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These Terms of Use ("Terms of Use") are made between the undersigned user ("you") and Lord, Abbett & Co. ("we" or "us"). They become effective on the date that you electronically execute these Terms of Use ("Effective Date").

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Economic Insights

Great Britain’s decision to leave the European Union sparked volatility in global markets on June 24.

With last night’s public referendum votes tallied, Great Britain became the first country in the European Union’s (EU) 60-year history to leave the EU bloc of nations—a momentous decision with enormous consequences for financial markets, the economy, politics, and business. It seems appropriate that the U.K. media are calling it “Independence Day,” considering the fireworks taking place.

The vote to “leave” the EU rattled global financial markets, which had largely expected Britons to vote “remain,” and sent the British pound to a 30-year low, losing -12.4% against the U.S. dollar even before the official results were announced.  Stock markets around the globe were down significantly immediately after the vote, with Dow Industrial futures predicting a -800 start to the day.  Across Europe, banks, builders, travel, insurance, and real estate stocks declined by -10% or more.  Defensive stocks, such as foods and healthcare, were the best of the worst, with losses of just -4%. (By daybreak in the United States, markets had recovered somewhat, once the initial shock of the vote was absorbed.)

So-called “safe haven”  or “risk-off” bets dominated trading; spot gold prices soared; the Japanese yen and U.S. dollar were pushed higher against their major competitors; demand for U.S. Treasuries soared.  The yield on the German 10-year bund dropped to a negative -0.074%.

The U.K.’s decision to leave the EU after 43 years will have wide repercussions beyond the financial markets, the most immediate of which was the announcement by Prime Minister David Cameron that he would resign in October.  Meanwhile, Standard & Poor’s said it will be reviewing the nation’s ‘AAA’ credit rating for a possible downgrade.  And the possibility of other EU-member nations planning similar exits adds another destabilizing force to global markets. 

Moreover, as we write this, central banks around the globe are holding emergency meetings, and a number have already intervened in currency markets to stem any drastic declines.  As the fifth most-held reserve currency in the world, the British pound’s importance in world markets cannot be exaggerated. It is the most traded currency in the foreign exchange market, after the U.S. dollar, the euro, and the Japanese yen.  Together with those three currencies and the Chinese yuan, it forms the basket of currencies used to calculate the value of the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights, with an 8.09% weighting (as of 2015). 

What Does All of This Mean for Investors?
We believe the decision to leave the EU will be a headwind for both Great Britain and the eurozone economies and their respective financial markets.  While in the United States, however, internally driven economic growth should provide some insulation for domestic stock and bond investments.  Lower yields produced by central bank liquidity efforts should also translate into global interest in U.S. domestic debt of all qualities.

So, investors concerned about the impact on non-U.S. markets and economies might want to consider increasing their allocation to U.S. stocks and bonds. FactSet reports that U.S. companies derive just 2.9% of their revenue from Great Britain.  One sweet spot for investors may be in U.S. mid- and small-cap stocks, where the greatest exposure to the resilient U.S. consumer is typically found.  Another potential investment opportunity may be found in U.S. high-quality dividend-growth stocks, which historically have aided investors during periods of volatility and market decline.  Finally, the market sell-off itself may present investment opportunity, particularly in a slow-growth economic environment when secular growth industries such as biotech and Internet retail may distinguish themselves from the broad market and reward long-term investors.

On the fixed-income side, as the shock of the “Leave” vote fades, and investors realize in the coming weeks that there isn’t a significant risk of a global recession—and that there is even less risk when it comes to U.S. companies—they may realize that U.S. high-yield bonds can provide needed income when it’s absent everywhere else in the world.

What other segments of the fixed-income market may prove attractive in the post–Brexit period? We think short-duration and other investment-grade securities and municipal bonds—another U.S.-centered asset class—also will be well positioned in the coming months. As we noted in an earlier article, municipal bonds have provided an oasis of calm during recent periods of market volatility. Unlike other markets that are being whipsawed by fast-moving global developments, municipal bonds are influenced largely by fundamental factors that are U.S. focused. These are the health of the U.S. economy, and supply/demand factors, each of which continues to provide support for the asset class.

A word of caution, however: Investors can expect that capital markets will be filled with uncertainty and volatility in the near term, which may increase the temptation to time the market. History has shown, however, that market timing is a risky approach. The equity markets reward those who stay invested for the long term.  In fact, missing just a small number of days with strong performance can have an outsized impact on an investor’s portfolio. 

Stay calm and stay invested.  We will continue to keep you posted in what is likely to be a highly turbulent market over the next week.

The value of investments in fixed-income securities will change as interest rates fluctuate and in response to market movements. Generally, when interest rates rise, the prices of debt securities fall, and when interest rates fall, prices generally rise. Bonds may also be subject to other types of risk, such as call, credit, liquidity, interest-rate, and general market risks. Foreign investments generally pose greater risks than domestic investments, including greater price fluctuations and higher transaction costs. Special risks are inherent in international investing, including those related to currency fluctuations and foreign, political, and economic events. Further, investing in the securities of issuers located in certain emerging countries may present a greater risk of loss resulting from problems in security registration and custody or substantial economic or political disruptions. The value of investments in equity securities will fluctuate in response to general economic conditions and to changes in the prospects of particular companies and/or sectors in the economy. No investing strategy can overcome all market volatility or guarantee future results.

Market forecasts and projections are based on current market conditions and are subject to change without notice.

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