The global economy is in trouble. At least that is what recent copper price movements tell us, and it could get much worse.

Demand for copper is often a reliable leading indicator of economic health – rising prices suggest growth, while declining prices indicate imminent slowdown.

In October, this column flagged the possibility that copper, which was trading at about US$3.05 per pound, was in danger of entering a sharp decline. That is exactly what happened, when the metal broke down strong support levels in late November to slide to about the current $2.5 to $2.6. Worryingly, there may be more to go.

In the past three years the copper price has been in a downtrend, despite strength in the global equity markets, testing the $3 per pound level four times in four years.

Breakouts from such low-volatility periods are usually followed by strong trend periods, and that is exactly what happened in November. We have already seen similar price action by other industrial metals, such as zinc, lead, aluminium and nickel, which are either close to or already 50 per cent lower than their 2008 historical high levels.

In technical analysis, the current chart pattern for copper is called a “descending triangle”. This is a formation that usually forms during a downtrend, although occasionally they are seen at the end of an uptrend. Either way, a descending triangle is a bearish signal.

The price target calculated from the current descending triangle for copper suggests a $2 to 2.2 per pound level in the coming months.

This does not bode well for the global economy.

Aksel Kibar is a technical strategist at the Abu Dhabi-based asset manager Invest AD

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter

Whether it is a birthday, the birth of a baby or someone is leaving, the collection envelope seems to travel around the office a little too often for my liking. I work in a large, open-plan office and if I stick in Dh25 each time, there is the potential to spend about Dh300 a month. This seems excessive, particularly when I often don’t know the person in question. So what is the etiquette here? Do I ignore the envelope and pass it on, or give less? AA, Abu Dhabi

AA, your work environment sounds friendly and social, which many people might be envious of. The concept of giving in support of a birth or someone leaving can be a symbol that the culture in your office is open and supportive, with colleagues wanting to show their support for each other’s achievements. I am wondering if it is like this in terms of work- related achievements as well. I am just making an assumption about this, and it could be quite possible that your workplace is not like this at all. However, if it is then many would be jealous of a workplace that engages everyone to contribute to someone else’s success, no matter how small.

That said, I imagine this could get a bit challenging as the informal culture and office etiquette seems to imply that everyone contributes each time, possibly irrelevant in terms of how well they know the person. As we know from our cultural work with organisations, it can be very difficult to go against a cultural norm of what people tend to do to celebrate an achievement. It is like the example of the boss taking everyone out every week for dinner after work, or the team go-karting outing that only the chief executive enjoys.

First, there is the option to completely go against the culture and not to give anything at all, but that will be an explicit defiance and, as a blanket rule, probably would not work in your favour. This is particularly the case if there are colleagues you are closer to, and you wish to mark their accomplishments.

The other option is to think a bit more strategically and plan your budget by considering on average how many celebrations there are a month and work out a budget that you can afford. Even if it is Dh10 or Dh15 each time, at least you have limited it to a set budget and can distribute within that accordingly. From what I know about office etiquette and my own experience, I think people never really question the amount you contribute, just as long as you do. Colleagues typically understand people’s situations, and especially as the cost of living can be high here, they would want you to show your support for others through contributing in a way that works for you.

Finally, this situation and feeling under pressure to part with money may well be on other people’s minds. Someone who has just had a baby may have additional financial challenges, and I am sure although they may be pleased with their gifts, they may still feel a bit stretched if they are also spending up to Dh300 a month. In turn, it may be an idea to think about alternatives instead, such as a cake, a card or a voucher. All it takes is for one person to suggest an alternative, then others come on board. Maybe you will have to wait until it is your birthday to suggest that you would prefer everyone to just contribute towards a cake and get together for a coffee. This is still in tune with a social and friendly office environment, but also helps to limit spending costs, which I am sure others will also be grateful for.

Doctor’s prescription: Good luck trying to reshape the office etiquette.​

Alex Davda is a business psychologist and consultant at Ashridge Business School based in the Middle East. Email him at business@thenational.ae for advice on any work issues

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter

Local companies won a big chunk of the contracts up for grabs at the International Defence Exhibition (Idex) in the capital yesterday as the UAE beefs up its support of industry to help diversify the economy away from its dependence on oil and create high tech jobs.

ADX-listed Abu Dhabi Ship Building, in which Mubadala has a 40 per cent stake, won an Dh870 million contract to provide two vessels to the UAE armed forces, according to Major General Obaid Al Ketbi, an Idex spokesman. Its shares closed 11 per cent higher in Abu Dhabi yesterday.

A Dh2.4 billion contract was awarded by the armed forces to Al Taif Technical Services to provide maintenance for ground force vehicles. Al Taif is a unit of state-owned Emirates Defence Industries Company (Edic), which was recently formed following a merger of the defence assets of Tawazun Holding, Mubadala and Emirates Advanced Industries.

A contract also went to the manufacturer Nimr Automotive, which produces 4×4 and 6×6 armoured and non-armoured vehicles. Nimr, also a unit of Edic, won a Dh1.2bn deal from the UAE armed forces for 500 Nimr vehicles “in addition to developing another 500”.

Abu Dhabi Autonomous Systems Investments, part of Edic, won a Dh490m deal for unmanned systems.

“Today we are hoping to reach a significant level of self-sufficiency,” said General Al Ketbi. “The UAE has a clear strategy that started off in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s to focus on local manufacturing. We have also started a while ago doing joint ventures between international defence companies. Therefore what we are seeing today is a positive result of the UAE’s strategy that was set long ago.”

Meanwhile, Airbus said it expects the Middle East to contribute about 20 per cent of its global defence business this year, and says that lower oil prices will not affect demand from this region.

“To be the conservative side, I see demand from the Middle East to be stable at about 20 per cent,” said Marwan Lahoud , chief strategy and marketing officer of Airbus Group.

Habib Fekih, president, Airbus Group, Africa and Middle East, said that the aircraft development cycle of five to six years is long enough to ride through any fluctuation of oil prices.

“The drop in oil price is only a few months. If it continues for three years, we will see what effect it will have,” said Mr Fekih.

Airbus Defence, together with the French-based technology firm Thales Alenia, won a Dh3.7bn deal to build two military observation satellites for the UAE, according to an announcement at Idex yesterday.

In 2013, Airbus Defence delivered three A330 MRTT multi-role tankers to the UAE. The aircraft, which is converted from an Airbus A330 commercial passenger jet, is capable of refuelling air force fighters such as the Mirage 2000 and F-16.

Countries in the Mena region are pumping up their defence budgets amid the threat from ISIL with spending expected to touch US$150bn this year from $148bn in 2014 and $136bn in 2013, according to the defence consultancy IHS Jane’s.

dalsaadi@thenational.ae

selgazzar@thenational.ae

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter