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BLOG: Is the UK an emerging market?

Written by: Anthony Rayner
Miton's Anthony Rayner says investors could be forgiven for thinking the UK is behaving more like an emerging market than a developed given the current levels of market and political uncertainty following the Brexit vote.

Is the UK an emerging market? No, but you could be forgiven for thinking so. A currency collapse (sterling has been the weakest in the major markets year-to-date, including the Argentinean peso) and such political turmoil is not normally what you’d expect from a developed market. At the same time, during the recent episode of heightened risk, many emerging markets have proved very resilient.

This goes to the core of how we view markets. Risk is not static. Equities aren’t always riskier than government bonds and emerging markets aren’t always riskier than developed markets, despite what the textbooks suggest. Our non-prejudiced approach to asset classes means we focus on the way asset classes and sub-asset classes are behaving, rather than what they are called.

Digging a little deeper, it soon becomes clear as to why emerging markets have proved so much more resilient of late. Conventional wisdom suggests these markets simply amplify global risk and, in many cases, this has been the case historically. However, more specific drivers of emerging markets are US interest rates, the US dollar and commodities (which to be fair are often drivers or proxies of global risk too).

In this context, the environment for emerging markets has been more forgiving than 2015, with expectations that US interest rates will be delayed and higher prices for many commodity prices, albeit that most commodities are still close to multi-year lows.

Meanwhile, recent events that have driven UK stocks, i.e. increased domestic political and economic risk, so far feel more like regional rather than global risk, impacting trade and financial linkages with Europe, more so than further afield.

As a result, we believe that having a material exposure to emerging market equities, with nothing to Japan, a reduced exposure to Europe ex-UK and very little to domestic UK equities, is currently consistent with a broadly defensive positioning. Conventional wisdom would no doubt disagree.

Anthony Rayner is a fund manager in the Miton multi asset team

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