Does political uncertainty make investors cautious?
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A popular Christmas song inspires finance columnist, Peter Sharkey, to look at what investment has been like in 2018.
In a world swamped with far too many Christmas-themed pop songs, the majority of which are underpinned by a cold commercial cynicism, there's a decades-old innocence about Chris Rea's Driving Home For Christmas, exemplified by the wonderfully evocative lines:
'Top to toe in tailbacks,
I've got red lights all around.'
It's perhaps because so many of us grey-haired folks have experienced similar pre-Christmas, stop-start car journeys first hand that these lyrics never fail to strike a chord, inducing knowing smiles and occasional sadness.
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Chris Rea's back-story reads like that of the dogged investor, ie most of us, who often appear to have finally cracked it, only to discover that infrequent bursts of phenomenal success are frustratingly short-lived.
Rea enjoyed early success after his song Fool (If You Think It's Over), released as a single in 1978, was a hit in both the UK and the USA. The song earned him enough money to buy a Ferrari Dino, a step up from the ice cream van he drove for his father, an ice cream manufacturer in the north east, and for a few years Rea rode the crest of a gravel-voiced wave.
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But long-term success was not guaranteed and five years after 'Fool', he noted that 'things had gone quiet in the UK,' so he traded in the Ferrari for a Volvo 340 hatchback and set off across Europe intent on 'doing as many gigs and television shows as I could. I must have done 60,000 miles in that Volvo.'
You imagine the affable Rea witnessed plenty of red lights and tailbacks during his epic journey over the following years, inspiring him to write and produce Driving Home For Christmas, one of four songs on a Christmas EP released in 1988. The following year he released A Road To Hell, written after he endured regular journeys along the M25 and M4, which topped the UK album charts. A decade after seemingly having made it, Chris Rea had finally arrived.
It could be argued that investment often mirrors Chris Rea's experience. Just when you think you're a successful investor, the prospect of a 60,000-mile trek around Europe suddenly looms, though without the associated glamour of your own concerts or television appearances.
2018 has been a bit like this for investors as asset values have fluctuated, causing doomsters to predict market plateaus and devastating crashes, while bullish sorts point out that borrowing costs and inflation remain low and economic prospects encouraging.
Now, as we reach year-end, the nation gripped by political uncertainty, seemingly on the cusp of a constitutional crisis and a possible general election, things are no easier for those of us mindful of the need to save for our futures.
Keeping your money under the mattress may seem like a decent option at the moment, but although it currently appears benign, inflation's corrosive effects can ravage savings, which suggests that a more productive course of action might involve going on the defensive.
The logic of such an approach was reiterated this week after I watched a video outlining the attractions of Brooks Macdonald's Defensive Capital Fund, the prime focus of which is to protect investors' capital.
Launched in October 2011, the fund's longer-term strategy involves investing in companies that own good quality assets worth considerably more than their respective debts. It also seeks to unearth assets boasting solid, 'definable' returns in order to provide investors with a consistently strong performance over the medium term. Around half of its 150-plus holdings are based in the UK or USA.
The fund forms part of the mainstream 'balanced' portfolio (for ISAs and general investment accounts) managed by TAM Asset Management. Based in the City of London, TAM also manages a popular 'cautious' portfolio of holdings on behalf of investors as well as 'growth' and adventurous' portfolios for investors prepared to take greater risks.
Ah, yes, risk, a characteristic which perhaps proves that there's an element of the Chris Rea experience about equity investing. Indeed, for those who acknowledge the fact that investment, like life itself, is not a one-way ticket to constant, nor guaranteed success, waiting in a figurative queue of traffic (or parking your money in a more defensive place) is occasionally necessary before it starts moving again, often faster than you may have expected.
TAM Asset Management Ltd offer investors the opportunity to invest in a variety of mainstream and ethical portfolios. For further details, please visit the MoneyMapp website.
THE WEEK IN NUMBERS
The number of copies of Michelle Obama's 'intimate memoir', Becoming, sold over the past week. More than 130,000 copies have been sold in the space of a fortnight.
It's been 166 years since a very rare breed of bird, the little bittern, was spotted in this country, but RSPB Saltholme has confirmed a new sighting in Stockton-on-Tees, prompting flocks of twitchers to visit the north east.
The highest-earning YouTube star is a 7-year-old boy who reviews toys. Ryan, from Ryan Toys Review, collected the sum after reviewing a number of toys between June 2017 and June 2018.
Loss incurred by Darlington county council after it sold a pair of vintage designer leather chairs on eBay for £200; the chairs were shipped to Japan for £4,500. In total, the council sold 60 chairs which suggests its aggregate loss on the deal could exceed £130,000.
Read more of Peter Sharkey's financial advice here.