Mark Dampier: Interest rate rise would spell economic disaster

Many column inches have been devoted to inflation and interest rates during the last couple of weeks. With inflation above target for such a long time, pressure is growing on the Bank of England to consider an interest rate rise. According to Neil Woodford, manager of Invesco Perpetual Income and High Income, two of the largest funds in the country, this would be a big mistake. He points out a high oil price of $90 a barrel has a big impact on the UK, but in the longer term it has a deflationary rather than inflationary effect. Non-discretionary inflation effectively acts as an extra tax, depressing demand. He believes an interest rate rise would be disastrous for an economy where there is little sign of wage increases and consumers are faced with utility bill rises of 25 per cent or more in the next five to seven years. I agree it is hard to see how the UK consumer would cope with higher mortgage rates on top of everything else.

Mr Woodford also believes the current fashion for commodity investments of various sorts has gone too far. In his view, quantitative easing is not necessarily helping the developed world because much of the extra money created leaks out into the developing world causing inflation, which is eventually exported back to the West in higher prices for goods. Yet with emerging markets raising interest rates to control their own inflation, it is quite possible demand for commodities will ease. If so, investments in this area could be vulnerable and this would, of course, be favourable for Mr Woodford's relative performance. Being an income fund manager there are few mining stocks he can buy because they tend to yield very little – plus he strongly believes the sector as a whole is overvalued.

Instead, he sees better prospects in more defensive tobacco and food retail stocks, but his real enthusiasm is towards pharmaceuticals and two of his largest holdings are GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca. He describes current valuations as "insane", dismissing the challenges posed by changes in regulation making it tougher for companies to get approval for drugs. His view is that all businesses have challenges right now and, with attractive valuations plus spending on healthcare set to rise due to aging populations globally, the pharmaceuticals sector looks appealing.

The market remains sceptical, however, and pharmaceuticals stocks continue to be out of favour. Glaxo, for instance, languishes at a similar share price to 14 years ago and yields around five per cent. In particular, research and development spending is frequently seen as a costly drain on resources likely to produce little return. Yet this could be some way from the truth, and Mr Woodford believes the true value of these companies is way above the current price. He expects the gap to close in the next few years and if he is right it should mean some excellent returns for investors.

Although often portrayed as a doom-monger due to his bearish macro-economic views, Mr Woodford remains extremely upbeat about the prospects for the holdings in his own portfolio, which he believes should remain resilient amid the problems we face. The main one, as I have said on a number of occasions, is debt, and all the possible solutions to it are uncomfortable. Writing off debt is painful to the fragile banking sector and paying it back (by spending less) means standards of living fall. Politicians keep hoping to kick the can farther down the road but as Mr Woodford says, the can is getting heavier the longer they delay.

While Mr Woodford's funds have made positive returns over the last couple of years, his aversion to mining and energy stocks has weighed on performance, and they have lagged behind others in the sector. There is no way I would write him off though. He remains as passionate as ever and only invests personally in his own funds – a sure-fire way of aligning a fund manager's interest with that of his investors. I certainly share his confidence that he will see them through the potentially challenging times ahead.

Mark Dampier is head of research at Hargreaves Lansdown, the asset manager, financial adviser and stockbroker. For more details about the funds included in this column, visit www.h-l.co.uk/independent

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Life and Style
fashion
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Langley James : IT Support; Helpdesk, VMware; Manchester, £18k

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Langley James : IT Support; Helpdesk, VMware; Manch...

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HRO - £70k+ ote

    £35000 - £450000 per annum + £3k car, £70k ote: h2 Recruit Ltd: Do you want to...

    Citifocus Ltd: Newly Qualified Accountants - Risk Mgmt

    £Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Prestigious financial institution seeks to...

    Citifocus Ltd: Operational Risk Analyst

    £Negotiable: Citifocus Ltd: Experienced operational risk professional with ban...

    Day In a Page

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?