Hear that snorting sound, the thud of splayed hooves across the cobblestones, overlaid with sweaty palms and a whiff of fear? It's the herd of wandering investors wondering when they will be saved, again, by central banks. This time, the great hope is that next Wednesday and Thursday in the US, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke and ECB President Mario Draghi will do just that by outlining the steps they will take to steady the US and save Europe. But you have to ask if it will make any difference.

Judging by the poor first reading from the Chinese manufacturing sector yesterday and similar outcomes from Germany, France and the eurozone last night, that help can't come too quickly. As we outlined in yesterday's Crikey, China's growth path is running rough as stockpiles grow of unwanted goods and commodities. Europe remains a basket case, with even Germany getting another dose of the slows. Shares fell overnight and gold rose, while oil hit new highs, despite evidence that demand remains weak and stocks plentiful. It seems those investment banks and other punters are backing having a crack at oil and gold, punting the free money from the central banks before it has been issued. Capitalism at its Ponzi-like best.