Where to invest in 2015: equities

5 January 2015

In retrospect, if 2013 was the party, 2014 was something more akin to a hangover for UK investors.

Indeed, as the Christmas decorations come down and the fuzzy heads from New Year's Eve clear, many Brits will be wondering how they can make their cash work better for them in 2015 than perhaps it has done in the previous 12 months.

To put it in context, while 2013 witnessed the UK's FTSE 100 index soar by 19%, by late-November last year, following some steep ups and downs, the UK's blue-chip index had limped ahead by just 3%.

But ultimately investing should never be considered in terms of a discrete 12-month period. After all, over three years, Britain's blue-chip index is up by a more than respectable 45% – far beyond what any savings account has offered.

Looking ahead into 2015, there will undoubtedly be opportunities but simultaneously there is no shortage of challenges.

The UK has a general election to get through, the eurozone is struggling with its own economic engine and geopolitical issues still engulf the Middle East as well as Eastern Europe in the form of the Russia/ Ukraine conflict, all of which have the potential to weigh on markets. In addition, there is the looming prospect of higher interest rates.

But sensible investing is about diversification and looking longer term. So we've asked the experts for their views on the future for equities, as well as their suggestions for what you might consider putting in your stocks and shares Isa.


Despite its comparatively lacklustre 2013, the UK market still hit a 14-year peak while the US market reached its own new highs. And many experts, although cautious, believe there are potentially more gains to come, especially given the strong rebound both the UK and US economies are enjoying.

But, given the performance of recent years, some markets are far from cheap, especially the US. However, for investors willing to take on the risk, funds – which invest in shares – could be a good long-term bet. A number of themes appear to be on the radar, namely Japan, Europe and the UK.

Patrick Connolly a certified financial planner at Chase de Vere, believes that markets are awash with uncertainty given the plethora of economic and political obstacles ahead. But he likes the UK: the economy is doing well and, at the time of writing, Blighty was on track to enjoy its best economic growth rate for some seven years. Connolly says: "The market still offers some value in comparative terms. I feel it could be a good middle ground."

For those looking at investing in Britain, Ben Willis, head of research at wealth manager Whitechurch Securities, recommends Equity Income funds that invest in dividend-paying firms – corporations that share their profits with investors. Vodafone, for example, made a world record special payout of some £16.5 billion in 2014 after selling its US business; and dividend-monitoring firm Capita forecasts that overall payouts from UK firms should be £85.8 billion in 2015.

Europe and/or Japan might pique the interest of the more intrepid. Despite the economic woes of the embattled eurozone, many of the regions' firms are global operations, and not reliant on local customers to grow their business. There is also talk of the European Central Bank injecting some cash into the region via quantitative easing (QE), a process that has been very supportive of equities, and one which helped the UK and US economies get back on their feet.

Adrian Lowcock, head of investing at AXA Wealth, says: "Overall, we are positive on Europe given the cheap valuations of equities relative to other markets such as the US."

One region that has already turned the QE tap on is Japan, a country that while struggling with its own economic issues remains a favoured play for many given that its government is instigating numerous new reforms, all of which should be a boon for investors provided they come to fruition.

Mark Dampier, head of research at Hargreaves Lansdown, says: "The market looks relatively good value compared to most other major markets, with corporate profits rising quite strongly." As for struggling emerging markets, such as China, they remain strictly for the very risk-tolerant but as Connolly says: "At some point they will outperform and, in terms of valuations, remain cheap."

Equity fund tips

For UK investors, Ben Willis tips the Woodford Equity Income fund run by Neil Woodford, famous for delivering strong, long-term returns. The portfolio was only launched in mid-2014 and has already proved hugely popular.

Patrick Connolly likes Threadneedle UK Equity Income, up 68% over three years. He says: "Its managers are highly experienced and take a fairly contrarian approach to investing." For investors looking towards the land of the rising sun, a preferred pick for Adrian Lowcock is GLG Japan CoreAlpha, up 37% over the same timeframe. He says: "Its manager looks for out-of-favour companies, which are well managed and financially solid. He buys them cheap before the turnaround story is recognised."

Adrian Lowcock also tips BlackRock Continental European, 65% better over three years. He says: "The manager focuses predominantly on large companies, where we believe offer the most attractive opportunities at present."



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