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HEARTWOOD INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT – MARKET OUTLOOK 2017

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HEARTWOOD INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT – MARKET OUTLOOK 2017

Fixed Income: David Absolon

Reflation and the passing of the baton from central banks to governments are two themes that are likely to be the key performance drivers of global fixed income markets. Moreover, both of these trends are expected to contribute to stronger global growth in the first half of 2017, with the US economy taking the lead based on expectations of significant fiscal expansion. Stable growth in China and grinding recoveries in the eurozone and Japan should also help to support an improving global backdrop. The exception to this trend is the UK, which is mired in Brexit and where downside risks to growth have increased.

Global deflation concerns have lost momentum, thanks to the recovery in commodity prices, and the trend of gradual, but not accelerating, reflation should continue in 2017. Core inflation is likely to drift higher in the US, although remaining well anchored as the strength of the US dollar is maintained. Headline inflation measures will be sensitive to the base effect of energy prices, most likely felt in the first quarter, and this may lead to some volatility at the headline level. Wage pressures are expected to rise moderately across developed economies as labour market conditions have tightened progressively over the past couple of years, especially in the US.

The US economy provides the strongest prospects for meaningful fiscal expansion, given plans for a $1 trillion plus infrastructure boost. However, hopes of a coordinated global fiscal pact remain a pipe dream. A ballooning budget deficit keeps the UK government timid about freeing the fiscal purse strings, as eurozone governments also show a lack of ambition.

Global central bank policy will remain accommodative, but unlike the past couple of years, and following questions around the role of central banks and the effectiveness of their policies, we are unlikely to see the injection of massive liquidity into financial markets. Those days appear to be over and we expect central banks to take a more balanced tone.

Developed sovereign bond yields are expected to rise, led by the US, but the trend will be capped by ongoing structural demand and the safe haven status in an environment of higher political risk premia. We are cautious about rising leverage in US corporate markets and continue to search for value where we opportunities for fundamental improvements. Notwithstanding headwinds around US policy uncertainty, emerging market sovereign debt is a long-term opportunity based on structural economic improvements. 

Equities: Michael Stanes

Populist politics has been the theme of 2016 and will likely remain in place over the next few years. Donald Trump’s election has shifted the narrative of markets, where perceptions are now focused on a pro-growth policy agenda and reflation.

As investors consider the implications of a shifting political climate, there is a risk that expectations for a significant growth boost are overstretched. In reality, we have yet to see any actual stimulus being implemented, although the political hurdles of delivering fiscal expansion have been reduced in the US.

We will retain our preference for value, overweighting the cyclical markets of Europe and Japan. Europe and Japan represent good value relative to other developed markets and should benefit from an improving corporate earnings backdrop. For various reasons, Europe has been a market that has not been favoured by global investors on worries about political risks, slow growth and a fragile Italian banking sector. Acknowledging that any one of these risks could erupt at any point to undermine sentiment, we are reassured by the fact that financial markets are better supported by policy measures already in place, with the European Central Bank acting as a backstop. The credit cycle remains pivotal to the eurozone’s recovery, where progress is being made, albeit slowly. Financial conditions remain very loose as the ECB continues to purchase assets in early 2017.

Japan is another unloved equity market based on a lacklustre macro environment and disappointing policy outcomes, whether through ‘Abenomics’ or the diminishing impact of Bank of Japan stimulus. Our reasons for investing, though, are less beholden to policy expectations, but focused on the micro story, where corporate governance developments are driving efforts to improve shareholder value. We also believe there are interesting opportunities to be found in the ‘New Japan’, which includes domestically-focused sectors positioned to benefit from ageing demographics (healthcare and consumer discretionary) and digital advancements.

We expect to be maintaining our modest overweight to US equities, although exposure will remain targeted to specific areas: domestically-exposed small caps and sector opportunities in industrials. A significant amount of global money has been invested into US equities, driven by expectations of higher US growth, gradual reflation and a positive sloping yield curve. We expect this positive momentum to be maintained in early 2017, reinforced by expectations of improved corporate earnings growth, given the fading effects of the commodity price adjustment and a stronger US dollar.

