USAug 11 2017

Investor impact as North Korea tension escalates

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Investor impact as North Korea tension escalates
ByDavid Thorpe

With tensions high between the governments of North Korea and the US, fund watchers have warned there could be long-term implications for clients' portfolios.

Ned Naylor Leyland, who runs the £153m Old Mutual Global Investors Gold and Silver fund, said one consequence of the geo-political tension may be that the dollar weakens and gold becomes the favoured safe haven over the medium term.

He said until now, many institutional investors - the managers of long term savings like pension funds - have been underweight gold due to the strong dollar, which can itself act as a safe haven, particularly when, as now, US interest rates are expected to rise.

But the longer the geo-political tension continues, the greater the chance of dollar weakness, and the stronger the case for gold, he said.

While an increase in demand for the precious metal would benefit gold investors, prolonged dollar weakness would be less welcome across other parts of the investment universe.

For example, the current weakness of sterling, and general health of the US economy, has pushed many UK equity fund managers to invest in companies with dollar earnings, on the basis of those earnings will be worth more when translated back to sterling. 

An extended period of dollar weakness would dent the investment case for those equities.

Recent research by Naxitis Asset Management showed advisers have been increasing their exposure to the US stock market, at the expense of the UK domestic shares, in higher risk portfolios.  

Bond investors who own dollar denominated debt could also find the value of the coupon they receive is weakened when translated back into sterling.

Kathleen Brooks, head of research at City Index, said that gold and defence stocks have been short-term beneficiaries of the international word of words between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

She pointed to FTSE 100 companies with gold mining operations such as Fresnillo and Rangold Resources as beneficiaries

FTSE 100 defence company BAE Systems has enjoyed a share price boost since tensions began to escalate, and Ms. Brooks expects the US defence companies such as Lockheed Martin also to benefit.