Three reasons investors could return to UK stocks post Brexit

By Karen Ward, 30 January 2020

Brexit uncertainty looks set to linger this year. However, with the general election behind us and the global economy showing signs of reacceleration the relatively attractive valuation and dividend yield could tempt investors back to the UK market.

“Investors will likely take comfort from the fact that, at the midnight hour, pragmatism has always prevailed.”

Karen Ward

1) Brexit risk remains, but Corbyn risk has gone

In recent years, investors have faced two major sources of political risk when considering UK assets. The possibility of a hard Brexit and resulting damage to the UK economy was one. At least equally troubling for investors was the lingering possibility of a shift in power to a more radically left-leaning Labour government. Proposals put forward by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn included renationalising key industries such as utilities, higher corporate and wealth taxes, and labour market policies that had the potential to exert considerable pressure on corporate profits.

The Conservative victory in the recent election has removed this Corbyn risk. A new election will not take place until 2024, leaving the Labour Party plenty of time to reflect, select a new leadership team, and decide whether it wants to reposition itself on the political spectrum.

Brexit risk has not been eliminated, but we continue to suspect a relatively benign end result. In the interim, however, the negotiations will generate negative headlines. The UK has just eleven months to agree on a future partnership with the EU. And ultimately, the problem that has plagued the discussions of the last three years is the seemingly impossible desire for the UK to maintain a close economic relationship with the EU, without agreeing to regulatory alignment. This is somewhat of a square peg/round hole situation, since regulatory alignment is always the foundation for a trade agreement, to prevent one country abusing standards (such as environmental or labour) to gain an unfair advantage. Boris Johnson will, in tandem, be hoping that a closer partnership with the US will at least replace some of the trade lost with the EU, though we doubt the UK is high on President Trump’s priority list for this year.

As a result, talk and risk of a hard Brexit will persist to some degree, and may intensify by mid-year. However, investors will likely take comfort from the fact that, at the midnight hour, pragmatism has always prevailed. By the end of the year, we expect the UK to have made regulatory concessions in key sectors, such that it can leave with a skeleton free-trade agreement, allowing the finer details to be thrashed out in subsequent years.

2) Domestic economy stable, but global pickup more important

The UK economy weakened notably into the December election. Business investment contracted through much of 2019, but is now beginning to recover. Investment spending is unlikely to bounce back vigorously given lingering uncertainty, but the main support to growth this year comes in the form of an almighty fiscal stimulus. The recent spending review committed to reverse the vast majority of the last decade’s austerity, and more is likely to come in the March Budget. The Bank of England has indicated that it is also considering adding to stimulus by cutting the base rate of interest, though we see no obvious need for it to do so.

While the UK economy is likely to underperform its global counterparts, investors would be wise to remember that about 70% of the earnings of the FTSE All-share comes from overseas. What is happening elsewhere is more important. The easing in trade tensions and likely pickup in global activity should help to lift FTSE earnings. Uncertainty is also likely to keep sterling rangebound at around 1.30 against the dollar for the first half of the year, supporting the repatriated value of those earnings.

3) The UK market looks attractive in an environment in which investors are starved of yield

As political and economic risks subside, it is the attractive dividend yield offered by UK stocks that is likely to prove too tempting for international investors. Globally, investors are desperately searching for yield as central bank interventions have pushed down the income on offer in bond markets and forced income investors to turn to equity markets (see also our On the Minds of Investors – A menu of options for income-hungry investorss).

With an overall dividend yield of 4.1%, the UK equity market is one of the highest dividend payers in the developed world (see exhibit 1). Those who suspect, like us, that concessions will ultimately be made in the Brexit negotiations might also be tempted by the relatively attractive valuations of the UK market and the potential for currency uplift further down the line.

EXHIBIT 1: ASSET YIELD COMPARISON

Source: Bloomberg Barclays, BofA/Merrill Lynch, Clarkson, Drewry Maritime Consultants, FTSE, MSCI, Refinitiv Datastream, J.P. Morgan Asset Management. Additional yield often comes with associated capital and/or liquidity risk. Global infrastructure and global transport yields are as of March 2019 and June 2019, respectively. Yields for the bond indices are yield to worst and dividend yields for the equity indices. Global transport levered yield is rental income minus operating expenses, debt amortisation and interest expenses, expressed as a percentage of equity value. Global convertibles: Bloomberg Barclays Global Convertibles; DM equity: MSCI World; EM equity: MSCI EM; UK Gilts: UK 10-year yield; UK IG: Bloomberg Barclays Sterling Agg. – Corporates; Global REITs: FTSE NAREIT Index; DM high yield: BofA/Merrill Lynch Developed Markets High Yield Constrained; EM debt: J.P. Morgan EMBI Global; Global infrastructure: MSCI Global Infrastructure Asset Index – Low risk. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of current and future results. Guide to the Markets - UK. Data as of 31 December 2019.


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The Market Insights program provides comprehensive data and commentary on global markets without reference to products. Designed as a tool to help clients understand the markets and support investment decision-making, the program explores the implications of current economic data and changing market conditions. For the purposes of MiFID II the JPM Market Insights and Portfolio Insights programmes are marketing communications and are not in scope for any MiFID II/MiFIR requirements specificallyrelated to investment research. Furthermore, the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Market Insights and Portfolio Insights programmes as non-independent research have not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence ofinvestment research; nor are they subject to any prohibition on dealing ahead of the dissemination of investment research.

This document is a general communication being provided for informational purposes only. It is educational in nature and not designedto be as advice or a recommendation for any specific investment product, strategy, plan feature or other purpose in any jurisdiction, noris it a commitment from J.P. Morgan Asset Management or any of its subsidiaries to participate in any of the transactions mentioned herein. Any examples used are generic, hypothetical and for illustration purposes only. This material does not contain sufficient information to support aninvestment decision and it should not be relied upon by you in evaluating the merits of investing in any securities or products. In addition, users should make an independent assessment of the legal, regulatory, tax, credit, and accounting implications and determine, together with their ownprofessional advisers, if any investment mentioned herein is believed to be suitable to their personal goals. Investors should ensure thatthey obtain all available relevant information before making any investment. Any forecasts, figures, opinions or investment techniques and strategies set out are for information purposes only, based on certain assumptions and current market conditions and are subject to change without prior notice. All information presented herein is considered to be accurate at the time of production, but no warranty of accuracy is given andnoliability in respect of any error or omission is accepted. It should be noted that investment involves risks, the value of investments and the incomefrom them may fluctuate in accordance with market conditions and taxation agreements and investors may not get back the full amount invested. Both past performance and yields is not a reliable indicator of current and future results. J.P. Morgan Asset Management is the brand for the asset management business of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and its affiliates worldwide.

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ETF currency hedging strategies

Static monthly hedge

  • Monthly reset reduces transaction costs.
  • Consistent with many index methodologies, which may reduce tracking error.
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Static daily hedge

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Spotlight on hedge ratios

To achieve a 100% hedge ratio, the value of the derivatives used to hedge a portfolio’s currency exposures should equal the notional value of the portfolio’s assets.

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If hedge ratios become too stretched there is a risk that the impact on the performance of one hedged share class could impact another share class of the same fund.

Regulatory measures require ETF providers keep hedge ratios within a 95%-105% tolerance, making a tolerance-adjusted hedging model appropriate for many ETFs.