Geopolitics continued to grab headlines last week. The US-Iran conflict is currently the biggest source of instability for investors, although tensions showed signs of abating as the week progressed, with both sides relaying that retaliation was over. Despite the White House making noises regarding further economic sanctions, we do not expect further escalation around this specific situation. The cynic in us however believes that should Trump’s ratings deteriorate; we could see these tensions rekindled.
There was good news in the UK; following several days of debate, the Commons approved Boris Johnson’s agreement on how the UK would leave the European Union on 31st January 2020. This decision is now waiting for approval from the House of Lords. In what has been a long-awaited step forward, we are now set for intense discussion between the UK and Brussels, who cannot agree on how long discussions over the future relationship should last, with the chair of the European Commission voicing her concerns that it will be impossible to reach an agreement by the end of 2020. We think that it is highly likely that Boris Johnson will ask for an extension to the transition period by the end of the deadline, 30th June 2020, and that UK equity markets will subsequently rise.
Markets were buoyant last week, despite the tensions between Iran and the US. The most likely explanation for this is that Trump is due to sign the Phase I agreement with China in Washington on Wednesday, which will cement the foundations for the next phase of negotiations. While the downward pressure on global growth for the year ahead has relented, we must remind ourselves that the agreement has limitations, as most of the tariffs will remain in place.