The markets are range trading, which is great for the traders. While no trend is apparent, I would like to take this opportunity indulge a few personal opinions, if I may.

The link between culture and economics has always interested me. Sure, my investing is technically based-but that does not mean I close my eyes to the fundamentals.

When looking at the big investment picture, the technical picture and broader economic outlook must have some correlation. And at the moment they are co-incident. Both are saying there are no real signs of recovery as yet and uncertainty looks set to continue.

This is the longest and most concerning recession I have witnessed in my working life. I was in the USA during the last recession and when the recovery kicked into gear, I marvelled at what a powerhouse America was. I am not expecting to witness that again as America has handed that catalytic force to China free-of-charge.

Working in Hanoi, I can’t help but ponder the cultural differences between Asia and ‘the West’ and the implications this has for future generations, or at least in our lifetime.

It is my view that cultural factors are determinants of long-term survival and growth, for companies as well as countries. And I include here the characteristics of the people, which in Asia have been shaped over thousands of years - unlike Australia and the US, which have been shaped over barely more than a couple of hundred years. I also include characteristics like geography, climate, core values, ethics, morals, religion, resources and so on.

The differences between Asia, the Middle East and the West are relatively clear but the one intriguing me at the moment is the distinction between Northern and Southern European countries. The world calls these combined blocs the European Union. If one reflects on the creation of the Union a couple of decades ago, you could consider it a miracle that such a Union was possible, when only half a century earlier most of these countries were involved a bloody war.

There is a saying in Sweden - that I am currently visiting as part of a Northern European economic study tour - that the Swedes “Carry Luther on their shoulders”, meaning they need to do a good day’s work before they can partake in any reward. This says much about the northern work ethic and contrasts with the laidback "We'll worry about tomorrow tomorrow" attitude from the Latin ‘lovers’ to the south. Religion? Climate?

We can't pretend there are no differences. The contrast is stark and is evident in all aspects of life. To go into the ‘how and why and wherefore’ would be highly dangerous. That aside, I love the contrast. But it certainly makes for a two-speed Europe.

What concerns me most is the lack of resolve of the EU to get a handle on the big issues. There are EU clauses that limit bailouts and borrowing levels but no action is taken on breaches, so there is a sense that the EU need not be taken seriously. Despite this, the EU is responsible for pulling all this together and the world is waiting for the EU markets to ignite and kick-start the world economy!

This won't happen for a good while yet!

Enjoy the ride

Tom Scollon