Supermarket shelves are bare. There may not be enough turkeys for Christmas. Wages and prices are rising. And the government is sinking into a pit of sleaze. As if that were not enough, the EU is about to launch a full-scale trade war against the country.
Following the day-to-day news, you could well be forgiven for thinking the British economy was sinking into permanent chaos, doomed to replay the dark days of the 1970s. But hold on. Amidst all this gloom, the world’s biggest and most powerful investment bank, JP Morgan, says now is the time to be buying British.
The bank’s head of global equities Mislav Matejka argued in a note to clients this week that the London market is now a bargain compared to its major rivals. Supply constraints should start to ease very soon, the bank suggests. And it thinks energy prices may well fall back again after a spike last month. Most of all, the market is very, very cheap. British equities have trailed their American counterparts by a cumulative 50 per cent since the Brexit referendum in 2016, and the euro-zone by 24 per cent. The net result? It is a bargain, and time to buy.
JP Morgan has not always been a fan of the UK, particularly since we voted to leave the EU in 2016. Its high-profile chief executive Jamie Dimon has argued that the economy would suffer outside of the EU, and constantly warned that it would force the bank to move staff across to the other side of the Channel. Brexit ‘cannot possible be a positive’ for the UK economy, he has said.
Is the bank now changing its tune? For the global money markets, this apparent shift in thinking will be significant. JP Morgan, after all, carries a lot of weight among investors.
More importantly, it is, of course, the right approach for the bank to be taking. While we can debate endlessly whether leaving the EU will turn out to be good or bad for the economy over the medium-term, whatever damage has been done has already largely been taken into account. Britain’s economy is still growing, retail sales are robust, jobs are being created, and, while rising wages may be a problem, they should also translate into more spending very soon. Compared to most of our competitors, it is a respectable mix.
In this country, we still see plenty of chaos. It dominates the news. But to global investors, the British economy is doing just fine. It isn’t perfect, and it may not grow very strongly. But after years of underperforming its rivals, the stock market is poised to recover.
Investors are starting to shift money back into the country – and that matters far more than day-to-day headlines.
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