When the folk at Lehman Bros., an erstwhile Wall Street investment bank, went down like packs of drowning rats in mid-September 2008, markets of practically all kinds almost everywhere went over the cliff. The MSCI Barra dollar-denominated global equities index, a broad a measure as may be found, went into a nosedive, and lost 44% of its value before turning up again (for the meantime) on 6 March 2009. At that point, the index had surrendered 58% of the value it reflected on 29 October 2007, a record.Over the past six months of Great Depression II, vested interests have spent huge energy spin doctoring away the disgusting behaviour of investment bankers, mainly on Wall Street and in London. But only the absolutely foulest investment professionals have been held to account, as seen in the case of Bernard Madoff, an American who was found with his hands in his pants after his USD 50bn Ponzi scheme went bankrupt.Human hyenas like Madoff were allowed through the cracks by regulators who were/are idiots, incompetent, and - possibly - insane. By now, the rest of the world is sick and tired of the nonsense, and is forging ahead. Yes, there is still a price to pay; the International Monetary Fund this week forecast that the global economy will shrink by 2.7%, the worst decline in about 60 years. Millions of people have gone, and are still going, jobless.But there are galvanizing signs that global equity markets turned on 6 March 2009, discounting a bright future, potentially free of con artists in pinstripe suits. Since then the MSCI Barra global equities index has risen by 20%. The 30 components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, when measured on a weighted value basis, have jumped by 28% on average. The most spectacular stock market recovery has been exhibited by the Micex Russia, which, however, still remains deeply depressed from its highs. The best all round performance has come by way of the CSI 300, which tracks the price performance of 300 stocks listed in China, which continues to rank as the country with the highest economic growth.While so many Wall Street and London banks, and more than an odd few in Western Europe, lie in ruined tatters, China Construction Bank ranks as the world's most valuable bank (market value: USD 150bn), followed closely by ICBC, another Chinese bank. World markets have been shaken but countless investors across the world are keen to once again take on risk. In yet another blow to the vile complexity of the toxic products that ruined the rodents of Wall Street and London, investors are demonstrably keenest for basic materials.It can be no coincidence that Exxon Mobil, an oil major, ranks as the world's most valuable listed stock, at USD 342bn, and, to boot, exhibits a stock price of remarkable comparative stability over the past few years. Where the MSCI Barra global equities index has risen by 20% from its recent lows, listed silver stocks (led in turn by Fresnillo) have bounced 196% from recent lows. For investors with less specialised tastes, listed gold stocks have bounced by 154%, and copper stocks, representing arguably the most economically sensitive metal of all, are up 135% on average. For the more specialist investor, miners focusing on uranium, tin and zinc have exhibited stock price rises on average of more than 100%.

For a selection of 60 paper stocks around the world, such as Weyerhaeuser and Sappi, the number is 49%, and for 32 shipping stocks such as DryShips and China Shipping, the number computes as 56%. A selection of 80 big banks around the world gives a number of 57%, suggesting that investors are convinced that the worst is over for a sector that will never be the same again. SELECTED INDICES, SPOTS AND GROUPS

From

From

Points

high*

low*

MSCI world equities USD

817.56

-47.8%

19.5%

MSCI emerging markets USD

580.76

-53.6%

30.2%

Dow Jones Industrial

7761.60

-40.9%

20.0%

S+P 500

811.08

-43.7%

21.6%

DJ Stoxx 600

184.83

-44.5%

19.0%

KBW banks

29.16

-67.1%

64.3%

CSI 300

2576.40

-36.8%

60.4%

Shanghai Composite

2425.29

-35.9%

45.7%

Micex Russia

818.82

-58.4%

65.9%

Reuters/Jefferies CRB

217.81

-54.0%

8.8%

Dow Jones AIG Commodity

108.69

-54.4%

7.1%

Baltic Dry Shipping

1574.00

-86.7%

137.4%

Baltic Capesize Shipping

2039.00

-89.6%

145.7%

Dollar Index Spot

85.24

-4.9%

19.7%

Gold spot USD/oz

919.20

-8.7%

34.7%

STOCK GROUPS

Value

From

From

USD bn

high*

low*

Dow Jones Industrial

2545.37

-43.1%

28.3%

Top 100 global miners

915.33

-61.6%

84.3%

Oil stocks

1933.82

-49.6%

35.6%

S + P 500 Energy

951.62

-50.5%

27.7%

Copper stocks

67.53

-61.0%

135.3%

World banks (80)

1840.50

-59.9%

56.7%

Gold stocks

260.93

-37.2%

154.0%

Silver stocks

15.62

-52.2%

196.3%

Gold ETFs

44.36

-12.9%

37.7%

Uranium stocks

17.83

-49.9%

102.2%

Paper stocks (60)

40.51

-61.5%

49.0%

Shipping stocks (32)

26.31

-73.5%

55.7%

* 12-month

Source: market data; analysis by Barry Sergeant