Inevitably, US politics throws up uncertainties under a Trump presidency and the risk of disappointment or of a policy blunder remain significant. On balance, though, we take a more optimistic view. If Trump’s policy priorities are focused on recharging US growth and bringing forward spending, then this is likely to boost US equities at the expense of the US treasury market. Furthermore, the Republican Party’s control of both the presidency and Congress increases the likelihood that economic measures will get implemented, plus Congressional Democrats are likely to support infrastructure spending. Any vacillation in advancing the pro-growth agenda will be more related to tax cuts, where there is less of a consensus between the two parties. However, tax incentives to repatriate US companies’ global earnings could add further support to US equities, as well as drive merger and acquisition activity and share buybacks.

Downside risks to growth in 2017 and Brexit vulnerabilities keep us underweight in UK equities in the near term. We will remain focused on large-cap exporters in the near term, although domestically-focused smaller companies could provide opportunities over the medium term as we see more visibility around Brexit and a stable currency. Over time, we are likely to look to repatriate assets back into UK equities, although the post-Brexit bounce has delayed that prospect as overseas investors were attracted into the market by a weaker sterling.

A key question for global equity investors in 2017 is what will be the impact of a shifting political and economic environment on emerging market equities? US policy uncertainty will keep EM sentiment vulnerable in the near term on further talk of imposing trade barriers, although a measured Federal Reserve tightening cycle is unlikely to act as a significant constraint on EM economies. The era of advancing free trade agreements appears to be over, at least for now. We already know that the US will issue a notice of intent to pull out of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, but this move might not be all bad for China, acting as the regional pivot and reinforcing supply chains within Asia. If the US were to abandon the North American Free Trade Agreement, this would have a more meaningful impact on broader EM sentiment, not just Mexico. Away from US-exposed EM economies, there are diversification opportunities in Eastern Europe, which are positioned to benefit from recovering eurozone demand.

We are retaining our modest overweight allocation to EM equities with a view to increasing exposure as we see more clarity around the policy environment. We believe that an allocation to EM assets represents a long-term opportunity due to structural economic improvements – low budget deficits relative to GDP, current account surpluses and the buffer of ample foreign exchange reserves – and opportunities through the development of banking systems, telecommunications and consumer services. Valuations are not expensive relative to developed markets and there is more scope for corporate earnings improvements, given cyclical improvements in late 2016.

Commodities: Jade Fu

Compared with the start of 2016, our view on the commodity complex has become more constructive, owing to fundamental improvements that are being driven by a tighter supply/demand balance. Moreover, the significant price shock since mid-2014, coinciding with the end of the commodity super-cycle era, appears now to be accepted by investors and expectations have been reset. Perceptions of increased fiscal spending the US and policymakers’ commitment to revive growth have further boosted sentiment towards commodities.

Notwithstanding this more positive outlook, we believe it prudent to remain underweight in commodities from a portfolio construction perspective. Direct access to this market is through owning futures contracts rather than owning the physical asset. However, the risk/return profile is unappealing, in our view, due to the way these contracts are currently priced. The spot price trades below the futures price and as these contracts expire and are rolled forward this presents a negative yield. We prefer to take indirect exposure to commodities through other asset classes (equity and debt). That said, we will continue to hold a modest position in gold in certain strategies for diversification reasons

In energy, the evidence suggests an improving supply and demand outlook in the first half of 2017, driven by falling rig counts in the US and more stable growth in China. OPEC’s decision to cut supply to 32.5 million barrels per day does not shift the outlook materially, although it marks an important step in maintaining OPEC’s credibility with the markets and should support sentiment in the near term. It is worth remembering that even with the OPEC reduction, the supply of oil is still higher than a year ago, and continues to remain at a multi-year high. Oversupply remains a persistent theme in longer term and will keep a lid on prices. Furthermore, as oil prices recover, US shale supply is likely to increase given how quickly and efficiently production can be resumed.

