LONDON (Reuters) - For all the negative headlines around Greece, investors have proved resilient and even bullish on sectors from banks to peripheral debt that history suggests could be hardest hit if the situation there worsens.
On Sunday, Greek voters issued a resounding ‘no’ to the terms of an international bailout plan, leading many to expect heightened market volatility as the country flirts with leaving the currency bloc to repair its battered economy.
While the strength of the vote was a surprise - nearly two-thirds of votes have rejected the deal - market reaction on Monday was limited, with Europe's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 .STOXX50E down just 1 percent and bond spreads in Spain, Italy and Portugal, the euro zone's other weaklings, only 10 basis points wider.
For fund managers and those investment advisers offering bespoke services to the world’s rich, the vote has increased uncertainty and teed up more market flux, but has yet to trigger a flood of sell orders.
“Overall the response has been relatively subdued with investors wary of, rather than immediately worried about, a wider euro crisis,” said Paul O‘Connor, co-head of the multi-asset team at 89.4 billion pound asset manager Henderson Global Investors HGGH.L.
During other stress points in the region’s long-running debt battle, concerns around contagion from Greece to other markets has seen debt yields rise sharply and the stock prices of banks and others directly exposed to Greece fall.
Since the onset of the crisis in 2009/2010, however, Europe has looked to shore up its banking system and moved a lot of Greek debt to public institutions, to limit any potential fallout.
The chief investment office at the world’s biggest wealth manager, UBS UBSN.VX, flagged the chance of a near-term sell-off in European equities, but said investors should focus on the positive long-term outlook for the region.
“We believe that the ECB (European Central Bank) will be able to mitigate financial contagion from Greece if necessary. Over our 6-month tactical investment horizon, we expect the risk premium on peripheral bonds to narrow and the Eurozone equity rally to resume,” said the group, which manages $2.2 trillion.
With direct bets on Greek markets already sharply curtailed over the last two years as the country’s debt troubles mounted - and even more so since the imposition of capital controls - the big question for most is how big an impact would any Greek exit have on other European markets.
Increased market uncertainty meant that not every house was willing to remain bullish, with $84 billion French asset manager Lyxor maintaining a “slight underweight” on riskier euro zone assets.
While hedge funds on Lyxor’s platform were also paring back their bets, other so-called ‘hot money’ has gone the other way, with event-driven hedge fund Oceanwood recently raising $250 million to bet on a euro zone rebound.
For Nigel Green, founder and chief executive of deVere Group which has $10 billion in assets under advice, any near-term volatility should prove a buying opportunity, especially for investors with a longer-term perspective.
“With negotiations potentially taking an extended period of time, the uncertainty is likely to be protracted, meaning the sell-off and buying opportunity could also last some time – unlike last week when markets bounced back quickly.”
With Greece making up about 1 percent of European Union GDP and one tenth of a percent of its stock market capitalization, Trevor Greetham, head of Multi-Asset at Royal London, said it was hard to see it having a lasting impact on world markets.
“In fact, with investor sentiment toward the depressed end of the range, Greek stress may be creating a short term buying opportunity for global stocks. The fundamentals are positive. Monetary policy globally is still very loose and the drop in energy prices over the last year should underpin a continued expansion in the world economy.”
Additional reporting by Sinead Cruise, Nishant Kumar and Carolyn Cohn; editing by Janet McBride