Don’t get burned by the “Icarus trade” – Harvey Jones

A large computerised display of the Brit

It is a strange time to be an investment adviser with the FTSE 100 smashing past one all-time high after another.

I am writing this as the benchmark index climbs over the 7300 barrier, as one newspaper asks whether it will hit 9000.

By the time you read this it could be anywhere, but right now the FTSE 100 has finally shaken off its shackles and made a dash for the sunlit uplands.

This feels liberating after years of bobbing nervously below the 7000 barrier, but naturally, it will scare as many observers as it thrills.

Hard facts of life
There is something dizzying about the current bull run, because positive market sentiment has been fuelled by the twin shocks of Brexit and Donald Trump.

In the UK, share prices are flying because the pound is falling, as currency markets anticipate Prime Minister Theresa May’s hard Brexit.

This makes British exports cheaper and boosts the value of overseas earnings, which compose more than three quarters of FTSE 100 company revenues.

US markets are soaring for an even stranger reason, because investors believe that President Donald Trump will be a good thing for the US economy.

Trump trade
Markets are supposed to hate uncertainty but they have embraced it with gusto, as Trump offers nothing if not uncertainty.

His recent press conference response to the “dirty dossier” suggests this wildly unpredictable presidential candidate will not change after he enters the White House. As if the world wasn’t volatile enough.

One Trump tweet can wreak havoc across an entire corporate sector, as we have already seen with automobiles, healthcare and defence. Yet markets are putting their faith in a man who could trigger a global trade war in 140 characters or less.

We have little idea what mega fiscal stimulus actually entails, or whether it will make it past US lawmakers.

Unless he produces further details on his economic plans within a few weeks of his inauguration the “Trumpflation” trade could turn nasty.

Wings burned
The FTSE 100 has shrugged off these concerns to deliver more than a dozen consecutive days of gains either side of the new year, a new record.

What a difference from a year ago, when you will remember that 2016 started with an instant China-fuelled crash.

That felt like the end of the world but global markets swiftly recovered and the FTSE 100 delivered a total return of nearly 20% last year.

Experienced investment advisers were urging anxious clients to keep calm and carry on investing, and the subsequent turnaround proved them correct.

They will no doubt be urging clients to keep their cool today, rather than chasing the so-called “Icarus trade” even higher, and risk getting scorched.

If 2017 turns out to be 2016 in reverse that will also prove sound advice.

 

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