Industrial metals prices have rallied strongly since the US election and may now be over-extended, given much of it has been driven by momentum and sentiment. Nonetheless, the fundamental outlook for industrial metals has improved on supply constraints, with the closure of mines and the reduction of inventories. While demand remains sluggish, further economic improvements in China and expectations of US fiscal expansion could add support to the market. However, there is a risk that policymakers in China could impose tighter controls on the property market – an important bellwether of demand for copper and steel – which would be negative for base metal prices.

Our view remains constructive on precious metals, although performance closely follows the perceived course of global monetary policy. A lower for longer environment will be supportive for precious metals overall. However, if inflation expectations were to accelerate as well as the pace of Federal Reserve rate hikes, the environment could be more challenging. Our central view, though, continues to expect both gradual tightening and reflation.

Alternatives: Charu Lahiri

Brexit adds a layer of uncertainty for UK commercial property and will accelerate structural headwinds that had already emerged before the referendum. Even prior to the UK referendum result, there were signs that some areas had become overheated, such as London offices and commercial and retail property in the South East, where – in certain areas – yields had fallen to pre-2008 crisis levels against a backdrop of supply constraints and low vacancy rates. Significant levels of capital flows since 2012 had also risen to record highs.

The full impact of Brexit continues to be assessed across property markets with varying signals. Clear signs have emerged from buyers that assets secured by long term, inflation-linked income streams are maintaining their value, as are ‘specialist’ investment vehicles. Elsewhere, developers have suffered materially and some prices are looking distressed, offering potential tactical opportunities on a medium-term view.

We expect to maintain our underweight allocation to this asset class, keeping a focus on diversification and selectivity. We hold exposure to regional offices and industrials, which should benefit from rising rental income growth due to supply constraints and falling vacancy rates. These markets are expected to be more insulated from a ‘hard’ Brexit scenario plus benefit from lower business rates – whereas London retailers contend with higher rates. From a macro perspective, we expect the Bank of England to maintain interest rates at historically low levels, given downside risks to growth – though not at recessionary levels – which should underpin demand for higher yielding assets. Sterling’s depreciation is likely to boost the attractiveness of the UK market to international investors. Notwithstanding Brexit noise, UK property continues to attract international buyers due to its “safe haven” qualities and the UK’s robust jurisdictional and legal framework.

Outside of the UK, other markets are less attractive from valuations perspective. However, in the US, the real estate investment trust market has been susceptible to negative sentiment due to reflation and higher growth expectations. Valuations remain at the higher end of the range on a historic basis, but should this selling pressure continue to build, we may find a potential entry point.

In hedge funds, we have held a natural bias towards macro/CTA strategies, which we expect to benefit from greater global monetary policy divergence. Steeper yield curves also provide a better opportunity set for arbitrage-orientated macro strategies. Furthermore, we expect to see increased dispersion in equity market performance, which is also beneficial to most arbitrage strategies. We favour managers looking to trade around volatility rather than making long directional bets.

We are finding opportunities to participate in directly funding infrastructure projects and supplying loans to small- and medium-sized enterprises. There has been a secular change in the corporate lending space since the 2008 financial crisis as banks have retrenched from the market, resulting from regulatory and capital requirement pressures. This gap is now being filled by specialist alternative lenders. These strategies offer a yield premium over higher yielding corporate bonds, often have lower default and higher recovery rates, and typically have a low correlation to broader equity and bond markets.

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Is It The Right Time To Invest In Gold?

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Is It The Right Time To Invest In Gold? 1

By Zoe Lyons, Hatton Garden Metals

The current climate is one of uncertainty, so it can be difficult to know what to do with your money, particularly investments. When faced with the decision on what to do with your savings, there are a number of options, but one investment which many have opted for over the years is gold buying.

