Wow is it February already? Apologies that this is a little late, but after a family holiday it’s been a slow start to the year. 2018 marked the arrival of our first child, so it’s been easy, and fun, to take my eye off the ball a little. However, it is time to get back to business, not to mention getting the house in order! I’ve seen a lot of talk recently about the Netflix series “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo”, so perhaps we should make de-cluttering our theme for this post.
So how was 2018 for you? From an investment perspective there was little joy being sparked no matter where you looked. In a year where much of the talk was about the prospects for a continuing bull market in stocks, actual returns were rather bearish. We never really got the crash that many predicted, but we saw a significant correction in February, and a rather painful last quarter where most stock indices dropped double digits.
Some rough numbers for 2018: The S&P 500 finished -6.2%, Euro Stocks were around -13%, Japan -12%, Emerging markets -17%. Gold ended the year strongly but was still down around 2% for the year. Oil fell some 40% from its previous high, losing almost 25% for the year. Furthermore, as interest rates rose, bonds prices fell too. There were not many places to hide in 2018. (let’s not even talk about that crypto portfolio…)
So what can we expect in 2019? Depending on how much information you are able to digest, Bloomberg has compiled a monster article of Wall Street predictions here.
Sticking with the idea of de-cluttering though, here is a short list of key themes:
- The end of the bull cycle is getting nearer, but it is not here yet.
- Investors, however, are likely to behave as if the end is right around the corner (this means continued volatility)
- The US Federal Reserve will continue to normalise rates.
- The Bank of Japan will continue its accommodative monetary policy.
- The outcome of trade negotiations with China will be the main driver of USD strength / weakness. (perhaps we’ll see a weaker USD vs. JPY?)
- Brexit will not have as big an effect on global markets as many commentators make out. (just my personal opinion here)
- There is, perhaps, excessive pessimism with regard to Japanese stocks. With the end of the Heisei era, and subsequent celebration of the new era, a growing influx of foreign tourists, the Rugby World Cup later this year and the upcoming 2020 Olympics, we could see a real buzz that will be good for business.
So how should you plan your personal investment strategy for 2019? Again let’s keep it simple:
- Have a plan! Read this post if you don’t have one.
- Stick to your guns. Don’t let the noise divert you from your commitment to saving and investing.
- Diversify and rebalance – review your asset allocation.
- Max out tax advantaged investments such as NISA.
- Look for Japan stocks that are likely to benefit from the buzz of the next two years.
With that I wish you all the best for 2019. Hope it is filled with things that spark joy!
Disclaimer: This should go without saying, but the information contained in this blog is not investment advice, or an incentive to invest, and should not be considered as such. This is for information only.