Investments 

Rathbones' Smith snaps up UK shares

Rathbones' Smith snaps up UK shares

Ed Smith, head of asset allocation research at Rathbones Unit Trust Management, has turned to UK larger company shares for protection as economic conditions deteriorate around the world.

Mr Smith said: "If you look at the various global economic indicators, there are concerns about the health of the global economy.

"We don't think it is now time to get out of the market, but we are being more defensive in terms of the type of equities we buy.

"And one of the more defensive equity areas in the world is UK large cap. There are a lot of large companies listed on the UK market that are not sensitive to the performance of the global economy, such as Diageo or Unilever or Relx."

He said the UK may avoid recession in the event of the UK exiting the European Union without a deal, but that whatever happens there is little scope for economic growth to improve.

He said: "There are structural problems in the UK economy productivity is already weak, and people have been reducing their savings for years, so it is not like there is a big wall of money in the UK economy that will be released in the event that we get more certainty about the outlook for the economy."

James Clunie, who runs the £1.5bn Jupiter Absolute Return fund, is another investor who has been investing in UK equities, though in his case its shares exposed to the UK domestic economy he has been buying.

He said: "While this knee-jerk reaction to extreme Brexit uncertainty is understandable, we have to consider what our job as investment analysts and managers is exactly.

"For me, the answer is clear: it is to take calculated risks under conditions of uncertainty.

"If uncertainty is so high that it is terrifying, then actually that is just a slight extension of what is the bread and butter for investment analysts and managers – to take calculated risks when you’re not sure what will happen next.

"So, it should be business as usual, just in a slightly heightened sense."

Mr Clunie added he is "gently adding" to UK domestic stocks as there are plenty of "bad days" in the market at the moment when he can add shares at leisure at what he believes to be good prices.

He said: "An example of this approach is Serco, a company that looks very cheap on our valuation model.

"It is not going bust, the balance sheet is OK, and they've been winning lots of contracts recently including their largest ever a few weeks ago. Analysts have also been upgrading earnings forecasts.

"Overall, it appears relatively cheap to us with good news and upgrades.

"Of course, there is potential for headwinds, notably around fears it could lose public sector contracts were a change of government to happen, but we are otherwise positive."

Brian Dennehy, an adviser at Dennehy Weller in Londo,n said there are longer term problems in the global economy that are of more pressing concern than Brexit.

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