Post-Election Economic Activity

The results of the UK general election on June 8th have left many factors in a state of uncertainty in Britain. The country has been left with a hung parliament, with the Conservatives only securing 318 seats of the 326 they needed to win a majority. This political result has had effects, both positive and negative, on areas of the economy and investment markets.

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Previous trends have shown that, when there is anticipated disturbance in the political sector, investments in commodities such as gold increase as people try to hedge their bets against economic losses. In the run up to the election, there was increase of 64% in people investing in gold for the first time, while numbers of financial professionals buying physical gold were up 49% in the week leading up to the vote.

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Following the announcement of a narrow Conservative win the sterling experienced a sudden drop of 2% in value against the dollar to $1.2683, its lowest level in two months though it regained a little ground back up to $1.27 on Friday the 9th. It is predicted that sterling will continue to experience some level of volatility in the short term.

While the election results have hit some areas of the economy negatively, others are thriving after the news. The FTSE 100 ended on the 8th of June up 1%, while the Stoxx Europe 600 experienced an increase of 0.3%. Global businesses, such as Diageo, Reckitt Benkiser, and Unilever also observed upward movement, all trading at around 1.5% higher by the 9th. Increased value of shares of exporting companies, which make up three quarters of the FTSE 100, are expected to do better as the weakened currency is likely to rise income earned abroad.

The narrowness of the Conservative win will have an impact on how the upcoming Brexit negotiations are carried out as well. Theresa May gambled the Conservative status as the ruling party in the hope of gaining an even stronger position in the negotiations however, this has backfired with no party having an overall majority in the UK parliament. The weakened Conservative position means that a more lenient Brexit deal may be agreed on as opposed to the “hard” Brexit that May hoped for, with no trade deal.

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As the Conservative party enters into discussions with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) about a possible coalition, economic uncertainty may continue. This coalition would see the DUP adding their 10 parliamentary seats to the Conservative seats, giving the party the majority it needs to pass legislation, and gain a stronger hold over the Brexit negotiations.

Emerging Markets: The Best Is Yet To Come

Emerging markets continued their upward climb in the third quarter and now emerging market economies are back in growth mode, their currencies are recovering, and GDP growth is accelerating.  We are expecting the transition to a long-term, sustainable growth rate in China to slow to 6.7% in 2016 and slow to a little over 6% in 2018.  In the rest of Asia, we are looking for a good growth rate of 4.8% this year and over 5% in 2017.  Latin America has been dragged down by Brazil over the past two years and they appear to have turned the corner in the third quarter with a -3.8% GDP growth rate and are expecting 1.6% GDP growth in 2017.  It seems that with the impeachment trial over, Brazil is marching forward again.  With the help of this good growth in emerging markets and stable commodity prices, we are expecting a continuation of the “Low and Slow Growth” as the global economy approaches 2.4% growth.

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For the third quarter of 2016, the Emerging Markets Portfolio returned 8.73% (pure gross) and 8.29% (net) versus 9.15% for the MSCI Emerging Markets Index.  The portfolio returned 23.33% (pure gross) and 21.28% (net) for one-year versus 17.21% for the benchmark.  Stock selection and/or country weightings in Argentina, Philippines, Turkey, Chile, and Colombia aided the portfolio’s performance.  However, stock selection and/or country weightings in Russia, China, Taiwan, South Korea, and India hindered performance.  In relation to sectors, positions in consumer services, energy minerals, communications, consumer durables, and industrial services aided performance.  Sector positions in non-energy minerals, electronic technology, commercial services, retail trade, and utilities hurt the portfolio’s return.

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In the first quarter’s commentary, we stated that no matter the outcome of the Brexit vote, it would not affect the markets, and it has not; the emerging markets have done exceedingly well in this environment.  The United States has much influence in the growth of the world and globally we have seen populism arrive on the political scene in the United Kingdom, Italy, and other nations.  In this Presidential election, both candidates have promoted protectionism which Moody’s Madhavi Bokil has called harmful for global growth.  Hopefully, a congress that supports free trade will rule the day, TPP will be ratified, NAFTA will stay intact, and the “Low and Slow Growth” economy will grow at a faster pace than the projected 1.5% in 2016 and 2% in 2017 rates.

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The Emerging Market economies are back in growth mode, their currencies are recovering, and GDP growth is accelerating.  We expect that this growth mode will continue for the foreseeable future.  The portfolio’s high conviction, lower turnover investment philosophy/strategy, which combines quantitative and fundamental based analysis, should prosper in this environment.

The International Equity Portfolio

The big story in the news this week was the extraordinary loss reported by BHP Billiton. The Anglo-Australian mining giant recorded the worst loss in its history to the tune of around $6.4 billion annually. Along with an unavoidable dam collapse in Brazil, the company has suffered due to the continued slump in commodities prices.

