Time to worry about a hung parliament?

Should you be worrying about the UK general election ending in a hung parliament? The latest polls suggest that Theresa May’s overall lead is no longer solid. She hasn’t done well at either explaining or supporting her manifesto and we know that Labour’s lead over the Tories in the 18-24 age groups is huge: it has doubled since 2015 to 37 percentage points. If the young turn up to vote this month, they have a chance of swinging the result to the left.

We’d then find ourselves dealing with the likelihood of a more fractious Brexit than expected, alongside a nervous stockmarket and a volatile currency. Not much fun. Worse, we may end up having to have another election or even the most awful of all the awful political possibilities, another referendum. But it isn’t yet time to panic: May should still win.

In order for the 18-24 group to close Labour’s gap, youth turnout would have to double from 43% last time to more than 80% this time with all the new voters voting Labour, reckons Fathom Consulting. It’s also worth remembering that the Tory vote is often understated and that May still beats Jeremy Corbyn when voters are asked who they think would make the best prime minister.

So what should you do while you wait to see what happens next? When it comes to your money, the answer is probably to look beyond short-term UK politics for now. In this week’s cover story, Rupert Foster looks at one of the few global sectors where growth is guaranteed – big technology. He reckons that you should still be buying into the likes of Amazon and into the big players in China.

It is a very compelling case. But regular readers won’t be surprised to know that I don’t entirely agree with him. The prices are too high for me, particularly now the pace of monetary easing is slowing worldwide, and so are the regulatory risks (democracies don’t like oligopolies). I hold the trust we tip in the story (Scottish Mortgage) as part of my portfolio, but more as insurance against being wrong on this (again) than out of short-term conviction in the sectors.

Otherwise, if you are looking for a market that is far away and that still makes sense, I would reiterate our long-standing advice to buy into Japan. It is exceptionally politically stable and its economy is in rather better shape than you think. Unemployment is under 3%, GDP is growing at 1.5% and the job-to-applicant ratio is at its highest since 1974. Consumer spending and corporate investment are both strong. And interestingly, the government is getting creative about fiscal stimulus (see my blog for more on this).

This is the kind of market you might expect to pay a premium for given the instability elsewhere. At the moment it still comes at a discount. There aren’t too many investments about which you can say that.


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