Brexit won’t hit global growth, but it does make one big difference

Brexit hasn't changed the world, but it has given central bankers the excuse they need to carry on with loose monetary policies. John Stepek explains what that means for you.


Brexit might be politically important, but it's not a big deal for markets.

So what's on the Brexit agenda today?

The FTSE 100 has rebounded to where it was. You'd expect that it's an international index. Broadly speaking, a falling currency means a rising stockmarket. Japan is the most glaringly obvious example of this, but it works elsewhere too.

Other markets the FTSE 250, eurozone equities are still off their pre-Brexit highs, and the mid-cap index is a bit lower this morning after a rally yesterday.

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The pound is still creeping higher, even although (or perhaps because) everyone expects it to keep falling.

Oh yes, and both of our main political parties are choosing new leaders

The effect of political turmoil on the UK

Meanwhile, Labour leader (still) Jeremy Corbyn is lining up his post-Westminster career in celebrity brand endorsements (superglue ads it's not Saatchi & Saatchi, but I'm thinking: "Nothing clings tighter than Jezza").

All this excitement is of course translating into our papers, who reckon it's the end of days.

As an investor though, you're better off ignoring this stuff. The market certainly is.

Let's take a quick step back here.

Whoever is next to run the Conservative party (and therefore the country), their political philosophy will be business-friendly and desiring of free trade. Immigration will remain a sticky issue, but the reality is that while it might be a dealbreaker for some voters, it's not the priority of any of these potential leaders.

So whoever is in charge will be business-friendly, and most likely a pragmatist. So despite the froth, none of this is an especially big deal for markets.

The wildcard obviously, is in the process of negotiating with the EU. We have a lot of tough talk and we have a lot of mutterings about sections of the City being tempted / bullied into going to Paris or Frankfurt.

Maybe it'll happen. Maybe we should be eyeing up investments in Parisian commercial property (I'm going to look into it). Equally, it's worth bearing in mind that France today is neither politically that stable, nor particularly friendly to business in terms of labour laws and attitude towards the financial sector.

What are the trade-offs? Businesses thinking of leaving London will have to add up the costs and make those decisions for themselves. But that will take time.

What about the effect on confidence? Confidence is a pretty nebulous concept. It gets bandied about a lot. But confidence has concrete underpinnings. It has fundamentals.

If things turn bad, sure, confidence will drop. But if everyone gradually realises that this isn't quite the epochal disaster that it's being made out to be, then the "chilling" effect simply won't be that long lived.

What about the rest of the globe?

We still have too much debt. We are still caught up in a bond bubble of epic proportions. We are still wondering whether or not China will scupper or salvage the global economy. We're still looking for signs of inflation, and wondering what the trigger point might be for central banks to either raise interest rates, or embark on a helicopter-money bonanza.

From that point of view, I reckon that if you missed your opportunity to invest in the mining stocks earlier this year then now's probably a good time. The commodities sector as a whole is continuing to rally and it looks to me like it's got legs.

Brexit is not going to have a huge impact on global growth, regardless of how disruptive it feels in Britain. But in relation to the issues I've just been raising about debt and inflation and monetary policy it does provide a fantastic excuse for central bankers around the world to keep money as loose as they like for ages.

That means that monetary policy will be looser for longer than it otherwise would have been. All else being equal, that's inflationary. And it's likely to be good for raw materials prices.

Anyway, we'll have plenty more on the other opportunities arising from Brexit in the latest issue of MoneyWeek magazine, which is out tomorrow.

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But regardless of which way you voted and whether you feel enraged, scared, overjoyed, defied, or deprived try to look at your portfolio with a cool head. This isn't 2008. It's not even 1992 (interest rates in double digits remember those? Probably not, unless you're over 40). Take a deep breath, ignore the papers, and have a good day.

John Stepek

John is the executive editor of MoneyWeek and writes our daily investment email, Money Morning. John graduated from Strathclyde University with a degree in psychology in 1996 and has always been fascinated by the gap between the way the market works in theory and the way it works in practice, and by how our deep-rooted instincts work against our best interests as investors.

He started out in journalism by writing articles about the specific business challenges facing family firms. In 2003, he took a job on the finance desk of Teletext, where he spent two years covering the markets and breaking financial news. John joined MoneyWeek in 2005.

His work has been published in Families in Business, Shares magazine, Spear's Magazine, The Sunday Times, and The Spectator among others. He has also appeared as an expert commentator on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, BBC Radio Scotland, Newsnight, Daily Politics and Bloomberg. His first book, on contrarian investing, The Sceptical Investor, was released in March 2019. You can follow John on Twitter at @john_stepek.