Where to invest and where to avoid this year

From countries to stocks, our experts pick their dos and don'ts

Updated: 

Global Business

Investors are facing tough decisions when it comes to where to put their money.

Stock markets have surged and dipped, oil prices have plummeted, and Europe is trying to spend its way out of a crisis with plans for quantitative easing, and that's all sitting under the shadow of elections and political tensions.

If you are trying to navigate the ups and downs that are expected to continue this year, our experts have picked the stocks, funds, sectors and countries they believe you should be putting your money into.

Countries

Investors may be risky about gambling on Europe as it pushes back towards recession and is gripped by deflation.

However, these problems also present opportunities and Ben Yearsley, head of investment research at Charles Stanley, said he gaining confidence in the "forgotten market" of Europe.

Yearsley points to the weak euro as a way for investors to make their investment go further.

"I am becoming more positive on Europe and have been topping up my positions," he said. "There is a weak euro which is a massive boost because your pound will buy you more, both on holiday and more investment."

There are no countries that he is actively avoiding and said Europe, Japan, US, Asia and emerging markets, in that order, are the key markets to look to.

While he said there were "no massive problems" emerging he was "least positive" on Brazil and Latin America.

"Asia has had a trying time but India has had a great run and could now be seen as expensive," he said. "Brazil and Latin America...I would say I'm neutral on.

"[There are] weak commodities prices and there is a strong dollar which doesn't help and a bit of politics – there is not one big reason [why I am neutral on Brazil and Latin America] but an accumulation of things."

Sectors

Insurance companies are a good bet for investors this year, according to Nik Stanojevic, equity analyst at Brewin Dolphin.

He prefers the non-life insurance sector, which includes motor, property, accident, health, liability and pet insurance, as he believe it will benefit from higher short-term bond yields as the US Federal Reserve looks to raise interest rates in the second quarter of the year.

"Non-life insurance companies invest in short duration securities to match their liabilities," said Stanojevic. "If bond yields rise then we would expect the invest yield to rise as companies roll into higher yielding securities."

He said on top of this UK motor insurance pricing has "stabilised" and that the sector will also benefit from mergers and acquisitions.

The UK pharmaceutical sector is out of favour with Brewin Dolphin equity analyst Alex Moore due to the poor outlook for its two largest companies – GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca – which make up 73% of the sector.

He said Glaxo was "reconstructing its portfolio brick-by-brick" and that some of the patents on its "blockbuster" drugs were due to expire.

"We forecast a period of flat to down financials due to patent expirations before growth returns; management expects growth to return in 2017," said Moore.

Astra was also expected to face "headwinds from the cost of clinical trials and drug launches".

Funds

Like many investors, Darius McDermott of Chelsea Financial Services, is backing property this year.

While he is not expecting the runaway returns of last year he still believes the property market has some way to go. His favoured fund is the Henderson UK Property trust.

"I like property at the moment," he said. "It is lowly correlated to bonds and equities and while returns were very high last year I would expect a more modest return in the region of 6% to 8% [this year].

"Given the global and political uncertainty together with valuations not being cheap, I would have a greater probability of a positive return from property rather than equities."

However, he is avoiding funds that invest in European government bonds, some of which have a negative yield at the moment.

"I would avoid European government bonds. Swiss and German bonds are actually giving a negative yield at the moment. I certainly don't want to lend to someone with the certainty of getting back less than I invested," he said.

"They could do alright this year if there is a real flight to safety but over the medium term I would avoid."

Shares

Investors who are interested investing directly in company shares, should look to alternative utility business Telecom Plus, according to The Share Centre.

Investment research manager at The Share Centre Sheridan Admans believes Telecom Plus is an alternative to the "usual well-known utility suppliers for gas, electricity, telephone and broadband services".

"Compared to its competitors the forecast revenue for the year of around £800 million is tiny, however this is set to grow through its Utility Warehouse brand," he said.

"One of the keys to growth for the group is the number of new customers taking the entire package of services. Recently that take up has been around a quarter of new members, which is turn improves the visibility and quality of earnings."

He added that is was a stock for those prepared to take a medium risk and as the share price declined by around 38% in the past 12 months it present investors "with a more attractive entry point".

"The group's past growth record and strong return on capital profile has not gone unnoticed and results in a premium relative to the sector," he said. "It also offers a prospective yield of around 4.3%"

Admans is avoiding Coca-Cola HBC, the soft drink bottling business, as trading conditions remain difficult and forecasts for sales of Coca-Cola fall.

"The company is one of the world's largest bottlers of Coca-Cola products but, in an increasingly health conscious world, more consumers are avoiding sugary drinks," he said. "As a result growth and sales have declined in both emerging and developed markets."

Admans added there were "tentative signs of improvement" in some markets but not enough to outweigh overall difficulties.

"Investors should wait to see much better growth, especially in emerging markets, before the shares become attractive."

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