Why Neil Woodford and private investors are still buying

The immediate stock market reaction to the UK’s decision to leave the European Union can not have escaped your attention, as the FTSE 100 plunged nearly 9% in early trading to slump below the 6,000 level, before recovering a little. By around midday, the index of top UK shares stood at 6,035 points for a more modest 4.8% fall.

It’s been a rather unusual trading day in more ways than one, with the big early falls coinciding with massive trading volumes. In fact, volumes on the Interactive Investor share dealing platform (which hosts Motley Fool Share Dealing) were up around 10 times their normal levels, and in just the first hour and a half of the morning had more than doubled the entire previous day’s trading.

And, encouragingly for those of us with a longer-term horizon, there was apparently a lot of cash being kept back to snap up oversold bargains, with buys outnumbering sells by two to one — plenty of folk were waiting for the fear to maximise before they swooped!

What do the experts say?

Writing in his blog on the morning of the result, top fund manager Neil Woodford noted that markets have suffered quite a shock, but he opined that the Brexit vote “is not as negative a development as the market’s initial reaction appears to imply“.

Mr Woodford reiterated his earlier opinion that the EU referendum result would make little difference to the UK’s long-term economic future, no matter what the outcome, and that any adverse economic effect (of which there is bound to be some) would be relatively short-lived.

At only a little over 6,000 and having been down to 5,789 points shortly after the market opened, the FTSE is certainly looking a bit sad and depressed on this momentous day. But we have to remember that it fell as low as 5,500 back on 11 February — and wouldn’t we have been quite satisfied on that date to know it would rebound by nearly 10% just a little over four months later?

Most popular shares

Which shares were the panic-sellers unloading and the canny bargain-hunters snapping up? It will come as no surprise to learn that banks were among the top traded shares in the morning session as the sector tumbled, with Lloyds Banking Group heading the list, Barclays in second place, and Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC Holdings also in the top 10. It seems those expecting the banking sector to be hurt by leaving the EU and selling were closely pursued by investors agreeing with Mr Woodford and seeing the depressed prices as just too tempting to ignore.

Housebuilders Taylor Wimpey and Barratt Developments were heavily traded, too, with both down more than 20% by noon, as Brexit is expected by many to cause a fall in house prices. But it should only be short term, and buyers who can see beyond its cyclical nature are seeing the longer term bargains the sector can provide.

Curiously, BP was heavily traded too and fell 8.3% early on, though I’d find it hard to think of a global company less likely to be affected by whether the UK is in the EU or not.

Look forward

Telling us he thinks the major economic challenges of the future will far outweigh anything caused by the referendum vote and that the UK economy will not be significantly troubled by it overall, Mr Woodford told us that his long-term investment strategy will not change, saying “Although market conditions such as these can be unsettling, we would strongly urge investors to look through this period of uncertainty and focus on the long-term opportunity which, in our view, continues to remain attractive“.

You can see why we like Neil Woodford here at the Fool, can’t you?

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Alan Oscroft owns shares of Lloyds Banking Group. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Barclays, BP, and HSBC Holdings. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.