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Markets at whim of Populist Roulette: Analyst

Political unpredictability has been boosted to the point that some markets are turning into a roulette wheel, according to one investment house.

Populist movements on both sides of the Atlantic have helped Britain vote to leave the European Union and placed billionaire Donald Trump a whisker away from the U.S. presidency.

Jim McDonald, Chief Investment Strategist at Northern Trust told CNBC Friday that Italy is the next country likely to feel the effect.

"Italy is at the higher end of the risk spectrum from populism," he told CNBC.

"If you have a negative vote result on the referendum in in Italy, that will be more of a negative reaction on markets than Brexit."

McDonald said the U.K vote to leave Europe was for now "being given a pass" by markets because the process would be drawn out over a number of years.

Northern Trust claimed in a recent note that a lack of clarity over the intentions of politicians was creating a form of " Populist Roulette".

The U.S. general election battle may have roused and inspired populist anger, but McDonald said that its risk to markets is currently low.

"We have a got polling advantage to Clinton of around six-and-a-half points and with the Republicans likely to hold the House [of Representatives], that would prevent any real disruption to markets," he said.


Roulette table in a casino
Mike Jack | Getty Images

McDonald was skeptical that a sudden change in those odds could be protected against.

"You saw with Brexit that the result was only known at last minute and by then it was too late.

"Maybe a hedge fund can do that but a longer term institutional investor would struggle," he said.

On the current reporting season, McDonald said there was not enough recognition that U. S. firms were coming out of an earnings recession.

"We like the fact we are seeing better beats on the revenue side.

"It means it is a better situation than talking down the numbers only to then report an improvement", he said.

Northern Trust forecast U.S. equities to deliver on average just over 5 percent returns annually over the next 5 years.


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