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Yeah, it’s that time of year again…and hopefully a chance to step back from some of this recent Brexit insanity. Let’s jump right in – here’s the H1-2016 performance of my usual benchmark indices:
Of course, what jumps out immediately is the UK. Brexit schmexit…the FTSE’s performance is actually bang in line with long-term averages! Which reflects its predominantly international exposure, but the much-cited FTSE 250 certainly wasn’t much of a disaster at (6.6)%, while the AIM All-Share managed to limit its decline to (4.2)%. [Sterling took the real walloping, trading down 10-12% vs. the dollar & euro]. Unfortunately, this is a sad reminder the real risk of home bias for investors may not be portfolio return. It’s the fact they wake up to a shrinking portfolio…and suddenly realise their currency’s dumped, their housing market’s locked up (& their house value’s probably dumped too), not to mention their employment & economic prospects may also have dimmed substantially. [At least Brexiteers won’t notice the currency impact, since they seem to think only in terms of Mighty Blighty & The Pahhhnd In Your Pocket]. Only a fool would question (or ignore) the benefits of greater/global diversification in the face of such potentially existential risks – particularly as there’s no obvious long-term cost(s) to such a strategy.
At first glance, Europe has borne more of the Brexit brunt, with the Bloomberg Euro 500 significantly trailing the UK indices – down over 10% (which must delight the Brexiteers!). However, it’s worth noting escalating NPL/capital issues in the Italian banking system (& a mounting EU-Italy war of words) have been overlooked by the media recently (hat tip to The Economist though)…I suspect this is responsible for a significant portion of the index decline. Despite efforts to date, this crisis will require an expensive & long-drawn out resolution, and will probably continue to exert a significant drag on sentiment. Fortunately, it shouldn’t pose any kind of existential threat to the European banking system ultimately, at least for stronger banks & countries…Draghi & the ECB will presumably continue to do ‘whatever it takes’. But the ongoing compression in European banking valuations is puzzling – who the hell wants to bet & sweat over sub-0.5 P/B banks, when the cream of the crop remains on sale at 1.0 times book (or less)?! [And the US banking situation isn’t much different].
Perhaps the real Brexit victim here is Ireland, with the ISEQ suffering a 17% decline. Then again, with the market clocking an impressive multi-year string of gains (& a late-2015 double top), a correction was overdue…regardless of Brexit. [Hmph, so why didn’t I dump my Irish shares?!] Of course, now we have to figure out the medium/long-term consequences for the Irish economy & market – a challenge which I think nobody, no matter how authoritative, is qualified to tackle at this point. But anyway, let me throw my (initial) ten cents into the ring: