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Brexit: Fund managers preach calm as UK enters uncharted waters

Written by: Adam Lewis
With the price of sterling crashing, the FTSE 100 tumbling and the prime minister announcing he will resign on the news that Britain has voted to leave the European Union it is easy to become worried about the future of your investments.

With this in mind we get the reactions of several prominent fund managers on what investors need to take stock of during times of severe market stress.

Richard Buxton, head of equities and CEO of Old Mutual Global Investors: 

“Within equity markets, as ever at times of market stress, emotional reactions will mean that price falls will overshoot; this is the very nature of stock markets. The gold price was one of a very small number of bright spots as the result became clear; it immediately broke convincingly through the US$1,300/oz barrier, as investors looked for safe havens.

“It is hard not to feel disappointed at this result, which we know is likely to result in a difficult period for UK equity investors. As ever, we will do everything in our power to help our clients to navigate these market conditions; any investment decisions we take will be made with careful consideration. During this period of uncertainty, inward investment is likely to remain at best muted, as both international and UK businesses consider their options for future capital expenditure and hiring.

“Looking further ahead, it seems inevitable that the UK and European economies will face a period of two years of uncertainty, as the UK attempts to negotiate how to extricate itself from the European Union, while maintaining access to European markets.

Paras Anand, head of European equities at Fidelity International:

“Whilst the result will lead to political uncertainty which may lead to shorter term volatility in the markets, it is important to remember that such events impact the long term prospects of companies only at the margin. The consequence of the vote on the UK domestic economy and Europe more broadly is difficult to call and will likely only be evident over time but the fall in the currency increases the competitiveness of those sectors exporting both goods and services internationally and should increase the appetite for inward investment over time.

“If we look at the corporate sector in particular, we are in an environment where companies are holding significant cash balances and the scope for ongoing corporate activity remains. This should limit the extent of the falls that we should see over the coming weeks and months.

“What we are doing today is no different to last week which is using the opportunities that arise from these short term macro-economic events to focus on companies that we want to own for the longer term. The Pan-European corporate sector is truly international in nature.  If you look at the US corporate sector, it very much faces off the domestic economy; the Asian corporate sector likewise earned 60% of its revenues and profits from the Asian region. Compare that to the Pan European corporate sector which is much more broadly based.

“So even in a scenario which the vote to leave has a negative impact on demand in the UK and Europe to a greater extent than we currently believe, it will not at the aggregate level dominate the prospects for companies as much as some might believe.”

Mark Barnett, head of UK equities at Invesco Perpetual:

“In simple terms, the UK’s vote in favour of Brexit has cast us into uncharted waters with a level of uncertainty we have not experienced for a long time. In the coming weeks and months, there may be delays to consumer spending, companies’ recruitment and foreign direct investment as the nation and wider global economy digests the decision. In combination, these factors present substantial short-term headwinds to the UK economy.

“Over the longer term, however, we believe the UK economy can cope with life after Brexit and we remain optimistic about the future outlook. We have a dynamic economy which has adapted to change before – and is now primed to adapt again to whatever change is thrown at us.

“Ultimately, we don’t manage money on a three month view or a six month view but in the best long-term interests of our clients. We will be waiting to see some of the dust settle before we move portfolios one way or the other because at this stage it is difficult to accurately assess what some of the moving parts will look like as international trade and regulatory negotiations take shape.

“We would urge investors to recognise that we will endeavour to make considered judgments on the basis of the facts as they emerge. We will not be making changes to the methodology we have used for many, many years to build our portfolios, nor departing from the processes we deploy to analyse, understand and respond to investment opportunities across UK equity markets.”

Neil Woodford, head of investment at Woodford Investment Management

“Markets are clearly shocked by the decision but, in our view, it is not as negative a development as the market’s initial reaction appears to imply.

“We have been clear in our thinking on the economic implications of Brexit for some time. The independent report that we commissioned on the subject, concluded that Britain’s long-term economic future would be largely unaffected by a decision to leave the European Union. We stand by these conclusions.

“That is not to say there won’t be challenges in the near-term. There will. We now face a period of uncertainty as the exact terms of Britain’s exit from Europe are negotiated. Financial markets loathe uncertainty as amply demonstrated by this morning’s reaction across all asset classes.

“However, my job is to peer through this short-term uncertainty and focus on the long-term fundamentals of the economy and the businesses in which we invest. As I have said on a number of occasions recently, the global economic backdrop will continue to be challenging, regardless of our membership of the EU. Many of the greatest economic challenges that we face now and in the future, in my view, dwarf the economic issues associated with today’s outcome.

““In the longer term, it is my view that the trajectory of the UK economy, and more importantly the world economy, will not be influenced significantly by today’s outcome. Consequently, the portfolio strategy will not change. It was designed for a challenging world, characterised by low growth, deflation, debt problems, weak productivity and troubling demographics. Despite these headwinds, I remain confident that the portfolio will deliver the returns we have targeted over the three-to-five year time horizon that we continue to focus on.”

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