The British people voted by 52% to 48% to leave the EU, symptomatic of the growing anti-establishment movement that is becoming a global issue. The initial reaction has been very negative as this result was clearly not expected and therefore it was not priced into markets.
There may be some near-term investment opportunities, it’s important to recognize the global economic implications of this, especially as the global economy is already very fragile. The vote will heighten fears that the U.K. will enter recession and this may call into question the future of the EU as we know it. The U.S. dollar and the Japanese yen are expected to strengthen, weighing on corporate earnings and economic growth for both economies. China is also reliant on the health of the European economy, as it has substantial exports to Europe and is already faced with slowing economic growth and deteriorating credit conditions. Ultimately, slowing global economic growth makes doubtful a U.S. interest rates rise.
Investors should recognize that we may see more selling pressure later into next week depending on a variety of factors, including but not limited to how central banks respond to this incident.
As far as the UK economic outlook is concerned, there is still a question mark over just what sort of trade deal can be secured. Will the other EU members make it tough for the UK to act as a deterrent to other countries that might be thinking of leaving? Do EU business leaders of sectors that have large trade flows with the UK encourage their governments to be less harsh, through fear of retaliation? German auto organisations have already urged their government to continue along a free-trade path with the UK. Does the rise of populist politics across Europe make either of these paths more or less likely?
In simple terms, nobody knows, and won’t know for some time.
In the meantime, the political fall-out from the Brexit vote – David Cameron’s resignation; Boris Johnson’s political assassination; the Labour Party civil war and potentially another Scottish independence referendum has added another layer of uncertainty to an already uncertain world.