Purchasing gold can be a great investment. Although the price of which can fluctuate just like anything else, the value of gold has generally tended to increase at a good rate and many prefer it over other saving options. With bank interest rates currently at a low and discussions of negative interest rates, many are opting to purchase gold as a way to earn money on their savings.

So is gold buying right for you? We take a look at some commonly asked questions when it comes to purchasing gold.

Why Should I Buy Gold?

Buying gold is often seen as a good investment due to value increases, so you may be able to make a profit from selling it on if the price of gold increases after you have purchased. The price can fluctuate, so profit is not guaranteed and is based on a number of factors. Looking back over previous years since the 1970s, the value of gold has prospered compared to other investment types, albeit with some dips in value at certain points over the past 50 years.

Buying gold also allows you full control as you are the owner. So you can choose if and when you want to sell.

Buying Gold Vs ETFs

When looking at investment opportunities, you may consider ETFs. An ETF is an Exchange Rated Fund, which when purchased is similar to buying stocks and shares. They can be a good investment, but is it more beneficial than purchasing gold?

When purchasing physical gold you will need to consider where to store it. This can incur charges, whereas with an ETF there is no need for storage, but an ETF can come with admin charges and investment management costs. When you choose to sell an ETF, you may also be required to pay a commission, which are often small amounts, but can add up if you are an active trader. There is also less control with an ETF as the price of which can change and is based on the company’s actions.

Gold Bars Vs Gold Coins

If you do choose to purchase gold, you will be faced with the option of whether to buy gold coins or gold bars. Although similar, they have varying benefits.

  • Gold Coins

The purchase of gold coins are often favoured by those who appreciate the historic value of the coin. Many people collect coins, so an investor may be inclined to pay more if they are a keen collector of such. Many may also pay more for gold coins based on their rarity. These factors can affect the price you pay or sell at, meaning the value of gold coins is not solely deemed by the live price of gold, so you may receive a higher price, dependent on the investor. This allows the price of gold coins to be more fluid than gold bars.

  • Gold Bars
Zoe Lyons

Zoe Lyons

Gold bars are not seen as a collectors item and don’t tend to have historical attachments. Because of this, the price is not influenced by these factors and is based on the weight, purity and the live price of gold at the time of selling or purchasing. This allows for a more accurate estimate of the price of your gold bars.

Where Should I Store Gold?

One of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to gold buying is storage. If you do choose to purchase gold, you will need to consider storage. Just like anything else of a high value, it needs to be stored securely. Simply keeping gold stored at home could be risky. When kept in your property, if not stored in the correct conditions, it is more susceptible to damp and corroding. There is also the possibility that your home insurance does not cover your gold, so if you are burgled, you could lose your investment. Because of this, it is wise to protect your gold with proper secure storage. Look for companies that offer storage abilities that are covered by insurance and be sure to do your research on pricing and look for cost effective storage as the fees incurred can soon add up. You may also want to look for a company that allows you quick and easy access to your gold to ensure you can buy and sell with ease.

Should I Invest In Silver Too?

Although gold is often a more popular investment option, many choose to purchase silver alongside it. The price of silver tends to be much more volatile than the price of gold, for this reason, many see gold as a safer choice. The price of silver will still have an intrinsic value but may be more worthwhile for those looking into long term investment options due to its VAT charges.

Negative Interest Rates

Although it is not a current practice, there has been recent talk of banks in the UK potentially introducing negative interest rates. If a savings account has a negative interest rate, this could mean you are charged for keeping money in the bank. If introduced, this could mean savers lose out. Instead of receiving interest on your savings, you may be charged a rate for keeping your money in the bank.

Could purchasing gold be a better option for your savings? Possibly, but this will depend on how much you have saved and the rates of the negative interest (if they are introduced). They may be minimal, but if you have a large amount in a savings account, this could add up to an expensive charge. If you choose to use your savings to buy gold, you may make a profit upon selling, but you will need to consider costs of storage as well as the chances of the price decreasing in the future.

