Last month, U.K. voters chose "Brexit" over "Bremain." By a narrow majority, they elected to divorce from the European Union.
In this segment from the Motley Fool Money radio show, Chris Hill, Matt Argersinger, Jason Moser, and Simon Erickson bring up some of the most important points that investors should know in light of this vote -- not to mention the big sell-off we saw in the markets shortly after the final results came in. Find out what's so worrying about this decision, what this could mean for the world's markets, and how investors might use those declines to buy into some good companies for the long run.
A transcript follows the video.
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This podcast was recorded on June 24, 2016.
Chris Hill: We begin with the very surprising vote across the pond. The voters of Britain have spoken. By a margin of 52 to 48, they voted to leave the European Union. Prime Minister David Cameron has resigned, and the ripple effects, Matty, were felt in markets around the world, including right here in the U.S., where the S&P 500, Dow, and Nasdaq, all down more than 3% at various points on Friday. This was a shocker.
Matt Argersinger: Shocking! I am shocked! But really, above all this, if you look at the reaction around the world, before we get into what actually happened, this is really about uncertainty. We don't know what the economic situation is going to look like for the U.K., and now the E.U. We don't know what this means for trade, what this means for the free movement of labor and capital, we don't know what this means for new tariffs and regulatory costs. Probably most worrisome, we don't know what's next. We don't know what other countries in the E.U. are going to hold referendums. Also, there are few countries that are planning to do that this year. Is the U.K. the first domino in a string of countries that might leave the E.U.? It's really quite shocking.
We don't know the answer to those questions. Especially not knowing the answers to those questions are multinational corporations, who are going to be very hesitant to invest capital, hire workers, invest anything to grow their business, really, when there's this amount of uncertainty out there. And this could persist for many years. As investors, I would say, it's hard to get excited about any company that has a large position in Europe, or is looking to grow in Europe, because, at least for the time being, there's too much uncertainty, on the corporate level and on the investor level.
Hill: Yeah. And Jason, for me, what really gets me is something that Matty touched on there -- the timing aspect of all of this. It's not only that we don't know what's next. It's, we don't know, is this unwinding going to take two years? Three? We have no idea how long this is going to take.
Jason Moser: Yeah, not much of a blueprint for it. I think that, to Matty's point there, we have the uncertainty of the election, plenty of uncertainty as to how this is going to roll out. I think that's probably going to result in some volatility. I can't help but wonder if we're not going to see, down the road here, some Brexit regret. I'm going to go ahead and coin that phrase now, because I think we may run into a situation that we're seeing more and more -- I've seen some of this stuff floating around on Twitter, where people aren't quite sure what exactly they were voting for. I think you kind of get caught in the heat of the moment, and maybe your emotions take control, and you vote one way or the other without really understanding the implications. I'm not entirely convinced that people really do understand the implications of this totally. Regardless, the vote has been made.
I think that, of course, there are plenty of businesses where this doesn't really play into whether they win or lose. We have plenty of businesses in Million Dollar Portfolio, for example, businesses like Ellie Mae or Boston Beer, and we think this doesn't really have anything to do with them at all. It doesn't affect their fundamentals of their business, because they don't play in that market. Something like [Amazon.com]? Perhaps so. But even then, that's a global, well-diversified company that does a lot of different things. Even social media -- Facebook, Twitter -- those businesses actually should be winning from this, because that's how all this information is really being disseminated anyway.
I mean, you're going to hear a lot of buzzwords -- "flight to safety," "risk off" -- and just put that aside. Don't let these kinds of headlines force you to make hasty decisions. I think that's really the bottom line for investors today.
Simon Erickson: I think, combining what Matt and Jason both just said, this is introducing a lot of uncertainty for investors, because now it's a different set of rules. U.K., in absolute terms, it's about 4% of the global economy. Not a huge, huge deal, until you consider, if this is the first domino to fall, other countries might also leave the E.U., banks might need to recapitalize, there could be other dominoes that fall from this. And I think that's the concern that the market has. That's why we're seeing today's sell-off.
Hill: We were talking earlier today, Simon, you look at the U.K. economy, and it's almost certainly getting smaller over the next four years or so.
Erickson: Right. Before the show, Chris, you and I were talking about this. Bear with us, listeners, on this analogy of U.K.'s economy as an income statement. You're going to have fewer costs if they come out of the EU, because they're not going to be having to pay for a lot of these EU programs they don't directly benefit from. But the top line, the revenue and the GDP, is also going to decrease, it's going to be harder for those trade restrictions with other countries.
Argersinger: Yeah. And I think, speaking of Europe as a whole, there's the free movement of labor and capital, which really was the basis for the EU. Now, that's been put into question. Any time I think there's restrictions on that -- and I think we view the free movement of labor and capital as progress, in the world, in the economy, and in general. We're seeing the first major retraction of that from a Western developed country that we have ever seen. So it's really impressive, and it is a little scary. I mean, I agree with Jason. This is noise; a lot of this looks pretty scary. At the end of the day, we're investing in great companies that will do well in any sort of regulatory environment over time. But it is a little bit scary when there is this much uncertainty, I think, introduced in the market.
Moser: Given the currency effects here, I kind of feel like I need an impromptu trip over there to play some golf. It's pretty cheap right now.
Argersinger: Right, it would be very cheap to do that.
Hill: We were trading emails late last night, as it was beginning to become clear that this is how the vote was going to go. I'm curious if, at any point, either late last night or at any point today, you were looking at all the red on your stock screens and looking, maybe even hoping, for one stock to fall. I know, just hearing from some of our listeners on Twitter and through email, a lot of our members were thinking about this in terms of "Hey, there are going to be some good businesses on sale here!"
Argersinger: Yeah, as the MDP team, we were talking about this last night and this morning; we have a list of about a dozen companies that -- and I won't reveal many of them, but we talk about a lot of them on this show -- but a bunch of them where we'd have a price range we'd like to pay for these stocks, and we're looking all the time for a correction like this. Now, I think, this week's correction probably wasn't as sharp as it could have been. So we didn't really get the prices we were looking for. But we know what we want to buy and at what price, and we're waiting for days like this.
Erickson: As long as they don't have huge, huge exposure to Europe or to U.K., I mean, stocks that are going on sale that aren't directly correlated to that could be an opportunity.