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Brexit splits the stock market and UK fund managers

Brexit turmoil split the stock market in half yesterday, boosting overseas earners and punishing domestic stocks. UK fund managers are equally divided.

Brexit splits the stock market and UK fund managers

Update: Rarely does the apparent serene progress of the FTSE 100 hide such widely divergent fortunes of the companies that make up the UK blue-chip index.

The FTSE 100 fell just two points yesterday, in a day when prime minister Theresa May battled to save her Brexit deal, having been hit by resignations from two members of her cabinet and two junior ministers, while leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg called for a vote of no confidence.

But the index was split in half, almost exactly. Companies reliant on overseas markets for the bulk of their earnings rallied, as the pound's slump inflated the value of those earnings.

Companies that make most of their money at home slumped dramatically. Shares in Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) had fallen nearly 10% as the market closed, with rival banks joining it at the bottom of the index, alongside house builders, retailers and real estate investment trusts.  

The same applies for funds. Those investing overseas have enjoyed a Brexit boost from the pound's fall.

In some cases this has served to supercharge investments in already rallying assets, like oil, recovering from lows today, or gold, benefiting from the flight to perceived safe havens amid the uncertainty.

The tiny £12 million Junior Oils fund was yesterday's best performer, up 4.2%, while gold funds were also up strongly. Charteris Gold and Precious Metals Equity rose 3.7%, Quilter Investors Precious Metals Equity rallied 3.6% and BlackRock Gold & General was up 3.4%.

UK property has meanwhile been hit hard. Charteris Property fell 3.7%  as its portfolio of Reits and house builders slid.

The picture is more interesting for funds focused on the UK, where managers' positioning on the Brexit divide has had a big bearing on their returns since the EU referendum.

Few would read much into a single day's price move, but for many of the UK funds hit hardest yesterday, those drops have come after longer-term underperformance due to the continued shunning of UK domestic stocks since the Brexit vote.

Like Steve Davies' Jupiter UK Growth, which fell 11% on the day of the EU referendum result, is down 6% over the three years to the end of October and dropped 2.1% today. Top 10 holdings in Lloyds (LLOY) and Barclays (BARC) have dragged down the portfolio, just as they did the day after the referendum.

Or Neil Woodford, a later convert to the allure of cheap domestic stocks, which have played a part in the manager's long run of underperformance.

Heavy falls for house builders have dealt a blow to the big positions he has been building in the stocks. His flagship Woodford Equity Income fund has fallen 1.5% today, with his smaller Woodford Income Focus fund harder hit, down 2.4%.

But it was the St James's Place UK High Income fund he runs for the national financial advice group that suffered the most yesterday, slumping 3.3%. St James's Place limits Woodford to investing in FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 stocks in the fund and, shorn of some of the US and unquoted biotech companies Woodford houses in his flagship fund, it has a more domestic flavour.

Aside from Imperial Brands (IMB) and Taylor Wimpey (TW), none of the St James's Place fund's top 10 at the end of September featured in Woodford's flagship fund. Most have a hevay exposure to the UK domestic economy: stocks like Lloyds, Capita and ITV.

Of much more importance is his three-year return: a 13.2% loss on the Woodford Equity Income fund to the end of October, not helped by his move into UK domestics. The St James's Place fund is down 6.9% over the same period.

All the while, a fund in the same sector, Lindsell Train UK Equity, has risen 36.5%. And Citywire AA-rated Nick Train's fund has jumped 1.9% today amid all the volatility.

Not that the £5.5 billion fund is shorn of domestic UK exposure: pub companies Greene King (GNK) and Fuller Smith & Turner (FSTA) feature, as does online stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown (HRGV) and wealth managers Rathbone Brothers (RAT).

But with global consumer goods giants like Diageo (DGE), Unilever (ULVR), Mondelez (MDLZ.O) and Heineken (HEIN.AS) representing major positions, the fund has an international focus that belies its name. 

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192/193 in Equity - UK (All Companies) (Performance over 1 year) Average Total Return: -16.18%
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2/475 in Equity - Global (Performance over 3 years) Average Total Return: 79.21%
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