We are now one week on from waking to discover that the people of the UK had voted to leave the European Union (EU), voting to end an agreement which has existed for 43 years. This will be looked back on as a key moment in UK economic and political history.
Last week we came into the office to find the FTSE 100 down over 8% at opening and the pound around 10% lower against the US dollar. Wild predictions were being made as to where equity markets could end and what lay ahead for the UK economy. The reality was however it was just too early to say.
So seven days later where do markets now stand? Well at last nights close the FTSE 100 had eradicated all losses originally suffered and finished at 6504, being 2.62%, and, some way from the week’s lowest closing level of 5982 on the 27 June. With the pound remaining substantially weaker this should help the UK’s largest companies, who generate more than 70% of their earnings from overseas, be more competitive in terms of exports but more importantly through the translation of those overseas earnings back to the British pound.
The FTSE 250, the index containing the next largest 250 companies remains lower than its 23 June level by just over 7% but off its week low where at one point it was almost 15% down. The companies of this index are more domestically orientated, with only around 50% of earnings coming from overseas.
For those investors invested in overseas equity markets the movement in the British pound has had a noticeable impact. The S&P 500 of the US and EStoxx 50 of Europe are 0.68% and 5.70% lower respectively. In sterling terms however, due to the sharp fall in the value of the pound, UK investors have enjoyed returns of 10.01% and 2.24% respectively.
Bonds, in particular government bonds, meanwhile have also risen, with support provided by the sharp increase in volatility seen in equities. The potential for an interest rate rise, not just here in the UK but also the US is also being pushed further into the future, adding additional support. Over the week, UK government bonds, as measured by the FTSE Actuaries UK Conventional Gilts All Stock index, are 4.97% higher.
For now there remain many uncertainties. Politically the candidates for the next leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister are now known but we will not know who will succeed until early September. Not until then is consideration likely to be given to invoking Article 50 and negotiations begin to leave the EU. We also have ongoing uncertainty regarding the leadership of the Labour Party.
With regard to the UK economy it still remains difficult to calibrate the impact of last week’s vote. However the authorities appear poised to act to add support should it appear necessary, with Mark Carney only yesterday signalling that the Bank of England would be ready to cut interest rates within months. They will also continue to make sure that liquidity is available.
So for now we continue to live in an uncertain world with volatility within investment markets. We will continue to keep abreast of the latest news flow and expect the unexpected.