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Also in the news, further stories keep trickling in detailing post-Brexit fall-out. Although the UK economy appears to be dealing with the situation far better than had been predicted by some, many sectors – such as IT, Finance, and Corporate Property – have been feeling the heat, with the pound still on shaky ground, international deals being pulled out of, and jobs being cut.

 

Last week, RBS announced that a large IT project originally due to be undertaken by Indian tech firm Infosys would no longer be going ahead triggering an “orderly ramp-down” of around 3000 employees. Banks and Finance firms are creating significantly fewer jobs too, moving roles to outside of the UK, according to recruiters Morgan McKinley.

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Despite this, our International Equity Portfolio performed reasonably well last quarter, returning 1.43% (pure gross) and 1.20% (net) versus 0.05% for the benchmark. For one year the portfolio returned -6.29% (pure gross) and -7.28 (net) versus -9.72% for the MSCI-EAFE Index. Although stock selection and country weightings in India and Australia hindered performance, weightings in Spain, Germany and Japan boosted it, as well as selections in the communications, health technology and consumer durables sectors.

 

The Henry James International Portfolio is a large capitalization international portfolio; it takes advantage of the international economy while seeking long-term capital appreciation. As with all our Emerging Markets Portfolio  The investment process is an objective, bottom-up, quantitative screening process designed to identify and select inefficiently-priced international stocks with superior return-versus-risk characteristics. This is combined with quarterly, top-down risk-mitigating country allocation system rebalancing, in which the management team over weights highly-ranked countries and under weights lower-ranked countries. Typically, the portfolio invests in 50 to 70 stocks that pass our disciplined fundamental and quantitative criteria. The primary performance benchmark is the MSCI-EAFE.

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To learn more about this, or any of our portfolios, please get in touch via email at info@hj-intl.com, by telephone on 917-951-5170 or by heading to our website.

 

(Please note: Henry James International does not currently holds a position in RBS.  Henry James International does currently own BHP and INFY for client portfolios).

Market Commentary – Quarter 2, 2016 – Part 2

Last week’s Market Commentary examined how the global markets performed over the last quarter and this week we will be focussing on the individual performances of each of our portfolios following Brexit.

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Emerging Markets

For 2016, we are expecting broad-based growth in the emerging markets with the exception of Brazil whose recession is largely self-inflicted. We expect GDP good economic growth in Asia: India 7.4%, China 6.5%, Malaysia 4.4%, Korea 2.8%, Thailand 3.2%, and Taiwan 1%.  In Latin American GDP growth is expected to recover modestly in 2016 with Mexico 2.4%, Colombia 2.5%, Peru 4%, and Chile 1.5% leading the group. Brazil, which is in a recession, had a better than expected -6% contractions in the first quarter beating expectations with -5.4% GDP growth. The good news was that Brazil had stronger than expected GDP growth, which was the result of lower imports and higher exports.  Economists expect the Brazilian economy to hit bottom in the third quarter followed by the start of a recovery in the fourth quarter.  Globally with the help of the emerging markets we are expecting global growth to approach 3.2% and a continuation of a Goldilocks economy.

Over quarter two of 2016, the Emerging Markets Portfolio returned 3.27% (pure gross) and 2.81% (net) versus 0.80% for the benchmark. For one year the portfolio returned -4.64% (pure gross) and -6.29 (net) versus -11.71% for the MSCI- Emerging Markets Index. Stock selection and/or country weightings in Russia, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan and Brazil aided the portfolio’s performance. However, stock selection and/or country weightings in Mexico, Philippines, Chile, Thailand and China hindered performance. In relation to sectors, positions in finance, energy, consumer durables, communications and technology services aided performance. Sector positions in non-energy minerals, consumer services, electronic technology, retail trade and utilities hurt the portfolio’s return.

The Emerging Market economies are back in growth mode, their currencies are recovering and GDP growth is accelerating

 

International Equity Portfolio

For the second quarter of 2016, the International Equity Portfolio returned 1.43% (pure gross) and 1.20% (net) versus 0.05% for the benchmark. For one year the portfolio returned -6.29% (pure gross) and -7.28 (net) versus -9.72% for the MSCI-EAFE Index. Stock selection and/or country weightings in Spain, Germany, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, and Japan aided the portfolio’s performance. However, stock selection and/or country weightings in India, Australia, Hong Kong, Canada and Sweden hindered performance. In relation to sectors, positions in finance, communications, consumer durable, health technology, and retail trade aided performance. Sector positions in transportation, electronic technology, utilities, consumer non-durables and technology services hurt the portfolio’s return.

