The Brexit gloom is overdone

Despite worries over Brexit, British stocks look to be on a firm footing.

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Next: the British fashion retailer is worth a look

British stocks "can't seem to catch a break", say Lisa Pham and Aleksandra Gjorgievska on Bloomberg. The FTSE 100 is down about 7% for the year, while UK indices trailed their major US and European counterparts throughout 2017 too. Short-selling activity on the FTSE 350 index hasn't been this high since 2009.

The UK is the least popular region among international institutional investors, notes the Financial Times. Even among British investors, home stockmarkets were the ones people felt least confident about, according to Hargreaves Lansdown.

Political uncertainty is keeping people away, with little clarity so far on what Brexit will mean for the economy. While most of the FTSE 100 is focused on the global economy the index's constituents make 70% of their sales overseas domestically focused firms have taken a beating.

But the concern looks overblown, notes Annabelle Williams in The Times. According to Michael Clark, who runs Fidelity's Moneybuilder Dividend fund, average price-earnings ratios for domestically focused stocks are 15% lower than for exporters. "This is unwarranted."

Uncertainty is one thing, but that kind of discount suggests a very poor economic backdrop, which appears unlikely. "The fundamentals of the UK are reasonably sound." Growth may have been revised down, but it has not vanished.

The labour market is solid and supporting consumption. Some solid firms are on sale, says Clark:"Get in... and buy." Along with Richard Buxton of the Old Mutual UK Alpha fund, Clark tips Lloyds, Legal & General, Aviva, Next, Whitbread and Pets at Home as attractively priced and therefore worthy of further research.

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