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Opinion

The art of not saying what you mean

Bankers have long been fond of jargon and they do a good line in euphemisms too. As we reported in December, some will do anything to avoid actually saying that the economy is in tatters and people are being sacked.

But a new term has emerged: geopolitical risk. The capital markets are labouring under the threat of geopolitical risk, waiting for the impact of geopolitical risk or facing geopolitical crisis.

A dictionary definition of geopolitics is the "study of the effect of geographical factors on politics, especially international politics". That covers pretty much anything that doesn't fall into the other handy catch-all phrase, global economic conditions.

Morgan Stanley analysts have narrowed it down to "the inherent instability of a one-superpower world combined with the fundamental shift in US foreign policy initiated last year following the shock of September 11."

Why are analysts so afraid to openly state that war with Iraq is imminent and could make for a big mess in the markets? Bankers talk about the impending threat of war, but will only go on the record saying "geopolitical uncertainty is high".

Talking about geopolitical risk may bring other threats to world peace into play, but right now there's only one on everyone's mind.

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