International Select Portfolio

The International Select Portfolio returned -0.58% (pure gross) and -1,04 (net) versus -1.19% for the benchmark for the second quarter of 2016. For one year the portfolio returned -8.19% (pure gross) and -9.87 (net) versus -9.72% for the MSCI-EAFE Index. Stock selection and/or country weightings in Germany, Ireland, Belgium, Spain and Brazil aided the portfolio’s performance. However, stock selection and/or country weightings in the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Switzerland, France and Canada hindered performance. In relation to sectors, positions in finance, industrial services, health technology, distribution services and consumer durables aided performance. Sector positions in energy minerals, non-energy minerals, consumer services, utilities, and consumer non-durables hurt the portfolio’s return.

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Want to learn more about each of our portfolios? Check in next week where we will be taking you through Henry James International Management’s Emerging Markets Portfolio or head to our website.

Market Commentary – Quarter 2, 2016 – Part 1

This quarter, the global economy underwent a serious shake-up, with the UK’s EU referendum having initially severe ramifications for markets all across the world. In this week’s Market Commentary, we examine the financial situations of our portfolio countries now that the dust has settled.

Market Commentary

On Friday June 24, 2016 the “Wall of Worry” triumphed as British Voted to “Leave” the European Union. The VIX went up while the GBP and markets tumbled.  Then, as central banks do in a time of crisis, the market was flooded with liquidity.  After the markets stabilized, people began to look at the brighter side. As it stands, the United Kingdom is the fifth largest economy in Europe, and it does not appear that they are slipping into recession. They are headed for a little slow down, probably, recession – not likely.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, Europe is experiencing stronger than expected GDP growth as it undergoes a cyclical recovery.  Emerging Market economies are back in growth mode, their currencies are recovering and GDP growth is accelerating. Things are looking up.

In the USA we expect GDP growth to continue on pace in 2016 with the two prior years’ growth rate of 2.4%.  This marks the first 10-year period that, for any single year, the USA GDP growth rate did not exceed 3%.  Globally, with the help of the emerging markets we are expecting, growth to approach 3.2% with a continuation of the Goldilocks economy we mentioned in last quarter’s Market Commentary.

In this, we predicted a close vote on the British exit, that no matter the outcome it would not really affect the markets in the long run, and that we had reached a market bottom earlier this year. Looking forward, the event will cause global volatility over the summer, and then over the next few years our estimate is that eventually both the United Kingdom and Europe will do what is best for their own long-term self-interests, which are generally tied to one’s own long-term economic interests.

In part two next week we will be discussing what this quarter meant for our Emerging Markets, International Select, and International Equity portfolios.

Brexit – UK in Limbo, Part 2

Just over three weeks since the Brexit results and the UK remains in a political limbo. Financially-speaking, however, things are beginning to calm down. After the initial shock, the markets have quietened, with the FTSE100 even moving ahead of where it was before the referendum. It looks like Europe has survived the immediate, violent reaction and the focus now shifts to what continued uncertainty, and a withdrawal from the EU, will mean for the UK, and the rest of the world.

Biggest question next – EU budget

The next big economic issue surrounding Brexit is the question of the EU budget. The EU’s current budget stands at €960bn for the years 2016-2020. £47.5bn should come from the UK up until 2020, but since spending that money on UK institutions such as the NHS played a central role in the Leave campaign’s argument, it is unlikely that the next Prime Minister will agree to honour that commitment for another 3 years.

The UK certainly will not stop paying until the withdrawal agreements have all been discussed and decided, but sooner or later the UK will stop contributing, and then the question will be what can be done to fill that gap. One possibility is that the EU will expand its revenue sources, past the current sugar tax and customs duties, the other is that net contributors will agree to pay more and net receivers will agree to accept less. Either way, this decision will undoubtedly have an effect on the economies of the remaining member states.

Brexit – What Now, Part 1

Just over two weeks since the Brexit results and the UK remains in a political limbo. Financially-speaking, however, things are beginning to calm down. After the initial shock, the markets have quietened, with the FTSE100 even moving ahead of where it was before the referendum in GPBs. It looks like Europe has survived the immediate, violent reaction and the focus now shifts to what continued uncertainty, and a withdrawal from the EU, will mean for the UK, and the rest of the world.

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The main industries affected

One of the most recent industries to take a hit was the property industry. House prices have fallen and property funds have suffered. Standard Life have suspended redemptions in its UK Retail property fund and has £2.9bn of assets under management. With London no longer seeming an attractive investment destination, Real Estate Investment Trusts have been hit too, with some dropping by as much as 20%.

Other industries hit include the Automotive, Airline, and Pharmaceutical. Of the 1.6 million cars manufactured in the UK, 77% are exported abroad, and over half of these to EU countries. UK-based airlines now have to rethink European routes and must recalculate fares, taking the new cost of visas into account. This is particularly hard for low-cost airlines like EasyJet, whose share price dropped 20%. It is not uncommon for UK pharmaceutical companies to carry out research and business overseas which will no doubt cause logistical issues but, more importantly, leaving the EU means the European Medicines Agency is no longer responsible for authorising UK pharmaceuticals which could mean slower approval for UK-manufactured drugs.

