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Investors urged to ignore political fears in 2020

Investors urged to ignore political fears in 2020

Stock market performance is rarely influenced by political events, a fact that presents an opportunity for investors, according to Fahad Kamal, chief market strategist at Kleinwort Hambros.

While conceding that political uncertainty in the UK and in the US will remain prominent in 2020, Mr Kamal noted that this volatility hadn't stopped equity markets delivering positive returns in recent years.

He said: “The Brexit drama is just beginning in many ways in 2020 – future terms remain to be discussed – and a US election is likely to be a bruising, even disturbing, affair.

"But data does not support the 'geopolitical tensions are bad for markets' hypothesis.

"The FTSE 100 is up 34 per cent (9 per cent annualised) since 22 June 2016, the day before the Brexit vote in total return terms.

"The US market is up 55 per cent (16 per cent annualised) in the three years since the Trump election.

"We have analysed a battery of geopolitical dislocations in history – overwhelmingly, they tend not to matter to returns in the months and years ahead and are therefore best ignored.”

He added that while the pace of economic growth remained slow, it was still positive, and said policymakers around the world did not expect a recession in 2020. 

Mr Kamal said: “GDP growth is still positive across all major economies, including Germany and Japan.

"Neither the International Monetary Fund nor any major central bank expect a recession in any notable country.

"Even as the 'expansion' stage of the business cycle has undoubtedly drifted into 'slowdown', slowdowns can last for years."

He added: "More importantly, history shows risk assets outperform defensive assets in slowdowns. 

"The monetary policy cavalry has once again ridden out in force to pre-empt the current deceleration in growth and inflation from worsening, which should help keep us in slowdown mode.

"If monetary policymakers will also be joined by their fiscal counterparts, conditions may even tick back into expansion. But even just monetary policy alone will do at least one thing: keep rates low.” 

Lower interest rates are generally regarded as positive for shares, as they keep bond yields low and so make the returns available from shares more attractive on a relative basis. 

david.thorpe@ft.com

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