INSIGHTS

FIVE THINGS TO EXPECT POST-BREXIT

Mark Lister , 27 June 2016

I knew it would be close, but I didn’t see that coming. I wasn’t nearly as wrong-footed as financial markets, though. The violent swings we saw on Friday were a reflection of a monumental error of judgement by the collective wisdom of “the market”.

Markets often get things wrong. They have a tendency to be complacent when they should be cautious, and to overreact to bad news if things don’t go their way. Investors who can ignore the bipolar nature of markets, keep a clear head and position themselves somewhere in the middle often do well. Anyway, here are five things we can expect post-Brexit.

The celebrations in the UK might be short-lived

I’m sure it was a great party for the “leave” campaigners, although in six months’ time they might not feel like winners. The UK Treasury estimates Brexit will mean a recession, lower wages, a sharp drop in house prices and a rise in unemployment of 520,000 people.

The wheels are already in motion at some multinationals, with one US-based CEO suggesting up to 25 per cent of his UK workforce could be relocated to Europe. The UK could well be better off in the long-term, but the immediate future is decidedly negative.

Politics will keep volatility high for a while yet

Economists and traders grossly underestimated the groundswell of discomfort in the UK at present, and there is an undercurrent of similar ill-feeling right across the world. Expect more of the same as we head into the US election later this year, and then France and Germany in 2017. A vote for Trump is just as much a vote against the establishment – and an awful lot of people are unhappy with the establishment.

Interest rates will go down further

Lower growth, higher uncertainty and big currency moves will put even pressure on central banks to keep interest rates low. A cut in the OCR in August seems likely now, and it wouldn’t take much to go below two per cent. However, borrowers might be unwise to get too excited, as uncertainty could drive bank funding costs higher and offset this.

The currency impacts will be a double-edged sword for us

The British Pound was the biggest loser on Friday, followed by the Euro. Great news for travellers and anyone importing a used BMW, not so much for exporters doing business in that part of the world. Its safe-haven status will keep the US dollar in vogue while markets are nervous, which should keep the kiwi from getting too far above US$0.70.

It’s not the end of the world

It probably felt like that for a few surprised traders on Friday, but we are by no means heading for economic Armageddon, or anything close to it. Markets are reacting to very high levels of uncertainty, rather than obvious signals that a fresh global financial crisis is looming. It will be a bumpy ride from here, but there’s every chance it won’t be nearly as bad some estimates suggest.

This article was originally published in the New Zealand Herald on 27 June 2016.