Unless you have been holidaying somewhere remote or hiding away from the world, you will have heard the news that June 24th Britain has voted to leave the European Union. The lead up to the vote provided compelling arguments from both sides with both campaigns making a case for a better Britain and the result couldn’t have been closer, but ultimately the balance tilted in favour of leaving, 51.8% to 48.2%. The speculation around what would happen to the financial markets and the Pound was a concern and on the eve of the vote the markets believed that we would remain, with the FTSE 100 trading above 6300 and the Pound buying $1.49 and €1.31. Contrast that to the following day and the FTSE 100 is trading at 6000, having tested 5800 and the Pound will only buy you $1.37 and €1.23.
This tells us that there is concern and uncertainty about where Britain, and Europe for that matter, might be headed and we are only in the embryonic stage of this process, which means we will have a front row seat as events unfold for much of this year and beyond. One can be forgiven for wondering if the volatile nature of the markets will ever see calmer waters, in the past two years the equity markets have risen and fallen in equal measure due to the uncertainty of Greece, heightened geopolitical tensions in Russia/Ukraine, the horror that is ISIS, the fall in the price of oil and the slowdown in China’s economic output. All these events have increased volatility across the financial markets and we still have the US election to come later this year, which could see one of the most charismatic yet controversial characters become the most powerful man in the world.
I don’t say these things to scare you, but to highlight that even with the unrelenting and unpredictable tide of events that are stifling the progression of the financial markets, we are still going on holiday, buying a new mobile phone, tablet, car, handbag and we will all certainly keep using toothpaste, soap, detergent and filling our cars up with petrol. The message I would like you to take here is that there are always going to be events which over the short term will inevitably cause uncertainty and this will result in volatile market trading conditions effecting the value of your investment portfolios, but over the medium to longer term, which is how your investment portfolios are set up and fund managers position themselves to invest, history has shown us that markets are resilient and these types of events are part of the journey to a more profitable place and provided we have done our job properly, which I believe we have, by ensuring your risk profile matches your investment, there should be no shocks at your next review.
I would like to also provide you with some insightful commentary from the leading fund managers we use, industry commentators and of course, if anyone would like to discuss BREXIT further, please do get in contact and we would welcome the chance to meet with you.
Response to Brexit
Over the next few days and months, even years, we will undoubtedly be reading of today’s simply momentous decision by the people of the UK to leave the EU.
We will not dwell on this political event, but are very focused on the investment implications of this move. It would be fair to say that levels of complacency were elevated in financial markets going into this vote. As we have communicated to our investors recently, we have for some months been concerned by the growing risks evident in the global economy, one of them being a Brexit event.
As a result the asset allocation in our Asset Management and Multi Asset Funds has been defensive so far this year, particularly in regard to our exposure to global equities. We have been holding higher levels of cash in our Funds, as well as increased exposure to the government bond and less vulnerable credit markets.
Our high cash levels have given us the ability to react to dislocated markets. Obviously we are and will be reviewing positioning, and will communicate any significant changes.
As you are well aware, overnight the UK has voted to leave the European Union and the British Prime Minister, David Cameron has resigned. This was not a base case scenario for us and as late as yesterday bookmakers odds suggested only a 16% chance of this happening. However, it has. We always try to position the Orchard Fund to make money out of the majority of market conditions. Tipping our hat in the direction of this possibility, we entered this referendum with over 20% of the Fund in cash and a delta of around 40% of the market. That will make little difference today. Volatility, that vital measure of uncertainty, will spike. The UK market opened down nearly 9% while the US markets are currently indicating down 3%.
Today the good will get marked down with the bad and it will be exceptionally unpleasant, but it will pass. Unfortunately, this is not a 24 hour flu. The invocation of article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty opens up two years of negotiations after which the treaties that govern the UK’s membership of the EU no longer exist. Interestingly, and adding further uncertainty, the terms of any negotiated exit agreement are subject to ratification by each member country’s parliament. We are not overly exposed to the UK economy with only 7.6% of the Fund being invested there, and even those companies where we have exposure, are largely internationally focussed but again, today, that will count for naught. Equally many of our international holdings have only limited exposure to the UK. The markets have now opened and are behaving irrationally.
We have seen holdings move from 30% down to only 5% down in the first hour. We have seen pharmaceutical holdings, the sales of which will be largely unaffected by this decision, open 10% down before rallying back to more sensible levels. It is difficult to know which prices can be trusted but at the time of writing, the Orchard Fund is performing wholly in line with expectations, having fallen less than half of the market so far today.
The markets will in all probability over-react on the downside and I would not be surprised to see the UK market fall further over the next few days. This chaos will throw out opportunities and we are placed to take advantage, but today is a time for cool heads rather than hasty action. We are, as ever, available should you wish to speak to us.
Old Mutual Wealth – Spectrum
AN ALL-WEATHER APPROACH We devote considerable thought to constructing all-weather portfolios that are robust and well able to withstand short-term buffeting. For some time, for a number of reasons, we have been fairly cautiously positioned. After months of sometimes acrimonious campaigning by politicians, the UK electorate has decided: the result of yesterday’s referendum is to Leave the EU. UK equity markets opened lower on the news, much as we had anticipated in the event of a vote to Leave. While we made no forecast as to the outcome of the vote, we ensured that in the event of a vote to Leave we would be well covered.
For some time we have been underweight UK equities across our multi-asset funds, which means that they will be less affected by UK market volatility. Sterling has also fallen sharply against a basket of currencies, on the news of the vote to Leave. Well before the referendum we put into US dollars about 3% of all our portfolios that would normally be converted to sterling, to guard against a fall in the pound. We also moved underweight property, again well before the referendum, mindful of the risks to this asset class.