During April, the economic picture in the West Midlands was dominated by the devastating situation with MG Rover and the knock-on effects for the region.
The Chartered Institute of Purchasing Index for April mirrored this pessimism, showing a contraction in the manufacturing sector in the UK for the first time in two years.
The consumer has also been a focus of attention, with High Street sales in April - reportedly falling at the fastest pace for 13 years - under pressure from interest-rate increases and rising personal debt.
Unsurprisingly, consumer confidence has followed the trend down. The only upside for the UK consumer appears to be the likelihood that interest rates will not be nudged higher for the time being.
However, this may only provide a short-term respite, particularly given the recent UK inflation statistics and the decision by the Federal Reserve to increase its interest rates to three per cent.
The stock market has mirrored this "soft spot", being additionally weighed down by events across the Pond, along with continuing concerns over oil and raw material prices. The US has also seen uninspiring economic numbers this month, with quarter one GDP in particular being weaker than anticipated.
In the UK, the IT hardware, electricals and automotive sectors have been the worst hit in April. Moving forward, there appears to be indecision as to whether the stock market is due a period of softness, culminating in earnings downgrades and more negative momentum or that the recent weakness has provided a buying opportunity.
Given evidence of a degree of de-stocking in the US and the Chinese government attempting to slow down its growth rate from double-digit levels to a more manageable sustainable high single digit, it would appear that the softness is here to stay for a short while at least.
The important uncertainty, however, lies with the impact on earnings. This overall uncertainty and negative momentum in the market was generally mirrored by the moves in the share prices of the West Midlands' larger firms. Only two saw a monthon-month improvement.
Shares in St Modwen Properties were up by ten per cent, benefiting from an upbeat AGM statement and potential long-term opportunities from the regeneration of Rover's Longbridge site.
The defensive qualities of Severn Trent and a warm reception by the City to a management presentation resulted in the shares moving higher.
The main faller during the month was Marconi, which failed to win any business on the £10 billion BT programme - 21st Century Network. Marconi was expected to play a central role.
Elsewhere, Mitchells & Butlers and Wolverhampton & Dudley both suffered in the wake of poor numbers from its competitors and concerns over their own forthcoming results, whilst Aga Foodservice Group saw profit taking post a strong 12-month period and concerns over the weak engineering sector.
Amongst the medium sized companies in the region, the April performance was only slightly more positive - three improving and five falling.
The Birmingham-based fabricator Metalrax Group saw its share price bounce by five per cent off the lows achieved, following the most recent set of results to take top spot in the first month.
Given the caution in the market during April, the healthy yield and perceived defensive nature of the company proved to be a safe haven for investors.
Elsewhere, despite announcing an 11 per cent reduction in pretax profits in April, shares in the Andrew Sykes Group were also ahead by five per cent. The announcement of a special dividend and share buy-back scheme giving the muchrequired fillip.
There was one notable underperformer, theIslamic Bank of Britain, which having risen from 25.50p to 81.50p in the previous two weeks fell by 49 per cent during the month. A sharp increase in the cost base following significant investment resulted in the group posting an increased loss during the initial fivemonth trading period.
In the smaller share league, Wolverhampton-based retailer Bright Futures Group surged into top spot, starting the year well, up 50 per cent, following the acquisition of the remainder of the Active Care business for £210,000.
The building of a sizeable stake in Bidtimes by Dawnay Day Corporate Finance saw the shares move higher by 21 per cent. Following preliminary results, which saw a small profit following last
year's losses, the Solihullbased software company Sirius Financial Solutions improved by 18 per cent into joint third place.
Having finished last year well, Berkeley Berry Birch endured a difficult first month, with the shares falling by 50 per cent following the announcement of an FSA investigation into Michael Cleary and the subsequent requirement to raise funds to correct the regulatory capital shortfall.
Hard on its heals was Tenbury Wells-based manufacturer Howle Holdings, which fell by 29 per cent.
* Shareleague monitors the performance of West Midlands plcs. Percentage figures are rounded up.