Protect your portfolio from Brexit turmoil with Rio Tinto plc and Glencore plc

Trying to protect your portfolio from Brexit uncertainty is a tricky process. Where do you start?

Defensive companies with a global presence are the “go to” Brexit protection buy. Global operations will protect from much of the economic turbulence in the UK, while companies earning revenue overseas in US dollars or euros will receive a boost from sterling’s devaluation.

Businesses in the commodity sector may also prove to be an attractive hedge against market turbulence and economic uncertainty.

Indeed, some City analysts believe that Brexit will hurt global growth by only 0.2% this year — a negligible impact and one that is unlikely to have a significant impact on the demand for essential commodities such as iron ore, coal, oil and copper.

Some benefits 

So, Brexit is unlikely to affect leading miners such as Rio Tinto (LSE: RIO), and the performance of the company’s shares since Friday morning reflect this outlook. Since Thursday of last week shares in Rio have gained 5.5%, outperforming the FTSE 100 by 5%.

Part of these gains can are attributed to the fact that the price of iron ore has rallied in the past few days, closing at just under $54 per ton on Monday, up 24% in the year-to-date. Furthermore, there is chatter that several Chinese steel mills are in the process of restructuring, which should help speed up the rebalancing of China’s steel market.

Also, Rio’s shares have found favour with investors due to the devaluation of sterling. Rio reports earnings in US dollars, but the company’s shares trade in sterling. Weaker sterling will effectively boost Rio’s earnings, which will make the company’s shares look cheaper.

All in all, these two tailwinds seem to be sending shares in Rio higher and there could be further gains to come. According to current City forecasts, Rio trades at a forward P/E of 17.4 and the shares support a dividend yield of 4%.

Brexit hedge 

Glencore (LSE: GLEN) could be on track to reap some of the same benefits as Rio. The company will effectively get an earnings boost due to the decline in the value of sterling, although this won’t have that much of an effect as the majority of the company’s operations are outside the UK.

Still, because Glencore’s operations are spread across the world, the company is unlikely to be severely impacted by the result of Brexit. Basically, it will be business as usual. Management will continue to restructure the group’s operations, cut costs and reduce debt while Glencore’s trading division racks up a substantial cash flow to support the mining side of the business.

Overall, Glencore is well insulated from any domestic UK economic headwinds stemming from Brexit, and the shares could be a great hedge for your portfolio. According to current city forecasts shares in Glencore trade at a 2017 P/E of 27.7 and support dividend yield of 0.9%.

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