What does Brexit mean for investors

On Friday, Singapore's Straits Times Index was up 11.86 points or 0.43 per cent to close the week at 2,763.42 with some expectations that Britain won't leave the European Union (EU).

But it was still down 2.11 per cent for the week.

The risk appetite remains low in what is expected to be a volatile trading week.

On June 23, Britain will be voting in the Brexit referendum to decide if it should remain or leave the EU.

With the Federal Reserve deciding to hold interest rates last week and a bet that Britain remains with the EU, will the brave be richly rewarded by bargain hunting now?

Or will the foolhardy be punished?


"If you have a very high-risk appetite, it simply means you are willing to lose.

"Investing in the stock market all boils down to a game. Making money isn't the easiest, but if you are willing to take risks, then you can expect to be paid off if it turns out the way you hope it would.

"After all, high risk does bring higher return," says CIMB private banking economist Song Seng Wun.

"There is never a good time or a bad time. If you have a high-risk appetite, there will always be opportunity at any point of the business cycle."

And it is not just about the timing.

Stocks may seem cheap now but some are that way because, well, they are not worth much more.


"Cheap rubbish is still rubbish.

"You have to know what you are buying and that means knowing the difference between what is a good investment and what is a rubbish investment," says Mr David Kuo, CEO of online investment publication, The Motley Fool Singapore.

But he says uncertainty, like Brexit, can drag down even the better stocks.

"When people are fearful, the market is cheap. When the market falls, it takes everything down with it," he adds.

And that is when an investor who has done his homework and research will sniff out a good deal.

Mr Kuo says they include stocks in the banking sector and real estate investment trusts.

"There is no evidence that these sectors are in any trouble, and it is good quality stocks like these that investors with biggest risk appetite would want to capitalise on," adds Mr Kuo, who has been a stock market analyst for the past 16 years.

He is not the only one who thinks so.


Several analysts have said it is a good time to invest in the market here, quoting everything from healthy dividend yields to the valuation of stocks.

Mr Kim Iskyan, founder of Truewealth Publishing, a Singapore-based independent investment research company, examined historical data concerning the price-to-book ratio (P/B).

That is essentially a measure of the value of a company after subtracting its debt.

When the P/B ratio hits 1, Mr Iskyan says it means investors think companies traded on the Singapore stock market are worth only as much as their net assets.

He says the P/B ratio is now around 1 and since 1980, the P/B ratio of Singapore's stock market has averaged 1.44.

"Whenever the P/B ratio of the Singapore stock market has fallen to 1 or less, the market has rallied sharply," he writes.


But what if you are still wary?

"Investing your set capital in thirds would help with minimising losses," says Mr Kuo.

"For example, if you want to invest $3,000, you can invest it at three different points depending on how much the market is fluctuating. "If stocks are bought at different prices all three times, investors will have the opportunity to average out."

Will Brexit actually impact the Singapore stock market?

"The immediate impact of Brexit could be a significant increase in risk aversion, which will hurt risk assets like global equities," says Mr Vasu Menon, vice-president and senior investment strategist at OCBC Bank.

"Global equity markets could see a sell-off initially on the back of Brexit.

"However once the dust settles, investors may feel that this is mainly a UK problem and not a global or European one."


This article was first published on June 19, 2016.
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