To state that Friday was a wild day in the markets simply wouldn't do it justice.
The highly anticipated U.K. referendum vote, more commonly known as the "Brexit" vote, determined whether or not Britain's citizens wanted to remain within the 28-nation European Union or leave the EU. The remain camp had suggested that staying offered a better economic outlook for Britain, while the leave camp focused on sovereignty concerns and the chance for Britain to make its own economic and social decisions once more.
When the final tally was counted, the Leave movement had won by approximately 1.3 million votes, and garnered 51.9% support. This came as a mighty shock to global markets, as many pundits had been predicting a close vote but nonetheless a victory for the Remain camp. The uncertainty created by the U.K.'s departure from the EU has clearly concerned Wall Street and investors, and led to the one of the worst days we've seen in global markets in years.
Worse yet, the unknowns surrounding the timetable for Britain's departure could create adverse economic effects for the U.K., EU, and even the United States. This further helps explain why the U.S. stock market has taken such a beating following the Brexit vote.
These companies could be big Brexit winners
But the Brexit vote isn't bad news for all stocks and industries. Brexit could actually wind up providing a boost to eight companies in particular. In no particular order, here are the eight stocks, and four industries/sectors, most primed to benefit from Brexit.
Arguably one of the biggest winners of Brexit is the mortgage real estate investment trust (mREIT) industry, especially companies like Annaly Capital Management (NYSE:NLY) and American Capital Agency (NASDAQ:AGNC).
Annaly and American Capital Agency operate by borrowing money in the short-term and investing it in long-term fixed-income securities, such as mortgage-backed securities, or MBSs. Both companies have the lion's share of their asset portfolios in agency-backed MBSs. This means Annaly and American Capital invest in assets that are protected from default by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. This added security does mean a lower yield than non-agency assets, but the added default protection often allows Annaly and American Capital to use leverage to boost their profitability.
For mREITs, rising interest rates almost always mean bad news, as they tend to shrink net interest margins by making short-term borrowing costlier. Conversely, falling lending rates, or stable rates, tend to be a positive for the industry. The Federal Reserve's monetary tightening, which many investors expected in 2016, has now been thrown out the window following both a weak May jobs report and now the Brexit vote. It's possible that short-term lending rates in the U.S. could actually fall, which could boost net interest margin, and thus mREIT profitability, allowing for higher use of leverage.
Long story short, expect Annaly's and American Capital Agency's double-digit dividend yields to hang around for the time being.
Another beneficiary of Brexit could be U.S. utilities, such as Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK), the nation's largest electricity utility, or American Water Works (NYSE:AWK). Three factors could cause buy-and-hold investors to flock to these names.
First, Duke Energy and American Water Works supply a basic-need good (electricity and water, respectively). If you own a home, rent an apartment, or live under a roof, chances are you need running water and electricity. This would suggest that consumer demand for electricity and water is fairly consistent from one year to the next, regardless of how well or poorly the global economy is performing. The Brexit vote isn't going to change water or electricity demand for U.S. households.
Secondly, utility markets tend to be regulated. While regulated markets do mean requesting price hikes through individual state power commissions, and occasionally getting denied, it also means minimal exposure to the potentially wild fluctuations in wholesale markets for electricity. Ultimately, this makes Duke Energy's and American Water Works' quarterly revenue and cash flow pretty easy to predict.
Finally, both Duke Energy and American Water Works are defensive investments. During bull markets, some investors prefer to jump ship from defensive stocks and invest in faster growing businesses. But when uncertainty creeps into the picture, investors, return to safe-haven slow-but-steady growth stories like Duke Energy and American Water Works like clockwork.
High-yield, basic-need REITs and MLPs
Another group of stocks that could be big winners following Brexit are high-yielding REITs and master-limited partnerships, or MLPs, which offer a basic-need good or service.
High-yield dividend stocks, as a whole, should get a little bit of a lift following Brexit since the likelihood of the Federal Reserve standing pat on interest rates, or perhaps even surprising the world and reversing course with lower rates, seems likelier than the regulatory body raising rates at this point. This essentially dooms interest-bearing assets to nominal returns. U.S. Treasury bonds, CDs, and money market accounts are providing unexcitingly low returns and making dividend yields north of 4% (an arbitrary figure representative of high-yield stocks) seem all the more attractive.
Specifically, I see a healthcare REIT like HCP (NYSE:PEAK) or an MLP like StoneMor Partners as big winners.
HCP's asset portfolio consists of healthcare-based companies, such as medical office buildings, life sciences buildings, hospitals, and senior housing. The Brexit vote doesn't change the fact that America's older population will keep growing to an estimated 83.7 million by 2050 per the U.S. Census Bureau, and it's not going to dictate when people get sick. This means the long-term trend of rising medical care demand plays right into HCP's hands when negotiating long-term leases or selling medical properties for a profit.
Likewise, StoneMor Partners owns cemeteries and funeral homes throughout the United States. We all have an expiration date at some point, which means StoneMor has a business model with almost foolproof longevity and pricing power. The Brexit vote isn't going to make Americans immortal, meaning the vote has essentially no effect on StoneMor's business model.
With HCP and StoneMor yielding 6.7% and 10.7%, respectively, they could become popular high-yield dividend stocks to own as bond yields sink.
Gold and silver miners
Lastly, safe-haven investments that thrive on uncertainty, such as gold and silver miners, should be poised to benefit from Brexit. Gold becomes a popular investment when global growth prospects are sinking, and it becomes an especially intriguing investment with yields on interest-bearing assets heading lower. The opportunity cost to buy gold or silver (which tends to follow gold) is shrinking, since neither physical gold nor silver pays a dividend.
Barrick Gold obviously benefits from a rising spot gold price as it means a better average selling price and likely more profits. But Barrick has also been making strides to reduce its debt by billions of dollars, and to slim down its annual capital expenditures to only include projects with high ore yields. The result is that Barrick has the lowest estimated all-in sustaining costs in the industry for 2016 at a midpoint of $785 per ounce. Rising average selling prices and shrinking costs could lead to surprising profits for gold miners like Barrick Gold.
Silver Wheaton isn't a traditional mining company per se. It purchases long-term royalty streams in exchange for cash that mining companies use to expand or build-out their mines. These deals are structured to give Silver Wheaton an exceptionally low cost for what it purchases. In the latest quarter, investors learned that Silver Wheaton was paying a per-ounce average of $4.14 for silver and $389 for gold. Any upside price movement in the underlying metals goes directly to Silver Wheaton's margins, which at the moment are over $900/oz. for gold, and nearly $14/oz. for silver.
You can make money following Brexit, and my belief is these eight stocks could help.