15th December 2014
Next year is set to start with investors a lot less confident than 12 months ago and the outlook for global growth has been downgraded for 2015. Adrian Lowcock, head of investing at AXA Wealth, considers the outlook of major markets in 2015…
In all, 2014 didn’t go according to plan for Japan. The sales tax introduced in April back fired as spending and growth were bought forward for the economy to nose dive after the tax was introduced. The effect was significant. Japan entered recession, the Bank of Japan delivered a further round of Quantitative Easing and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced and won a snap Election in December.
He has the support of the people and there is clearly change going on. The Japanese business leaders really do believe that Shinzo Abe will do whatever it takes to create inflation. CEOs have never been as positive as they are right now. There is still the need for structural reform but sentiment has changed, the feeling is that this will now happen.
Companies are now also thinking about shareholder returns in a way that has not happened in recent years, which is very positive.
GLG Japan Core Alpha – Manager Stephen Harker is a contrarian investor who looks for out of favour companies, which are well managed and financially solid. He buys them cheap before the turnaround story is recognised by other investors. The fund is focused on large Japanese companies, with a bias towards those with an above average dividend yield. The fund currently has a bias towards the banking sector and electrical appliance companies, where Harker sees significant value.
India has been riding on a wave of optimism following the election of Narendra Modi. The country has elected a pro-business leader looking to remove red tape and invest in India’s infrastructure and manufacturing.
Although stock markets have risen strongly in 2014 it could be set to continue. The recent fall in the oil price is good news for India. If oil stays at or below $80 a barrel it could add as much as 1% of GDP to the country. By 2016 growth in India is expected to surpass China. There are headwinds of course, for example if the US raises interest rates faster than expected that would put pressure on the Indian economy. In addition in 2015 the Euphoria of Modi’s election will have passed and impatient investors will want to see changes coming through.
Fidelity Emerging Markets – Managed by Nick Price the fund is a best of breed portfolio with stocks selected from Fidelity’s three regional emerging market portfolios. The focus is on quality, consistency of returns and attractive valuations. Currently the manager has 8% invested in India.
India is not the only beneficiary of a low oil price. Oil has fallen over 40% in 2014 which is good news for global growth. Petrol prices have already started to fall in the forecourts across Britain, which takes the pressure off household income’s and gives a welcome boost to personal finances.
The impact of a lower oil price will be felt most by those countries which import their oil such as Japan, India and Turkey, whilst harming oil exporters such as Russia. A low oil price should also benefit South East Asia.
Aberdeen Asia Pacific Equity – Aberdeen’s Asia Equity Team is led by Hugh Young one of the most experienced managers in the region. The emphasis is on quality companies with a clear potential for growth. The approach has been consistent and the Aberdeen team have been able to protect investors by not over paying for growth.
2015 will mark the third year in Barack Obama’s second term. However he has lost control of the Senate to the republicans which will make it extremely difficult for either party to make any meaningful decisions. It is for this reason the third year in a president’s term tends to be positive for stock markets.
However, US stock markets begin 2015 more expensive than many of their peers. This is because Investors have been willing to pay a premium to invest in US companies as it has led the way out of the financial crisis. Expectations that the US economic recovery is self-sustaining will be tested in 2015. The stabilisers of Quantitative Easing have been removed and interest rates are set to rise albeit slowly. The US benefited from the shale gas revolution but has lost much of this advantage as the oil price fell. A strong dollar is likely to affect exports. At present we prefer defensive sectors in the US.
JP Morgan US Equity Income – The fund is run on an unconstrained basis so is not limited to following a benchmark. The income focus of the fund means that managers Clare Hart and Jonathan Simon look for only high quality stocks with attractive valuations and good dividend yields. The fund tends to underperform when growth and risk appetite are strongest. The income focus will provide some protection at current valuations.
In contrast to the US, political risk in the UK has been rising. With elections set for May 2015 all eyes will be on the outcome. The UK has delivered strong economic growth in 2014 surprising many, but there are warning signs on the horizon, manufacturing confidence has been deteriorating, whilst the London led housing boom seems to have run out of steam.