Political developments continue to be the main concern of investors around the world, as a growing number of investors cite them as the biggest market risk in a recent survey conducted by Barclays. Among the major political developments that have weighed on investor sentiment are Brexit, the ongoing political uncertainty in Italy, and continuing concern about what U.S. President Donald Trump might do next.
How political developments have evolved sentiment
Barclays analyst Sreekala Kochugovindan shared the results of their most recent survey of 642 investors from around the globe in a report this week, comparing them with the results from their June 2016 and December 2016 surveys. She looked at the way investor sentiment has evolved over the last year since the U.K.’s Brexit referendum. She said Brexit “kicked into focus the implications of the rise in populism.”
When analyzing the results of her survey, she found a continuing increase in the proportion of investors who cited geopolitics as the biggest risk to the world’s markets. A year ago, 15% of respondents said geopolitics were the biggest risk to the markets, but in their most recent survey, 45% named geopolitics as the biggest risk.
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Over the past year, she found a sharp decline in fears about Europe-specific political developments toward the beginning of her survey period. Concerns about geopolitics skyrocketed just before the Brexit vote and then remained high after the presidential election in the U.S.
Political developments in Italy and Brexit concern European investors
In Europe, most investors are focused on the political uncertainty in Italy and the Brexit negotiations, which they see as being the two biggest threats to European markets over the next six months.
She added that most investors remain skeptical that the Brexit negotiations can be kept “orderly,” with 64% of respondents assigning a less than 50% probability of “orderly” negotiations. Kochugovindan found that most of the investors see the most likely outcome being “a series of delays in the negotiations,” which they felt could then be a drag on market sentiment. She also clarified that nearly 70% of the responses to her survey came before the results of the U.K. election were announced, although she added that the responses that came after the election were actually still very similar to those taken before.
As a result, most of the investors they surveyed predict that assets in the U.K., especially the sterling, will underperform.
The Trump trade has expired in the U.S.
U.S. President Donald Trump has only been in office for six months now, but the political developments under his leadership have already cast great doubt in investors’ minds. They’ve become skeptical that his administration will be able to successfully implement the fiscal policies that were a key part of his presidential campaign.
Her December survey offered a picture immediately after the U.S. election, and she found that investors expected fiscal stimulus to boost the nation’s growth in the near term, supporting risk assets in the process. Within three months, however, some of that initial bullish sentiment on growth and equities was rolled back.
She explained that Trump’s “policy agenda became very crowded.” The Trump administration failed to pass the healthcare bill, resulting in major delays in implementing the President’s other policies like tax reform. She added that investor expectations have been rolled back even further now. According to Kochugovindan, “a large proportion of respondents” are now not sure about whether the Trump administration will be able to get any of these key fiscal measures, including tax cuts, implemented before the mid-term elections in November 2018.
She explained that because of this increased doubt, the “Trump trade” sentiment seems to have passed now. She added that investor sentiment on the U.S. markets has shifted back to where it was before the presidential election in November. As a result, she said that most investors now believe equities are overvalued and that the inflationary risks have passed.