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2018 OFFERS INVESTORS OPTIMISM – BUT THEY NEED TO PROCEED WITH CAUTION

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2018 OFFERS INVESTORS OPTIMISM – BUT THEY NEED TO PROCEED WITH CAUTION

Faster global GDP growth, continuing loose global monetary policies, and U.S. tax cuts will help make 2018 a profitable year for investors.  But there are also some important headwinds on the horizon, warns the CEO of one of the word’s largest independent financial advisory organisations.

Nigel Green, founder and chief executive of deVere Group looks to the year ahead with optimistic caution.

He comments: “2017 has been marked by steady and climbing markets.  As things currently stand, we can expect this to continue throughout 2018. However, investors need to keep an eye on several key factors over the next 12 months that could increase turbulence.

“There are three main drivers for optimism next year.

“First, global GDP growth is speeding up. What’s more, this growth is fairly evenly balanced, with most major economies growing at an acceptable rate.  Crucially, China is now growing at a more robust pace than had previously been expected and the Eurozone is enjoying an upturn. Strong GDP growth is translating into good corporate earnings growth, which supports share prices.

“Second, although more interest rate hikes are expected from the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Bank of England in 2018, interest rates will remain low by historic standards. Cash will remain an unattractive asset class, and bond yields will continue to be slender.  We can expect this to further boost stock market indices.

“And third, tax cuts in the U.S. could help boost the American economy and stock market which, in turn, will positively impact global economic growth and global stocks.”

Mr Green continues: “Whilst there will be significant reasons for investors to be cheerful over the next 12 months, there are also three important headwinds to carefully monitor.

“First, inflation has remained remarkably low in recent years, despite falling unemployment in all the major economies.  It is possible that 2018 is the year that tight labour markets finally result in wage increases that cause a meaningful rise in inflation. If so, central bankers will have to markedly tighten policy – that’s to say raise rates and/or withdraw Quantitative Easing. In this scenario, government bonds would weaken but equities would have some protection since they can pass on inflation to the consumer, in higher selling prices. Eventually, though, they too will suffer as higher interest rates curb borrowing and investment, and consumption falls in response.

“Second, free trade is under fire. President Trump does not believe in multilateral trade agreements and could yet tear up NAFTA. He has voiced objections to individual trade agreements also, not least that with South Korea, and has in the past threatened 40 per cent tariffs on Chinese imports. Protectionism leads to higher prices and inflation, leading to a sharp fall in Treasury prices (and a rise in yields) that will be echoed on global bond markets. Risk assets will fall notably as investors buy into higher bond yields, or shelter in cash or gold.

“And third, China’s economy could slow. As President Xi Jinping re-orientates the economy away from a focus on rapid growth dominated by infrastructure investment and exports, towards services and household consumption, the government could become less willing to prop up failing industries and bankroll leveraged investors. At the same time, an increased focus on state control of the economy risks damaging entrepreneurial confidence. A slow down in China’s growth would trigger a slow down in global demand and re-awaken fears of global deflation.”

The deVere CEO concludes: “No-one can accurately predict the future.  However, whether it is sustained steadiness or more volatility that lies ahead in 2018, one message should be clear: to keep on investing.  Why? Because economic history shows that over time, markets go up.  For this reason, that time-honoured investment saying that it is all about ‘time in the market, not timing the market’ has led many investors to financial success.”

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Not company earnings, not data but vaccines now steering investor sentiment

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Not company earnings, not data but vaccines now steering investor sentiment 1

By Marc Jones and Dhara Ranasinghe

LONDON (Reuters) – Forget economic data releases and corporate trading statements — vaccine rollout progress is what fund managers and analysts are watching to gauge which markets may recover quickest from the COVID-19 devastation and to guide their investment decisions.

Consensus is for world economic growth to rebound this year above 5%, while Refinitiv I/B/E/S forecasts that 2021 earnings will expand 38% and 21% in Europe and the United States respectively.

Yet those projections and investment themes hinge almost entirely on how quickly inoculation campaigns progress; new COVID-19 strains and fresh lockdown extensions make official data releases and company profit-loss statements hopelessly out of date for anyone who uses them to guide investment decisions.

“The vaccine race remains the major wild card here. It will shape the outlook and perceptions of global growth leadership in 2021,” said Mark McCormick, head of currency strategy at TD Securities.

“While vaccines could reinforce a more synchronized recovery in the second half (2021), the early numbers reinforce the shifting fundamental between the United States, euro zone and others.”

The question is which country will be first to vaccinate 60%-70% of its population — the threshold generally seen as conferring herd immunity, where factories, bars and hotels can safely reopen. Delays could necessitate more stimulus from governments and central banks.

Patchy vaccine progress has forced some to push back initial estimates of when herd immunity could be reached. Deutsche Bank says late autumn is now more realistic than summer, though it expects the northern hemisphere spring to be a turning point, with 20%-25% of people vaccinated and restrictions slowly being lifted.

