God’s Benchmark

With typically abysmal timing the sort of which only the financial sector can manage these days - STOXX Limited, an index provider, has recently launched the STOXX Europe Christian Index. According to the accompanying press release, The new index measures the performance of companies selected from the STOXX Europe 600 Index according to the values and principles of the Christian religion.As the Catholic church continues to be rocked with its own abuse scandal, the launch of an index claiming to be compliant with Christian moral and social doctrines made up from experts of the Christian community, as well as members of the academic and investment community is sure to attract some interesting press coverage. The index will draw its stocks from the STOXX Europe 600 index, and must pass a screen test led by US asset manager Christian Brothers Investment Services. Excluded from the index are companies involved in pornography, strategic and non-strategic weapons, birth control and gambling.According to the Financial Times, BP, HSBC, Nestl, Vodafone, Royal Dutch Shell and GlaxoSmithKline are some of the companies within the index.What remains puzzling is how the values and principles of Christian religion reconcile with the realities of business. According to the FT, the Vatican is also involved in screening the stocks. I wonder which part of the Bible they looked at?How about Deuteronomy 23:19,20: "To a foreigner you may charge interest, but to your brother you shall not charge interest? Does that rule out HSBC? I guess Matthew 25:14: For the kingdom of heaven is like a man travelling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them covers BP and Shell. And at least if you followed Matthew 25:20: So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, 'Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them, it would give you a better return than some executives have managed over the past year.It is only a matter of time before the index launches an American version, then it can simply take a 100% weighting on Goldman Sachs. The Wall Street titan conducts Gods work, after all.N.B. If only Lehman Brothers listened to Exodus 22:26: If you ever take your neighbours garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, then the repo market disaster might have been avoided.