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China and Russia have thrashed the FTSE 100 this year. Can Britain fight back?

Great Britain was never going to be the world’s favourite investment in 2019, as Brexit uncertainty casts a lengthy shadow over our economic prospects.

A good start

The FTSE 100 has done remarkably well to rise 10% in the first six months of the year, so it could have been worse. These two stocks have climbed by 50%.

The blue-chip index is a special case as its constituent companies generate more than three quarters of their earnings overseas, but the domestic-focused FTSE 250 has grown by a similarly positive percentage. So yay, Great Britain!

I suggest you enjoy it while it lasts.

BRICs are back!

The UK has been completely trounced by China and Russia, though, with the Russian Trading System up 29.9% year-to-date, while China’s CSI 300 is up 27.4%, according to new research from investment platform AJ Bell.

Investment director Russ Mould said the Bank of Russia’s move to cut interest rates gave it a lift, while Russian companies are under state pressure to be more generous to shareholders. Energy firm Gazprom hiked its dividend twice in a week, sending its share price soaring.

Fund choices

China’s success is a bigger surprise, given the ongoing trade spat with the US, although the Government has responded by pumping yet more stimulus into the economy. If trade troubles intensify, then debt-strapped China could still be vulnerable.

Tempted? You could track these countries through a low-cost exchange traded fund (ETF) such as iShares MSCI Russia or iShares MSCI China, or an investment trust such as JP Morgan Russian Securities or JP Morgan Chinese. Personally, I hold unit trust Neptune Russia & Greater Russia, which has done very well for me.

Elsewhere…

The US has also continued its burst of strong performance with the NASDAQ up 20.1% year-to-date and the S&P 500 up 16.7%, both well ahead of the UK. France and Germany have done well, rising around 16% each. With growth of 14.6%, Brazil confirms there is still life in the BRICs.

So the UK is a relative laggard, I’m afraid. Will that change? To a large degree, that all depends on the B-word as political strife and fears of a no-deal EU departure increasingly drag on the economy, slowing investment and growth.

Deal with it

Tory leader front-runner Boris Johnson has pledged to take the UK out on 31 October “deal or no-deal” but there is no Parliamentary majority for crashing out, so investors might have to brace themselves for another general election before we fix this.

I can’t see that doing much for market sentiment.

Perhaps Boris can work his magic on the EU and secure some kind of deal acceptable to the Brexiteers who are backing him. It doesn’t look that likely at the moment. On top of all that, we also have to factor in the wider worry of a slowing global economy.

The FTSE 100 has done surprisingly well this year but now may just be its highpoint.

So start building your stock of ammunition as there could be plenty of buying opportunities in the politically and economically volatile months ahead if share prices fall. There are some tempting FTSE 100 dividend stocks out there right now.

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Harvey Jones has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.