But race winners are already becoming evident, above all Israel, where a speedy immunisation campaign has brought a torrent of investment into its markets and pushed the shekel to quarter-century highs.

(Graphic: Vaccinations per 100 people by country, https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/azgvolalapd/Pasted%20image%201611247476583.png)

SHOT IN THE ARM

Others such as South Africa and Brazil, slower to get off the ground, have been punished by markets.

Britain’s pound meanwhile is at eight-month highs versus the euro which analysts attribute partly to better vaccination prospects; about 5 million people have had their first shot with numbers doubling in the past week.

Shamik Dhar, chief economist at BNY Mellon Investment Management expects double-digit GDP bouncebacks in Britain and the United States but noted sluggish euro zone progress.

“It is harder in the euro zone, the outlook is a bit more cloudy there as it looks like it will take longer to get herd immunity (due to slower vaccine programmes),” he added.

The euro bloc currently lags the likes of Britain and Israel in terms of per capita coverage, leading Germany to extend a hard lockdown until Feb. 14, while France and Netherlands are moving to impose night-time curfews.

Jack Allen-Reynolds, senior European economist at Capital Economics, said the slow vaccine progress and lockdowns had led him to revise down his euro zone 2021 GDP forecasts by a whole percentage point to 4%.

“We assume GDP gets back to pre-pandemic levels around 2022…the general story is that we think the euro zone will recover more slowly than US and UK.”

The United States, which started vaccinating its population last month, is also ahead of most other major economies with its vaccination rollout running at a rate of about 5 per 100.

Deutsche said at current rates 70 million Americans would have been immunised around April, the threshold for protecting the most vulnerable.

Some such as Eric Baurmeister, head of emerging markets fixed income at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, highlight risks to the vaccine trade, noting that markets appear to have more or less priced normality being restored, leaving room for disappointment.

Broadly though the view is that eventually consumers will channel pent-up savings into travel, shopping and entertainment, against a backdrop of abundant stimulus. In the meantime, investors are just trying to capture market moves when lockdowns are eased, said Hans Peterson global head of asset allocation at SEB Investment Management.

“All (market) moves depend now on the lower pace of infections,” Peterson said. “If that reverts, we have to go back to investing in the FAANGS (U.S. tech stocks) for good or for bad.”

(GRAPHIC: Renewed surge in COVID-19 across Europe – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/xegvbejqwpq/COVID2101.PNG)

(Reporting by Dhara Ranasinghe and Marc Jones; Additional reporting by Karin Strohecker; Writing by Sujata Rao; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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BlackRock to add bitcoin as eligible investment to two funds

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BlackRock to add bitcoin as eligible investment to two funds 2

By David Randall

(Reuters) – BlackRock Inc, the world’s largest asset manager, is adding bitcoin futures as an eligible investment to two funds, a company filing showed.

The company said it could use bitcoin derivatives for its funds BlackRock Strategic Income Opportunities and BlackRock Global Allocation Fund Inc.

The funds will invest only in cash-settled bitcoin futures traded on commodity exchanges registered with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the company said in a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday.

A BlackRock representative declined to comment beyond the filings when contacted by Reuters.

Earlier this month, Bitcoin, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency, hit a record high of $40,000, rallying more than 900% from a low in March and having only just breached $20,000 in mid-December.

Bitcoin tumbled 10.6% in midday U.S. trading Thursday.

Other U.S.-based asset managers will likely follow BlackRock’s lead and add exposure to bitcoin in some form to their go-anywhere or macro strategies as the cryptocurrency market becomes more liquid and developed, said Todd Rosenbluth, director of mutual fund research at CFRA.

“It’s easy to see how strong the performance has been of late and look at a historical asset allocation strategy that would have included a slice of crypto and how returns would have been enhanced as a result,” he said. “Large institutional investors are going to be able to tap into the futures market in a way that a retail investor could not do.”

There is currently no U.S.-based exchange-traded fund that owns bitcoin, limiting the ability of most fund managers to own the cryptocurrency in their portfolios.

BlackRock Chief Executive Officer Larry Fink had said at the Council of Foreign Relations in December that bitcoin is seeing giant moves every day and could possibly evolve into a global market. (https://bit.ly/2XXFHrB)

(Reporting by David Randall; Additional reporting by Radhika Anilkumar and Bhargav Acharya in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Lisa Shumaker)

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Bitcoin slumps 10% as pullback from record continues

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Bitcoin slumps 10% as pullback from record continues 3

LONDON (Reuters) – Bitcoin slumped 10% on Thursday to a 10-day low of $31,977 as the world’s most popular cryptocurrency continued to retreat from the $42,000 record high hit on Jan. 8.

The pullback came amid growing concerns that bitcoin is one of a number of financial bubbles threatening the overall stability of global markets.

Fears that U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration could attempt to regulate cryptocurrencies have also weighed, traders said.

(Reporting by Julien Ponthus; editing by Tom Wilson)

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