Positioning for a GBP recovery?
With Brexit doom and gloom mostly priced in, all eyes are on sterling which has become the Brexit barometer. So which way for sterling? Stating the obvious:
In the event of a relief rally in GBP, how can investors position portfolios accordingly?
Recall that the GBP currency impact on portfolios in 2016 was massive. As GBP depreciated, investors whose global equity portfolios were unhedged enjoyed strong performance thanks to the translation effect of foreign earnings. The same applied to FTSE 100 which looked stronger against a weakening GBP.
The reverse would also therefore be true.
Any significant appreciation in GBP would see (foreign) global equity returns offset by GBP strength and would weigh on the FTSE 100. So for those who were lucky enough to be unhedged as sterling fell can’t rely on luck if sterling rises.
Toolkit for GBP recovery
Like everyone else, we have no crystal ball as to how Brexit could play out, but we can identify some of the tools that investors may want to have in their armoury to implement their views, whatever their risk posture, in case of a GBP recovery.
We look a selection of exchange traded products to access currency pairs, ultrashort bonds, shorter duration bond and GBP hedged equities to implement a tactical position for different risk levels.
1. Short-term currency exposure
On the approach to and in the event of any deal, for very short term exposure (<1 month), investors could consider gaining rapid currency exposure by using a currency pair ETC and if seeking additional risk could use a leveraged exposure. Leveraged exposures should be short-term in nature and investors should ensure they understand the risks.
GBPP: ETFS Long GBP Short USD
LGB3: ETFS 3x Long GBP Short USD
2. Volatility dampener
Investors can tactically allocate to ultrashort GBP bonds if they are looking for a cash-like volatility buffer with more yield than cash with a GBP return profile.
Ultrashort duration Bonds
ERNS: iShares GBP Ultrashort Bond ETF
JGST: JP Morgan GBP Ultra-Short Income UCITS ETF
3. Short duration bond exposure
Tactical allocations to short duration GBP bond exposures is available both for UK gilts and GBP corporate bonds for investors seeking GBP bond exposure without being over-exposed to interest rate risk from the longer-duration nature of the main indices.
Short duration Gilts
IGSL: iShares UK Gilts 0-5yr UCITS ETF
GLTS: SPDR® Bloomberg Barclays 0-5 Year Sterling Corporate Bond UCITS ETF
Short duration GBP Corporate Bonds
IS15: iShares £ Corp Bond 0-5yr UCITS ETF
SUKC: SPDR® Bloomberg Barclays 0-5 Year Sterling Corporate Bond UCITS ETF
4. Equities hedged to GBP
To access equities hedged to GBP, rather than running a currency overlay, investors can access GBP hedged versions of mainstream ETFs. At 29-30bp TER, these are slightly more expensive than their conventional versions, but the cost difference represents the cost and convenience of running the currency overlay. Most regional equity ETF exposures offer GBP hedged versions, or investors can use ETFs tracking MSCI World (GBP hedged) as a proxy for risk assets. For example:
Global equities (GBP hedged)
IWDG: iShares Core MSCI World UCITS ETF GBP Hedged
XDWG: Xtrackers MSCI World UCITS ETF 2D – GBP Hedged
Whilst no deal is supposedly ruled out, there is no certainty as to what any deal would look like. Whatever the politics, if you believe there is potential for a recovery in sterling, ETPs provide tactical ways of positioning portfolios accordingly.