While it is too early to know the extent of the economic fallout of the Brexit, the first returns are coming in and show some unexpected consequences.
Less than a week after the United Kingdom’s referendum vote went in favor of leaving the European Union (EU), the £ (pound) plummeted to $1.30, the lowest in thirty-one years. As in many divorces, the creditability of both sides was thrown into question, and the Euro also slumped, somewhat mitigating the sterling’s loss of luster.
There are reports of property investment (reportedly, six property funds stopped trading post Brexit) – and investment in general, already seeking alternatives to the City (City of London). Commercial property investment is seen to be most vulnerable at this moment.
What’s harder to gauge, so close to the historical vote, is the collateral far afield and long-term impacts.
The first is simply the economic loss or gain for both the UK and Europe. Depending on the economists, there are so very widely differing views on the immediate economic and financial futures of both parties in the divorce. Many economists are predicting that the Eurozone will slump into a recession over the next 20 plus months. The zone has already been flirting with a mini-recession, as GDP growth has been minimal.
But the Brexit and up coming negotiations has thrown a bucket full of uncertainty over the region, dampening whatever inherent growth might be in the system. The “uncertainty” factor looms large, as it is the bane of financial markets. There is already an erosion of foreign investments, but how it plays out over the next ten or twelve months, may tell a different story.
Others believe that a lower Euro (and indeed lower £) will make exports more competitive in global markets (although the converse is true for imports). Within Europe, the UK is a market that rational participants in the EU economy do not want to lose because a nasty divorce trumps trade, and the chances of the contagion undercutting an already shaky EU economy is worth avoiding.
A level of EU underperformance from emerging or stressed economies has always been a feature of the “single market” and the Euro.
In Germany’s case, it has long been argued that the underperforming “south” Euro-nations have actually helped German exports by depressing the Euro’s exchange rate thus enabling the goods to be competitive in global markets. Conversely, many Germans would argue that the bailouts (such as Greece) far outweigh the forex advantages.
In a presentation in Chicago at SMC3’s “Connections” Dr. Donald Ratajczak, the Regents professor emeritus of economics at Georgia State University, suggested that the impact on the two main “safe-haven” currencies, the US$ and Japanese ¥ (yen), could widely differ. For example, in Japan, the flight of Brexit capital drove up the value of the ¥ against the dollar. For Japan, this increases the value of their exports making them less competitive with say US exports. Essentially, it increases the value of goods without a commensurate increase in productivity. With autos and other consumer goods, if the currency situation was to persist for any length of time, a switch to moving production to areas less costly and closer to markets could result in major production cutbacks. In the short term, Ratajczak is forecasting a downturn in Japan and flat growth over next two years because of Brexit.
Ironically, one of the winners from the Brexit fallout might be Mexico. The shift in production of vehicles to Mexico could accelerate – even given significant problems with corruption and infrastructure – as auto manufacturers move closer to the American markets.
The case of the US is different. Ratajczak and other economists believe there will be some damage to the US economy but nowhere near the injury expected in other markets. For example, Ratajczak expects the US GDP to grow 2.5% in the second and third quarters, and between 2.25%-2.5% in the fourth quarter. He initially forecast 3% GDP growth in the third quarter, but with Brexit vote cut the forecast by 0.5%. The rise in the US dollar against both the pound and Euro will also hurt exports to Europe – although conversely imports could pick up. It’s a little less clear how US exports to Asia will be impacted. While it has been forecasted that a pick up in China could be soon (there was a slight increase in first quarter GDP growth), it’s yet to manifest itself.