The economy is picking up and it looks like a stable recovery

The economy is picking up and it looks like a stable recovery

Of course, the good news needs to be put in context. The economy is still almost 4pc smaller than before the crisis, this is the most prolonged recovery in recorded UK history, manufacturing is 10pc weaker than in 2008, and construction is down almost 20pc.

But the past does not change, unless the ONS revises its old estimates. What does change is the present. And, for once, there is a good story to tell. The economy is picking up and it even looks like a stable recovery, with every sector growing. Even the doom-mongers should welcome that.

Disappointment with miners highlighted

At first glance, the latest move from mining giant BHP Billiton could look a bit odd.

The company beat a key target in its long-term incentive plan (LTIP) for the past five years by outperforming its peers, meaning it could pay out hefty amounts to management.

Instead, it is cutting these bonuses by 35pc. Not only that, Andrew Mackenzie, the new CEO, is giving up another lot of share awards relating to when he joined the business five years ago.

It is not quite sackcloth and ashes: he is still being awarded shares worth £4m-plus, on top of a £1m salary.

What the move does point to is just how the miners have disappointed investors.

Yes, BHP hit its target for the LTIP scheme. But that was not much to shout about, given that its performance still represented a negative total return to shareholders over the five years. BHP just managed to achieve a less weak performance than its rivals.

But it is a sobering reminder as to why shareholders in the global miners are angry.

If this was the boom-time performance, as the current commodity cycle ends, the question has to be: why would shareholders stay with the sector through the hard times?

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