Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Don’t mention the … vote!

Four new polls released over the weekend continue to paint the picture of a statistical dead heat in the Scottish Independence Referendum.

There are three macro channels through which the referendum and a yes vote are likely to impact investments. A weaker pound, higher bond yields and potentially a higher equity risk premium.  We expect the pound to suffer the majority of the impact.

There are some investment managers who fear that the markets are under discounting the possibility of a yes vote. Certainly the impact to date remains muted but in the current low interest rate world it takes a lot to persuade investors to part with their equities – as we have seen with the US growth scare, Ukrainian crisis and rise of ISIS.  Also notably the pound and gilts bore up better than most expected during 2010’s hung parliament. The message is that markets are more resilient to uncertainty than investors generally might expect.

With all the focus firmly on Scotland, there was little coverage on Mark Carney’s testimony to MP’s last week. Mr Carney struck a more balanced tone than the one he has offered in recent months. He commented that the MPC would hit its target if rates rise by spring and then proceed to rise very slowly. This seems to all but rule out an increase this year, but tips the balance in favour of February in preference to May. Nevertheless, the committee’s options are still fairly open.

In company news, Harrogate-based Engage Mutual has proposed to merge with the Brighton company, Family Investments, in a deal that would create one of the UK’s largest mutuals with more than 2 million customers. The proposed merger remains subject to regulatory approval but could potentially conclude in the first half of 2015.

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