Sun, Jan 11, 2009 - Page 9 News List

This year’s investment hot spots uncovered

By Jessica Bown  /  THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Last year was an annus horribilis for most stock market investors — but what’s in store this year?

As the credit crunch and ensuing recession take their toll, many companies’ shares have plummeted — taking the value of people’s savings with them. The global economic meltdown forced stock markets down worldwide.

Yet, at the same time, savings accounts are looking less and less appealing after central banks repeatedly slashed interest rates. With predictions of further reductions to come some may decide this is the year to dip their toes in stock market waters.

But with a recession expected to continue for at least another 12 months, where in the world, and in which sectors, should you be investing?

To help you decide, we have put together a guide to five possible investment hot spots for the coming year.

ASIA

The Japanese, Malaysian and Chinese currencies look particularly strong. The outlook for Asian stock markets is also relatively rosy. Asia, excluding Japan, was the second most tipped region this year after the US, fund managers surveyed by the Association of Investment Companies said.

But some industry insiders consider Japan a hot spot, too.

“For Japan, recession is ‘business as usual.’ The market has been falling for the past three and a half years and is consequently much cheaper than other developed markets on many pricing measures,” said Ben Willis, head of research at financial adviser Whitechurch Securities.

US

One thing on which most professionals are agreed is that the US stock market is likely to stage a recovery this year.

The main reason is that the country’s economy is believed to be well ahead of Europe on the road to escaping the global economic downturn. Schroders chief economist Keith Wade said this is, at least partly, because of the determination of the Federal Reserve to improve the monetary environment by aggressively cutting interest rates and introducing various measures to improve liquidity. US companies are expected to bounce back more quickly as a result, with investment manager PSigma predicting a 20 percent or more jump for the S&P500 index.

James Abate, manager of the PSigma American Growth fund, said: “The relative position of the US economy appears to be several quarters ahead of the UK and Europe, allowing the US stock market to be a ‘relative leader’ among the developed markets. Our expectations for 2009 are therefore very bullish.”

Whitechurch Securities also believes the outlook for the US market is positive. Ben Willis says US companies remain global leaders in many sectors and continued growth in emerging markets will support the exporting side of the economy.

“There is little dispute that US equities are extraordinarily attractive by historical standards,” Willis said.

UK BLUE CHIPS

Predictions for the FTSE 100 index as a whole over the next 12 months seem to be all over the shop. Many investment firms expect the market to end the year above its current position, but others are taking a more cautious approach and believe the index is in for another testing year.

Morgan Stanley, for example, thinks it will end the year at around 4,300, while JP Morgan is aiming for 5,100. Even the stock market bears see some opportunities, however. Morgan Stanley expects the market to reward large-cap companies with strong balance sheets and a combination of reliable growth prospects and/or high and secure dividend yields. Its stock recommendations include BP, Cadbury, Carnival, Autonomy and Vodafone.

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