27 JANUARY 1939, Page 36


This week's markets have scarcely presented the bank chairmen with a helpful atmosphere for their annual speeches, but these authoritative reviews have a certain quality of detachedness which invests them with a special interest in good and bad times alike. Like Mr. Fisher of Barclays, the National Provincial Bank chairman, Mr. Colin F. Campbell, has been at pains to stress the importance, in these uncertain days, of liquidity in the banking system. His bank, he explained, had built up its cash to over £34,000,000, and had not merely reduced its holdings of investments but had concentrated on redeemable stocks, " a large percentage " of which were short-term. Share- holders will endorse his view that, bearing in mind the sacrifice of income to liquidity, higher taxation, and the increasing volume of work passing through the banks which entails an addition to expenses without adequate remunera- tion, last year's net profits reached a satisfactory figure.

On the subject of trade prospects Mr. Campbell found several hopeful factors in the present position. Stocks of consumption goods, which both here and in the United States showed a rising tendency during 1937, had been sub- stantially reduced, and the handicap imposed on Britain's foreign trade by an over-valued pound had probably been overcome at the lower rate now reached. He was there- fore disposed to regard the general economic situation, apart from international politics, as having the makings of a gradual improvement.