By Thyagaraju Adinarayan and Josephine Mason
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s deepening political crisis over its exit from the European Union will weigh on London’s blue-chip stocks index <.FTSE> well into next year, as investors continue to steer clear of the region’s assets, according to a Reuters poll.
The U.S.-China trade war, a no-deal Brexit and deteriorating global economy were top reasons cited for the subdued outlook for UK equities in the latest survey of 22 fund managers, investors and analysts taken in the past two weeks.
Britain’s top stock index is expected to reach 7,300 points by the end of 2019, just 3% higher than current levels. It would represent an 8.5% gain for the year, partially reversing the more than 12% decline seen last year.
But it’s also down from the 7,499 estimated in the last poll in May, highlighting how confidence has deteriorated since Boris Johnson, a staunch supporter of Brexit, replaced Theresa May as prime minister last month.
The latest survey was taken between Aug. 13 and Aug. 27, before Johnson moved on Wednesday to limit parliament’s ability to delay Brexit by reducing how long it will sit before the EU exit deadline on Oct. 31. His move roiled UK financial markets.
“Until the fate of the UK/EU relationship is known we expect fundamentals to be ignored and global asset allocators to continue to shun UK risk assets,” Edward Park at Brooks Macdonald said.
The majority of the FTSE 100 constituents earn their revenue abroad and so are relatively well insulated from any slowdown in consumer spending if the country left the European Union without a deal on trade and other ties.
So the lacklustre outlook for the benchmark equity index revealed in the poll highlights the extent to which Brexit worries are spreading across all British assets.
The estimate for year-end levels would mean Britain lagged its European and U.S. peers, which are both heading for double-digit percentage gains this year.
For a graphic on FTSE 100 poll forecast, click https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/buzzifr/14/4962/4962/Pasted%20Image.jpg
FTSE 100 index forecasts for the end of 2019 ranged from 6,200 to as high as 8,000 points, reflecting the lack of consensus about the direction of markets two months before the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline.
By the middle of next year, participants expect the index to have dipped to 7,225 but then reach 7,570 by the end of the year. That would represent a near 4% rise from the estimated end of 2019 level.
The blue-chip index has risen this year due in large part due to the weaker sterling, hurt by concerns about a no-deal Brexit as well as on hopes of a truce between China and the United States to end their trade spat.
But Macroeconomic data has shown signs of pain too. Britain’s gross domestic product declined 0.2% quarter-on-quarter in the second quarter, compared with a 0.5% rise in the first quarter and a surprise drop versus a Reuters poll that was forecasting zero GDP growth.
Since the 2016 vote to leave the European Union, British stocks have severely underperformed the world in dollar terms and this year looks no different.
For a graphic on UK equities lag the world, click https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/buzzifr/14/4852/4852/Pasted%20Image.jpg
Many participants said British and European markets were skewed to the downside and expected some wild moves given falling trading volumes.
“Dovish central banks are a consolation, but the escalation in the trade war increases the downside risk for the global economy while Brexit uncertainty is rising, and the poor summer liquidity might exacerbate market moves,” Barclays European equity strategist Emmanuel Cau said.
(Additional reporting by Danilo Masoni; additional polling by Manjul Paul and Sujith Pai)