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If he sticks by his campaign pledges, Donald Trump’s election victory will soon unleash a $600 billion programme of infrastructure building and upgrading in the US. In the UK, chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond is also set to raise infrastructure spending later this month. Japan has already announced a vast fiscal package worth around £200 billion — nearly 6% of the country’s GDP.
This marks a step change in policy. During the financial crisis, governments relied on central bank monetary policy – the central banks pumping cheap money into the economy – to stabilise things as governments took on huge piles of debt from the banking system through bailouts. This government debt still lingers, but there’s an acknowledgement that monetary policy alone has achieved all it can and is having a number of bad side-effects. Therefore we are going to see a return to fiscal policy — governments boosting spending in targeted areas like infrastructure to boost the economy and create jobs. The debt problem, which can only get worse with big fiscal programmes, is for another day now it seems.
Massive new fiscal spending on infrastructure opens up opportunities. These are often long-term projects, but the companies set to benefit will see an immediate impact. That’s the reason that FTSE 100-listed Wolseley and Ashtead Group, two British companies with big US operations who would benefit from an infrastructure splurge, both rose strongly on the day Trump was elected as the 45th US president and are still rising. Wolseley makes plumping supplies and Ashtead is an equipment rental company.
Back in the UK, where mega-projects like a new Heathrow runway, the new Hinkley Point nuclear power plant and the second high-speed rail link between south and north are also in the works, WS Atkins, Balfour Beatty, Costain, Kier Group and Carillion are among the sector stocks to weigh up.
A technical look at Ashtead and Wolseley
Ashtead shares have managed to break through the all-important £13.73 resistance level yesterday, creating a new all-time high for the stock. A double bottom pattern formed over the past two months may not be technically textbook, considering it comes in the middle of an uptrend, yet the fact is we had a clear resistance level cleared out without the creation of a new low below £11.84. The correction appears to be well and truly over, with the 200-week simple moving average (SMA) proving the saviour of this long-term consistent uptrend. With that in mind, further gains seem likely, with a bullish view in play unless we break back below £11.84.