year.
When you look at an economy you should always look at specific hard data, such as cars sold, as well as the general soft data, such as GDP projections.
So the question is: why the fall? Well, it is partly a hangover from the changes in vehicle duty, which pushed forward many sales into March, making it an all-time record.
It may be partly a wider twitchiness about politics: Is it really a good time to splash out if you might be clobbered by higher taxation? But the most interesting explanation is that people are being aware of the shifting technology and are holding back to see what will be on offer come the autumn.
People are shifting from diesel cars, down 20 per cent year-on-year, as you would expect given the health concerns and the scandal over diesel emissions.
Petrol car sales are up. But most remarkable is the shift towards alternative fuel vehicles, mostly electrics, which were up 27 per cent.
For all the stories of young people no longer learning to drive, the British love affair with the car is far from over. It just seems to be taking a new, different and rather exciting course.
Some day, maybe some day not so far off, the great American high-tech revolution will lose pace – but that hasn’t happened yet.
In the markets the story was the soaring share price of Alphabet (Google’s parent company), which went through $1,000.
But in California Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference stole the headlines. You don’t have to be interested in technology to appreciate how Apple has changed all our lives.
But do we want Siri to intrude even more? The obvious aspect of Apple’s genius has been the extraordinary ability to know what people want before they know it themselves.
The less obvious one is that US high-tech giants – Google, Amazon, Uber and the rest – seem to know what people from different cultures want, too.
This is soft power in spades. We all buy the stuff. Donald Trump talks in terms of making America great again. High-tech America has done it already.