So, is it the right time to invest in gold? It’s a very popular question. Hopefully the above will give you a bit more insight into gold investing and how it may work for you, but with any investment, there is never a guarantee that it will generate profit, so take careful considerations when diversifying your portfolio.

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Private public investment is more inter-dependant than ever

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Private public investment is more inter-dependant than ever 2

By Konstantin Sidorov, CEO and Founder of London Technology Club

Today, one thing unites the majority of governments around the world: their fiscal position is destitute. COVID 19 has seen an extraordinary, forced expansion in public sector expenditure, which has come just as the world was getting back on its feet following the Global Financial Crisis. The financial strains are already showing and will become more apparent as we move through the pandemic into social and economic recovery.

If you want to understand the impact that the re-focusing of public sector spending is having, then there is no better example than the space economy. In the US and Europe, we are becoming increasingly reliant on the space rockets and space launch companies pioneered by private investors and entrepreneurs.

NASA, that powerhouse and flag bearer for American national pride, is having to partner with the private sector in order to fulfil their missions. Private investors, the likes of Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos alongside smart use of new technologies have brought the economics of space down and the excitement around what’s possible up. With it comes a whole satellite manufacturing, launch and servicing industry growing to $271bn in revenues in 2019. Of the total revenues in the space economy ($366bn in 2019), government space budgets made up $95bn of that.

Commercial entities, being patiently built and backed by private capital willing to dig deep and progress their own missions has helped fuel the space economy. Many are realising now just how crucial space is for the future of a country’s protection, position in the world and prosperity. In China, India and Russia we still see significant public sector expenditure in space projects as an agent for military and economic expansion. The role of private investors in plugging major gaps in public sector funds and national pride in Western economies is therefore increasingly important.

Private and public investment must be seen as a partnership. We should not forget that Elon Musk’s SpaceX survived from the brink of collapse only because of a ten-figure NASA contract awarded at the last minute. Musk, since then, has looked for public infrastructure contracts to fuel his companies, the likes of The Boring Company winning the contract to build a downtown-to-airport loop, a  government program for high-speed transport in Chicago. Musk proves his products and services work and then secures lucrative government contracts in order to quickly scale which in turn leads to transforming whole industries.

It’s not just space infrastructure where we see this redefinition of the role of public and private finance. The Chinese have invested at least US$160 billion in infrastructure projects as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, creating roads, ports, energy infrastructure and providing aid to foreign governments to create the most ambitious infrastructure project the world has yet seen.

Konstantin Sidorov

Konstantin Sidorov

For Western countries, access to that scale of public finance is not fiscally-possible, a new solution is needed and just as the space race has been redefined by private capital, so will the development of new industries, infrastructure and the reinvigorating of economies facing structural change that has been accelerated by COVID.

Private capital has the huge advantage of being driven by conviction and competence. It can cost-effectively be deployed, fast and targeted with a laser-like focus by entrepreneurs who know exactly what they want to achieve. Private capital, currently, is also in abundance.

In a world which is providing slim returns across multiple traditional asset classes, private capital is being stockpiled and is waiting for the opportunity to be invested for growth. We need private investors to have the confidence to deploy their capital to fuel the system once again.

This new world, post COVID, won’t see public capital replaced. Its role is likely to focus more heavily on health, welfare and critical infrastructure. However private investors will step in where gaps appear. Ten years ago, the scale and ambition of private space companies would have been greeted with snorts of derision and looks of disbelief. Today governments embrace the private capital, and regard the companies that have deployed it as systemically important national assets.

As we look to the future, huge macro trends emerge that demand significant investment: the aging population, the threat of pandemic, the drive to create a sustainable economy and lifestyle, the need to decarbonise, the digital revolution. The list goes on.

Public finance cannot hope to provide the finance and pioneer the bold thinking and accept the risks required to find new solutions that drive us forward in a world of change. That role goes to the private investor and private capital.

