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21 September 2018 · 3 min read

Brexit: UK Risk premium likely to remain in place

Investors face continued UK uncertainty and polarising outcomes post-Salzburg

The unproductive summit of European leaders in Salzburg this week has highlighted the lack of substantive progress on finding any solution to an exit agreement for the UK which will satisfy the EU, Ireland, Northern Ireland,  UK government and UK parliament. Most importantly the declaration by EU Council President Tusk that the UK’s “Chequers” plan will undermine the single market highlights an objection in principle to the UK’s initiative for a free trade area in goods during any Brexit transition period. This principles-based roadblock suggests that tinkering at the edges – such as customs checks in the Irish Sea are irrelevant details. We see elevated political risk in the UK, potentially polarising the outcome between a hard Brexit and no Brexit. Investors will also need to consider the increased risk of a populist UK government.

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17 September 2018 · 3 min read

2018 Earnings forecasts stable over the summer

Only marginal declines in EMs suggest that fears of an imminent crisis are overblown

There is a relatively strong correlation between the direction of earnings forecasts and the short-term relative performance of equity markets. Over the last 12m, US markets have outperformed peers as Trump’s corporate tax reductions and fiscal stimulus have provided a tailwind for US earnings. In the UK, although weighted earnings forecasts have risen, UK stocks have trailed behind, impacted in our view by the negative domestic sentiment in terms of Brexit. Similarly in continental Europe, market sentiment has been impacted by international and domestic political events. Intriguingly, the median emerging market forecast has only fallen by 2% since the Q1 peak, similar to the UK and Europe, suggesting fears of an imminent crisis are not at present feeding through to the corporate sector.

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12 September 2018 · 5 min read

Choose your narrative with care for 2019

Trade, politics or tighter US monetary policy? One may have a light at the end of the tunnel

In the 10 years since the global financial crisis of 2007-2008 there has been a perennial fear that the withdrawal of central bank support would lead to a collapse in asset values, which had been artificially inflated by ultra-low interest rates and asset purchases. With equity markets outside the US now having fallen by 13% in US dollar terms since the peak in Q1 18 as US interest rates have risen, it is very easy to become convinced this is the start of something bigger. While experience is in general an advantage, investors should beware of the risk of being too quick to make emotive links with the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis and emerging market crises of the 1990s. Notwithstanding the recent market declines, when we look ahead into 2019 we can see scenarios which imply a continued, albeit slower, global GDP and profits expansion - and a pause or slowing in Fed rate increases.

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13 August 2018

Turkey:When risks collide

US sanctions on Turkey overlay political risk on economic fragility

Turkey has long been the beneficiary of substantial US dollar funding. However the Erdogan administration is now on the receiving end of US sanctions, having failed to agree to the release of a US pastor held under house arrest in Turkey. A 28% fall in the Turkish Lira last week has highlighted the risks to a corporate sector highly reliant on dollar borrowing. In addition, solutions now appear down to geopolitics rather than domestic economic policy. Given the already entrenched positions of both the US and Turkey, resolution in the short-term appears unlikely in our view. For investors not exposed to Turkey, the lessons are twofold. First, economic fundamentals do now “matter” as the era of cheap and plentiful US dollars draws to close. Second, the rise of populism on both sides of the Atlantic continues to translate elevated political risk into actual investment outcomes.

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23 July 2018

Earnings estimates: Marginal declines could point to trouble ahead

Regions outside US now showing modest downgrades

Outside the US, most equity sectors have suffered modest downward revisions to 2018 earnings forecasts over the past four weeks. Within the US, 2018 earnings forecasts are effectively unchanged over the same period. It is too early in our view to be certain that this loss of momentum in non-US estimates is the start of a downtrend but it is consistent with the recent sharp declines in industrial commodities. The good news for 2018 – such as US tax cuts and continuing Eurozone expansion was always in our view a H1 phenomenon. The more challenging narratives such as rising US interest rates were in contrast likely to endure for longer. Furthermore, trade war uncertainty has reached a new peak.

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20 June 2018 · 3 min read

Earnings revisions: No sign of a trade war (yet)

US estimates rising again while Europe and UK remain stable

In our view developed market equities remain in a benign de-rating phase, moving only sideways as profits rise and unconventional monetary policy is withdrawn. Critical to this view is a robust set of profits growth figures for 2018. Despite a significant slowing of economic momentum in the UK and Europe, consensus forecasts there still call for 8-9% 2018 earnings growth on a median basis. In the US, profits forecasts have seen another leg higher in recent months. The median US company is now expected to deliver close to 20% earnings growth in 2018. While there remain legitimate concerns and “headline risk” in respect of US trade policy, in our view and for the near-term, investors seem unlikely to dash for the exits with profits growth this strong.

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