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A Euro-Style Currency Crisis Could Start Next Week

Happy Monday.
 
Unless you’re still stubbornly stuck on the sidelines in cash that is…
 
In which case, I bet you’ll be distinctly unhappy as you face up to further financial torture.
 
Yes, last week’s decision by ECB chief Mario Draghi to cut the eurozone’s headline interest rate from 0.15% to just 0.05%…
 
Alongside the Bank of England deciding to keep our base rate at 0.5% for the 66th month running
 
Means your cash in the bank continues to earn the square root of naff all – and is likely to do so for some time to come.

I am no expert, but locking in a guaranteed loss on my investment does not sound very smart to me

Super Mario’s rate cut sparked the FTSE 100 rising to a 14-year high of 6,874 last week.
 
Just another 126 points, and we’d be at 7,000 – and then, who knows, maybe it will be full steam ahead to 8,000 and beyond as Johnny Latecomer and friends finally decide to give up on lame savings accounts and pile into dividend-paying shares.
 
I mean, none of this is rocket science. With interest rates so low, sensible money simply has no place to go but the stock market.
 
Just look at government bonds for a reality check.
 
Lend to the UK government until 2019 and you’ll earn 1.81% a year. Lend to the Americans for the same time and you’ll get 1.71%. Lend to Japan and you’ll ‘enjoy’ 0.16%.
 
But at least you will get some sort of return…
 
Which is more than can be said of the 2016 government bonds of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany and the Netherlands, which currently offer NEGATIVE rates.
 
It’s true — buy those euro-bonds today and you will effectively PAY up to 0.07% a year for the privilege.
 
I am no bond expert, but locking in a guaranteed loss on my investment does not sound very smart to me.
 
This might be bit simple, but I would rather take a chance on GlaxoSmithKline’s 5.7% income or Diageo’s 2.9% yield – and the prospect for capital gains and a rising payout – than trap myself in a European bond right now.

scotlandOur plans to launch Fool Scotland may have to be dusted off!

Still, there’s always a reason not to buy shares.
 
Over the years, I’ve heard just about every excuse to defy hundreds of years of positive stock-market history.
 
Valuations, economies, wars, crashes, scandals, politics, central bankers, defaults…
 
You name it, people have used all of them and more to exit shares at the worst possible times, only to jump back in when the news changes for the better and share prices are much higher.
 
Indeed, I see some investors have now become a tad nervous about the Scottish independence referendum in 10 days’ time.
 
After the latest television debate and subsequent political canvassing, polls from YouGov now suggest the YES vote has a 51% share versus 49% for the NO vote (excluding all the ‘don’t knows’).
 
At the start of the year it was 63%-37% in favour of the NOs and an all-out landslide was on the cards …
 
But now Peter Kellner, president of YouGov, is saying: “The Yes campaign has not just invaded No territory; it has launched a blitzkrieg…the contest could go either way in the final ten days.”
 
So our plans in that April Fool story about launching Fool Scotland – including a news service on the proposed website for ‘stock jocks’ – may just have to be dusted off!  

It could result in a euro-style currency crisis occurring within the UK

It’s all meant a lot of City experts admitting to not really knowing what is going to happen.
 
Reported in the Telegraph, Kit Juckes, head of foreign exchange research at Societe Generale, sums up the obvious:
 
The markets do not like uncertainty… the focus will be on every poll from now on. This will go to the wire.
 
But some predict a win for the YES campaign — and the resultant doubts over a currency union — could cause a run on sterling.
 
In particular, Kevin Daly, senior economist at Goldman Sachs, claims:

The most important specific risk, in our view, is that the uncertainty over whether an independent Scotland would be able to retain sterling as its currency could result in a euro-style currency crisis occurring within the UK.
 
And if that wasn’t bad enough, Mr Daly adds…
 
Even if the sterling monetary union does not break up in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote, the threat of a break-up would provide investors with a strong incentive to sell Scottish-based assets, and households with a strong incentive to withdraw deposits from Scottish-based banks.
 
Uh oh.
 
Better sell Royal Bank of Scotland just in case, and for that matter SSE, Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management because you never know…
 
Meanwhile, Berenberg’s Rob Wood has predicted:
 
The biggest initial issue would be a spike in uncertainty. Firms could delay investment and consumers could shun big-ticket spending until the post-independence arrangements became clear. That could cause a serious setback for the Scottish economy and a material hit to the ‘rump UK’
 
Yes, I like that — “a spike in uncertainty”. If nothing else, there is a bull run on pundits on Scottish independence using the word “uncertainty” at present.
 
(Although an unnamed “global macro hedge-fund manager” in the Financial Times did go one better in the uncertainty stakes the other day…
 
The outcome… is super uncertain. Even if you were to know the results of the referendum, it would be difficult to make money out of it because it is hard to predict what would happen.”)

How I’m investing with 10 days to go before the Scottish vote

Anyway, here’s how I’m approaching the current market, with interest rates at rock-bottom lows and the Scotland referendum on a knife-edge.
 
1) I’m keeping tight hold of all my investments, where a rich mix of super track records, tip-top bosses and lowly valuations should keep any short-term losses to a minimum (and any long-term gains to a maximum).
 
2) I’m scouring the market for further bargain buying opportunities. Last week, stock-picking ace Mark Rogers pointed us all in the direction of three names, and I am also very intrigued by the household-name website he recommended in the latest edition of our flagship investment newsletter, Motley Fool Share Advisor. Click on the advert below if you want to know more.
 
3) I’m reinvesting my dividends when appropriate.
 
4) I’m avoiding cash and remain fully invested.

5) I’m with the aforementioned global macro hedge-fund manager – and ignoring everything to do with forecasts for the Scottish referendum.
 
I mean, I can’t predict the result and even if I could, I don’t know what will happen after that. Regardless of the outcome, the effect cannot be any worse than the banking crash of 2008 – and we all survived that. The referendum’s result will be declared on Friday next week.

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Maynard does not own any share mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has recommended shares in GlaxoSmithKline.