FTSE 100 rises 10% in 3 months: what would Warren Buffett do?

Few investors would have successfully predicted the performance of the FTSE 100 (INDEXFTSE: UKX) in the last three months. It has risen by 10% during that time despite the EU referendum knocking investor confidence and sending the UK’s long-term financial future into deep uncertainty.

However, share prices have benefitted from weaker sterling as well as swift changes in the political sphere. Clearly, uncertainty remains high and the negotiations for the UK’s exit from the EU are yet to formally commence. Yet the outlook for the FTSE 100 is brighter than most investors would have predicted on 24 June when the shock news of Brexit was dominating the headlines.

Certainly, a mix of a short-term gain plus the uncertainty from Brexit, the US election and US interest rate rises would be enough to make many investors sell-up. However, that’s not how Warren Buffett would react. His favoured holding period for stocks is rumoured to be forever and so a quick gain in the short run is unlikely to cause him to sell and sit on cash until share prices fall.

In fact, Warren Buffett seems to pay little attention to the ups and downs of the stock market. In that sense he’s a more ‘bottom up’ stock picker. This means that he’s more interested in the competitive advantage and margin of safety in a specific stock, rather than the outlook for the economy. As a result, he may argue that the index level matters little since there will always be worthwhile investment opportunities on offer.

Bank on bargains?

For example, at the present time the FTSE 100 is within 6% of its all-time high. This may lead many investors to determine that there’s little value left in the market. However, a range of bank shares are trading well below net asset value and this indicates that they have significant upward rerating potential.

Similarly, the healthcare sector offers good value for money. That’s especially the case since the financial performance of healthcare shares is less positively correlated to the outlook for the UK economy than for most index peers. And with interest rates in the UK likely to remain at or below 0.25% for the foreseeable future, the 4%-plus yields on utility and tobacco stocks could hold great appeal for income investors, while also indicating that they offer good value for money.

Such companies may now be trading 10% or higher than they were a few months ago. However, they could still offer scope for major gains in the long run, which is what investors such as Warren Buffett are likely to focus on. The FTSE 100 may rise by another 10% in the next three months, or fall by an even greater amount. But the key for value investors like Warren Buffett is to find the best opportunities in any kind of market and then stick with them for the long run.

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