Investment Line is a regular investment bulletin produced by Mattioli Woods plc. The communication provides an update on funds, highlights some of the areas we are focusing on, and shares our thoughts on the issues of the day.
It looks as if Theresa May is now personally running out of time – the delay she has “secured” from the EU seems unlikely to increase her own chances of survival. The Conservatives look ready to make another move to dethrone her – there is even talk of changing the rules over leadership challenges to allow another one to take place! There is pressure on the PM to announce a leaving date and the party will be keen to gain some clarity ahead of the European elections, which it now appears we will be participating in. Meanwhile, Nigel Farage has launched the Brexit Party and the general expectation is the pro-Brexit vote will be substantial, potentially bringing significant embarrassment for the mainstream parties. The remain side is seeing this as a sort of second Referendum and will no doubt make the case for an actual re-run if the results suggest things have moved in their favour. Political risk is therefore elevated, and those tempted to make a contrarian bet on UK assets have likely had their enthusiasm tempered by the less than trivial prospect of a General Election later in the year. Remember, any new Conservative leader may feel obliged to seek a fresh mandate for his/her term via this route. This is just one avenue that could lead us to that endgame, with a no-confidence vote in the Government being the other obvious contender. News may have slowed somewhat after the fever pitch reached a few weeks ago, but we are likely to see tensions resume after the Easter recess. Expect more drama and for us to remain low in our UK allocations – probably for some time. The UK economy continues to be blighted by poor productivity and the sustained political uncertainty is hardly likely to result in strong economic data over the next year.
Markets (equities) have continued to perform well, and the horrors of the last quarter of 2018 seem but a distant memory. There are certainly some reasons to be cheerful – the Federal Reserve turning more dovish is a big deal for investors and some of the economic data has stabilised, showing signs of improvement. Larry Fink of Blackrock has said he thinks a market melt-up is possible, with investors who had sat on the sidelines feeling forced to take the plunge, pushing equities dramatically higher. This is of course possible, but some of these markets have already rapidly rebounded this year, not least the Chinese equity index, which has risen by a third. Indeed, China has been pivotal in the change of global risk sentiment, with the expansion in credit growth there fuelling the rally across markets. Investors will naturally be concerned about ‘missing out’ in this most recent bull run, but those of a more reflective disposition (and yes, we’re going to put ourselves in that category), might wonder if this is sustainable. Improving economic data and earnings are going to be important to allow further progress from here and there is only so far the disconnect between stalling fundamentals and lofty valuations can be pushed before something snaps. Also, is credit growth and the increase in debt levels really a good thing in the long run and aren’t investors just being allowed to avert reality for a bit longer? We expect the going to become much tougher later in the year and are not changing course.
Investment Line is written and edited by members of the Mattioli Woods Group investment committee and is for information purposes. It is not intended to be an invitation to buy, or act upon the comments made, and all/any investment decisions should be taken with advice, given appropriate knowledge of the investor’s circumstances. The value of investments and the income from them can go down as well as up, and you may not get back the amount invested. Past performance is not a guide to future returns.
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