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Taking stock: 12 charts showing the first three months of Brexit in the financial markets

Jake Cordell
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Markets failed to follow the famous British mantra in the days after the vote (Source: Getty)

Three months ago today, the UK voted to leave the European Union.

Against the judgement of most experts, our own Prime Minister, the President of the United States, think tanks and international institutions that were warning of economic calamity, the Brits decided to quit.

The financial markets went into turmoil. The pound collapsed, the FTSE 100 tanked, housing funds were closed, confidence hit multi-year lows and unease was the order of the day.

Read more: Is the UK's economy now smaller than France's?

However, swift action from the Bank of England, the steadying of the ship with Theresa May's appointment as Prime Minister in mid-July and a string of fairly decent economic data has settled nerves. Financial markets have also calmed down, with volatility lulling into its usual summer slump.

This is the state of play of some of the leading indicators, three months after the UK chose to sever ties with the EU.

Sterling

Sterling has, it is fair to say, been pounded. It is down 12 per cent on a trade-weighted basis and hit a 31-year low against the dollar in the weeks after the vote.

The currency seems to have settled at around $1.30 against the dollar and €1.16 against the euro, although currency traders are warning volatility could spike once formal negotiations begin and the pound still seems to be moving back-and-forth in response to Brexit news.

FTSE 100

The UK's leading stock market index has been through the ringer this summer. In the hours after the vote it crashed by eight per cent in response to the shock. The second day of trading was equally brutal, with a string of companies suspended as their share prices collapsed, triggering the London Stock Exchange's automatic circuit breakers.

But then, as analysts crunched numbers into new models, calm returned. The fact more than three-quarters of the FTSE 100's earnings come from overseas but the index is reported in local currency sent the bluechip index up.

Companies like GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Diageo, defensive stocks with big overseas markets, performed particularly well.

The FTSE 100 is now 600 points up on where it closed hours before the referendum and hovering just a few hundred below its all-time high. But, in dollar terms, the index is down by three per cent, analysts at Deutsche Bank note.

FTSE 250

As the FTSE 100 rose, attention turned to the FTSE 250, as a more "representative" barometer of the UK economy. Unlike its bigger sibling, just 50 per cent of earnings on the mid cap index come from overseas, giving it a much heavier exposure to the winds of the UK economy.

Accordingly, it suffered in the wake of the referendum, falling by 14 per cent in the two days after the vote. Nevertheless, as the better-than-expected economic news continued to trickle through, the smaller companies also recovered. The index is now up three per cent on its 23 June close.

Euro

Back in the currency markets, it was widely believed the euro would take a hit in the wake of a Brexit vote. As the pound dropped by 15 per cent in a matter of hours, the euro fell by five per cent against the dollar.

Since then, however, it climbed higher and has been bouncing around in the pretty tight $1.10 to $1.13 mark. Moreover, movements back and forth seem to be driven by speculation about central bank actions, rather than any Brexit fallout, which European Central Bank (ECB) president Mario Draghi indicated has had a weaker effect on the continent than he feared.

Banks

Banks were hit hard after the UK voted to leave. Not only do the likes of Barclays and RBS serve big domestic audiences, their business models are also exposed to the prospect of lower interest rates in the UK.

Monday 27 June was a particularly dark day for some of the UK's most famous lenders. Trading in RBS was suspended twice as it plunged amid a day of fresh turmoil. Barclays shares were also given a five-minute time out by the LSE's automatic servers.

RBS is still languishing one-quarter below its pre-referendum level. Barclays has recovered somewhat, to stand at 5.5 per cent. HSBC, by contrast, which is much more international bank, is up by 26 per cent in sterling terms.

European stock markets

Contagion from the Brexit vote did spread to Europe, hitting the major continental stock markets in the final days of June. The German Dax and French Cac 40 lost ten per cent each. They too followed the UK markets back higher to stand a couple of percentage points up on their pre-vote levels, however.

Gold

The flight to gold in the days before and after the referendum pushed the price of the yellow stuff higher. Gold went from $1,065 an ounce at the start of the year, climbing to around $1,250 amid the China-induced jitters on the markets in spring before hitting just shy of $1,300 before the EU referendum.

After jumping slightly on the result, gold prices have, like everything else, settled back down again.

Bonds

Bonds have been the story du jour like never before in the wake of the EU referendum. The Bank of England started buying more, the ECB is probably going to start buying more, investors have started buying more. All that demand has done one thing - prices are up, yields are down.

Borrowing costs on the UK's 10-year benchmark bond are now 0.72 per cent. That is down from 1.79 per cent one year ago, and more than one per cent ahead of the referendum. Even with the prospect of higher sterling-induced inflation, investors are still happy to squirrel away their savings in return for the security of lending to a government.

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