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Opportunities in Europe as Populist Wave Recedes

June 22, 2017 | News

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Despite the recent United Kingdom election surprise and ensuing political instability, Tom Clarke, co-portfolio manager on William Blair's Dynamic Allocation Strategies team, said in a recent Bloomberg Radio “Daybreak Europe” interview that the global populist wave is receding and increasing investment opportunities in Europe.

Clarke highlighted that populism around the world peaked with the Brexit vote and Donald Trump's U.S. presidential victory, and has been receding since late last year. He cited the Dutch election earlier this year, Marine Le Pen's loss in the French election, and the strong legislative election results for French President Emmanuel Macron's party as evidence.

“This is a dampening down of the global surge of voters voting against the establishment or status quo,” Clarke said in the Bloomberg Radio “Daybreak Europe” interview.

He added that even the poor performance of U.K Prime Minister Theresa May's party in the recent U.K. election reflects a slight push back against Brexit.

Clarke went on to say that these geopolitical risks have created headwinds for markets and currencies that otherwise would have been attractive investment opportunities. In Europe, those opportunities include Italian, Spanish, French, and U.K. equities, as well as the British Pound. The reduced threat of anti-growth populist policies “clears the way for us to respond to these opportunities with greater conviction,” he said.

Aside from being fundamentally attractive, there are a couple investor sentiment factors that further benefit U.K. assets and the Pound, Clarke told Bloomberg Radio. There's now the potential for a softer Brexit, and the proposed second Scottish independence referendum is most likely off the table. Clarke highlighted that he believes the Pound is at a fundamentally cheap level and very attractive going forward.

He added that the Dynamic Allocation Strategies team leverages a game theoretical framework to assess geopolitical risks and related investment opportunities. In the case of Brexit, the two players—the United Kingdom and the European Union (EU)—are both trying to negotiate a deal that maximizes their own interests.

“In terms of relative bargaining power, the U.K. is severely weakened” as a result of the recent U.K. election, “and the EU is strengthened,” Clarke said in the interview. But he highlighted that the EU's net influence at the negotiating table has also increased because of other geopolitical developments in the eurozone, namely the French and Dutch elections.