Looking For Brexit-Proof Portfolios? Try 'Sin Stocks'

Looking For Brexit-Proof Portfolios? Try 'Sin Stocks'

London: Health, safety and even some traditional 'sin stocks' have already shown signs of weathering Brexit-related storms in European equity markets over the past week.

The flight to safety in the aftermath of last week's Brexit vote is sending investors scurrying back into healthcare and consumer-related stocks that have shielded them from nearly every big market dislocation of the past five years.

On Wednesday, European healthcare became the first major regional sector to recover all its post-Brexit losses, helped largely by the big UK bellwethers. Food and beverage stocks are poised to follow.

Stocks such as AstraZeneca PLC, Diageo PLC and British American Tobacco PLC are up between 7 per cent and 11 per cent since last Thursday's close.

They have led the broader market's recovery after more than $3 trillion was knocked off the value of global stocks in the two-day selloff that followed Britain's unexpected decision to leave the European Union.

The combination of dependable profits, dividends and expectations that the weaker pound and euro will spur earnings upgrades for firms that sell mostly to consumers outside the UK and Europe has underpinned their resilience.

"There are three things at work but I think the first is the reach for dollar earnings," said Eric Moore, who runs the Miton Income Fund from London.

"In a world where GDP is probably slowing everywhere, irrespective of Brexit, there's just more uncertainty," said Mr Moore, adding that the relative stability of the so-called defensive sectors, whose profits are less reliant on economic growth, brightens their appeal.

The rally in blue chip healthcare and food and beverage stocks has even pushed the UK's FTSE 100 to less than a percent below its pre-Brexit level. In US dollar terms the index is still more than 10 per cent lower.

Outside of the UK, German real estate has found favour. Shares of Vonovia and Deutsche Wohnen are both higher than where they were before last week's vote.

Both companies are focused on residential properties in Germany where low rates have contributed to steady price rises while low vacancy rates have put a floor under rents.

Gold mining stocks Rangold Resources and Fresnillo are up more than 20 per cent as demand for the precious metal surged.

Goldman Sachs, which slashed its economic forecasts for the UK and Europe after the vote, now expects earnings in 2016 for the Stoxx 600 to contract 5 per cent.

Still, with German 10-year bund yields below zero the US bank says equities offer value compared with other assets.

But given worries over the health of European banks and growth Goldman warns against broad-based buying and recommends investors stick with food, beverage and tobacco and healthcare shares.

"The attractions of the more defensive or stable parts in equities are clear," said Goldman strategists in a note to clients.

© Thomson Reuters 2016