For the investors themselves the opportunities are immense, and for society as a whole they are just as big. As we look forward public and private sector needs to embrace private capital. Rather than fearing private investors as locusts who strip organisations and opportunities of profit then fly away, a narrative that gained traction after the last great economic crash. This time we need to see private capital as agents for positive transformation. Private-public partnerships fuelling each other.

Private money is already building rockets that send people and payloads into space, but that isn’t the final frontier for entrepreneurial investors or the societies and economies that benefit from their boldness.

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What should I invest and How do I invest

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What should I invest and How do I invest 3

By Imogen Clarke, The Fry Group

With all the uncertainty that has arisen from 2020, with lockdown threatening businesses and the warning of a second wave, the topic of investments has taken on new meaning. Nowadays, more people are concerned with what makes for a good investment, or, if you’re a novice, how to best invest.

For instance, you might be unsure about the reliability of the company you’re looking to invest in, as well as the long-term prospects of your investment.

If you are unsure of your investments, then it is best to seek advice from financial experts like The Fry Group, who deal with tax, wealth and estate planning. They will see that you have a strong financial plan in place to help meet your objectives. They will develop a strategy that is built around your needs and asses any risks that could hinder your plans.

There are some things you’ll need to consider for your strategy; for instance, are you looking to make investments that are more of a risk and will take longer to come to fruition? Or, alternatively, are you wanting a faster approach that will result in a steady income? Whether or not you decide to play it safe all depends on your current financial situation and whether you have the means to take more of a risk. Do you have any other debts that take precedence over your future plans? Is your investment strategy realistic?

With the aid of a specialist – or investment manager – you can design an investment concept that works for you and your goals, and start to build a regular income from your investments. There are four main areas when it comes to assets (groups of investments) that you can consider:

  • Equities
  • Bonds
  • Alternatives
  • Cash

Your investment manager will test the risks associated with your investment, and if it proves to be a positive investment choice, then you will be able to invest more over time.

So, how do you decide where to invest?

According to The Fry Group, ESG investing (Environmental, Social and Governance) is a good option for investors looking to support businesses that meet their similar ethics.

The main areas of ESG investing include:

  • Environmental challenges (climate change, pollution, etc)
  • Social issues (human rights, labour standards, child labour, etc)
  • Governance considerations relating to company management

According to The Fry Group, “Many investors choose to consider ESG investing in order to ensure any investment decisions reflect personal beliefs and values. As a result, they choose to support companies who are making informed, responsible decisions which take into account their wider societal and global impact. In this way investors can achieve peace of mind that their investments are creating a positive effect.”

ESG investing is also more relevant now than ever, as more businesses are looking to present themselves as an environmentally conscious corporation that recognises the values of their consumers.

As The Fry Group puts it, “In the past, ESG investing has been seen as a niche investment approach, for a relatively small number of people with specific requirements. This has changed significantly in recent years, with a growing awareness of environmental issues such as climate change and an increasing understanding of social issues and human rights. As a result, many people are increasingly interested in reflecting their opinions and lifestyle choices through the way they invest.”

So, if you want your investments to pave the way for your personal values and reflect your own morals, then this is the route to go down. But how does it all work?

There are four areas of ESG investing:

  • Responsible ownership and engagement: when companies are encouraged to make necessary improvements.
  • Avoidance or negative screening: whereby businesses are ‘graded’ based on how ethical their business practices are and are avoided altogether if their methods are not approved.
  • Positive screening strategies:when companies meet the ESG goals and are approved for investments.
  • Impact investment strategies: the purpose of this is to use investment capital for positive social results such as renewable energy.

You will need to take into account your own personal objectives as well as the objectives that meet the ESG investment criteria. And, in terms of financial performance, ESG investing can be hugely beneficial. Those who opt for ESG investing perform a more in-depth analysis into long-term and future trends that affect industries, meaning that they are better prepared for changes in consumer values when they arise. And, with all the unpredictability that this year has offered us so far, isn’t it better to do the research and have all angles covered?

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