Brexit – The Aftermath

Thursday, June 23, 2016, at the market close everyone felt safe.  The Brexit vote had been completed and everyone was looking forward to the weekend after one more piece of the wall of worry was removed.  As we all know, people generally vote for what is in their own self-interest.  For a citizen of the United Kingdom it was obvious with 40 years of peaceful growth, a rise in the standard of living, and the ability for freedom of movement amongst countries for work and living (it is better to retire in the sun of Spain than experience a cold, rainy summer in the UK).

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Contentment from people that either never experienced or had forgotten the hardships in the United Kingdom in the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s resulted in a group of people voting against their self-interest.

What was to be a great summer weekend instead became a volatile financial mess.  The pound fell over 10%, European markets by over 10%, and a general gloom fell over the globe.

Then people realized that it is not binding; Parliament has to approve the vote.  While European leaders showed their anger at Great Britain, cooler heads surfaced.  The Spanish who went to the polls over the weekend went with the status quo.  They have seen the consequences of a severe recession; their unemployment rate, while at a 4-year low, is still over 20%.

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Analysts sat back and asked, “If there is a recession in Great Britain how will it affect China, Japan, India, the United States, and Latin America?”  And the answer is: very little. 

How many fewer cups of coffee will Starbucks sell in the United Kingdom over the next year?  Maybe 5% or less.  And if it is 5% less, what impact would that have on Starbucks total sales?  It is not very much, probably less than five-tenths of one percent.  Growth in China, India, and Brazil could make up for that very quickly.  In fact, emerging markets were down less than half of what the European markets were down.  MSCI Europe two-day return for June 24 and June 27 was –13.41% and MSCI Emerging Market two-day return for June 24 and June 27 was –4.75%.

The event will cause global volatility over the summer, and then over the next few years our estimate is that eventually both the United Kingdom and Europe will do what is best for their own long-term self-interests, which are generally tied to one’s own long-term economic interests.

Brexit for Businesses

With just three days to go until the UK referendum on whether to remain in the European Union, the opinion polls are still returning no decisive idea of which way Thursday’s vote will go and we are asking the question – what would Brexit mean for global businesses?

Wall Street growth investor Louis Navellier believes one of the sectors which will most likely be affected is the energy and commodity sector. With the Energy and Basic Materials sectors currently down by 2%, it is clear that investors are beginning to feel the uncertainty and this is being reflected in the market. Navellier believes that, after a rise in commodity prices at the end of the first quarter, a UK vote to leave would help the US dollar to rally causing energy and commodity-related stocks to suffer.

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Increasing strength in the US is also worrying many UK businesses, including engineering giant Rolls-Royce. Last week the company’s chief executive Warren East spoke out saying that a Brexit would put investments at risk and give Rolls-Royce’s American rivals, such as General Electric and Pratt & Whitney, a competitive advantage.

The main factor in all of these worries is uncertainty. East claiming that the uncertainty about the outcome of the referendum, and the knock-on effect it will have, causing the company to put a lot of important decisions on hold for the moment. This uncertainty, coupled with that surrounding the run-up to the US presidential elections, is taking its toll on investment banking as well. Banking analyst Chirantan Barua recently predicted that a leave vote could cause investment banking fees to plummet by more than 30% globally, bringing deal-making to a halt, and meaning disastrous things for anyone working in Mergers and Acquisitions in London or New York.

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But not everyone is worried, Invesco Perpetual’s Head of UK Equities, Mark Barnett, has said in Investment Week that the UK’s dynamic economy will enable it to adapt to any change resulting from a Brexit. Although the initial effects would be negative, he says, in the long term it is unlikely that there would be any real impact on the stock markets outside of the UK and the best businesses will have planned for both outcomes.

This is an opinion echoed by many global companies who have operations in the EU and the UK. Ingeborg Oie of medical technology company Smith and Nephew, says that, although the company believes the unified EU regime is advantageous – with overarching regulations across national borders allowing new innovations to be shared more quickly and cost-effectively – they do not believe that the referendum will have a significant impact on their ability to do business.

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Amidst the widespread disagreement of what to expect financially from the referendum, there seem to be a few generally-agreed predictions. Whether or not it would be an economic disaster for the UK, Brexit may well give US an advantage over the UK in a time when the dollar is already strong, but this advantage could come at the cost of commodity prices. Secondly, Brexit probably would not impact huge multi-nationals decisively, but would certainly cause some damage if a lot of their work is done in the UK or EU. When it comes down to it, however, it would appear that the only thing that is certain is that the referendum is causing uncertainty.