Respected fund manager Neil Woodford penned a new blog post last week outlining why he thinks there are more important influences on the long-term outlook for the UK economy than the process of Britain disentangling itself from the EU.

Despite seeing global risks, I find it encouraging that he maintains faith in the investments he holds within his CF Woodford Equity Income Fund, such as AstraZeneca (LSE: AZN), Imperial Brands (LSE: IMB) and BAE Systems (BA).

Global challenges

During the EU referendum campaign, Mr Woodford commissioned a report that concluded the effects of a vote either way would likely be economically neutral for Britain. So it’s no surprise that even after the result of the referendum, he maintains his view about the impact of other influences on the UK’s outlook rather than the Brexit process.

He sees several interlinked challenges that are combining to exert downward pressure on global economic growth rates. The eurozone economy, he says, “epitomises some of these issues with its sluggish growth, stagnant productivity, ideological conflicts, troubling debt dynamics and poor demographics.”

Europe isn’t the only area with problems. Mr Woodford points out that there are “liquidity problems in emerging markets, a dangerous credit bubble in China and the continued threat of a prolonged period of deflation.”  However, it’s not all doom and gloom. He points to the US as one of the rare economic bright spots in recent years.

Grounds for optimism

Investors have a lot to worry about according to Neil Woodford. The global economy is slowing and the US economy doesn’t look as robust as it did, he reckons. Encouragingly though, he goes on to say that not all companies are affected by the global economic challenges to the same extent, and that’s why his investment strategy favours businesses that are largely in control of their own destinies.

The takeaway is that he feels optimistic about what his funds can deliver over the long term, despite the unprecedented global challenges. That’s why I think it’s a good idea to look carefully at the firms he’s holding in his income fund.

Three defensives

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca is working towards halting the slide in earnings of recent years caused by one-time best sellers running out of patent exclusivity. As the firm rebuilds its product offering with a promising development pipeline, the dividend remains steady. City analysts expect earnings to slide 15% this year and by another 1% during 2017. At today’s 4,525p share price, the forward dividend yield runs at 4.4% and AstraZeneca trades on a forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of just over 16 for 2017.

Cigarette producer Imperial Brands expects to grow its earnings 13% this year and 9% for the year to September 2017. At a share price of 4,029p, the firm trades on a forward P/E ratio around 15 and the forward dividend yield runs at 4.3%.

Aviation and weapons firm BAE Systems completes this line up of company’s operating in sectors traditionally seen as defensive. At 544p, BAE Systems trades on a forward P/E rating of 13 and expects to pay a dividend yield just over 4% for 2017.

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Kevin Godbold has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended AstraZeneca. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.