The Motley Fool

Where to invest in 2017?

The content of this article was relevant at the time of publishing. Circumstances change continuously and caution should therefore be exercised when relying upon any content contained within this article.

What to buy in 2017? As investors digest the last of the leftover scraps of turkey and Christmas pudding, thoughts inevitably turn to the year ahead. And, as with most years, I’m already trying to map out some sort of an investing strategy for the next twelve months.
 
Why do I bother with such a game plan, rather than react opportunistically as events unfold? It’s very much a personal preference, to be sure, but I’ve found that with a plan in place, it’s often easier to make those investing calls when opportunity comes knocking on the door.
 
So let’s start with the bones of last year’s plan – the words that I wrote almost exactly a year ago.

How I fared in 2016

Oil and mining shares are starting to look over-sold,” I pointed out. “Ditto some of the engineering and support firms that service these sectors.”
 
Sure enough, over the next few weeks I bought into BHP Billiton at 596p, Royal Dutch Shell at 1295p, IMI at 773p, and Weir at 777p.
 
Current prices? At the time of writing, 1305p, 2282p, 1009p, and 1861p – an average gain of 88%.
 
I was reasonably lucky with markets, too.
 
More broadly, I’ll be keeping an eye open for weakness in America. Asia Pacific is looking interesting, and I’ll likely be topping up my Asian Pacific index trackers in the months ahead,” I wrote.
 
Opportunity didn’t present itself in America, but it did in Asia Pacific, where my Vanguard Asia Pacific tracker ETF is up 34%, versus the FTSE 100’s 17%.
 
Finally, I stuck my head over the parapet with respect to the Footsie itself.
 
I’m expecting it to go lower than last week’s 5,875,” I wrote, “but reckon it will be higher a year from now than it is today.”
 
Lucky, again: in mid-February, the FTSE 100 dipped to a tab above 5,500, before powering away. As I write these words, it’s above 7,000.

5 Stocks For Trying To Build Wealth After 50

Markets around the world are reeling from the coronavirus pandemic… and with so many great companies trading at what look to be ‘discount-bin’ prices, now could be the time for savvy investors to snap up some potential bargains.

But whether you’re a newbie investor or a seasoned pro, deciding which stocks to add to your shopping list can be a daunting prospect during such unprecedented times.

Fortunately, The Motley Fool UK analyst team have short-listed five companies that they believe STILL boast significant long-term growth prospects despite the global upheaval…

We’re sharing the names in a special FREE investing report that you can download today. And if you’re 50 or over, we believe these stocks could be a great fit for any well-diversified portfolio.

Click here to claim your free copy now!

Expect the unexpected

Despite all this, the year ahead is much more likely to be dominated by things that weren’t even on my radar screen a year ago.
 
Brexit, for instance. A year ago, the date for the referendum hadn’t even been announced.
 
Donald Trump in the White House: a year ago, election statistician Nate Silver – whose performance during the 2008 and 2012 election brought widespread acclaim – didn’t think that Trump would win the Republican nomination, never mind the presidency.
 
Technology, for another. As highly respected fund manager Nick Train has pointed out, for the first time ever the world’s five largest companies are all technology plays – Apple, Alphabet (formerly Google), Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook. 1999, anyone?
 
And finally, a fairly worrying economic backdrop. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, 2017 will likely see a sharp squeeze on net disposable incomes: tighten your belts.

Through the murk

So what to make of all this? I have to concede that things are far less clear than they were a year ago. Nevertheless, some broad conclusions are possible.

First, major stock markets – on both sides of the Atlantic – are fairly fully valued. The FTSE 100, for instance, is on a P/E over 20, and a yield of under 3%. The picture is very similar with America’s S&P 500.
 
So the balance of probabilities suggests that major gains from here are fairly unlikely. But there’s still value to be had in Asian markets: both Hong Kong and Japan still look moderately attractive, and some individual European markets aren’t without appeal, either.
 
Second, while the FTSE 100 as a whole looks reasonably expensive, shares with a high level of exposure to the UK domestic economy are still suffering a degree of post-Brexit fallout, coupled to worries about softer economic growth going forward.
 
For investors, I think the challenge is that there are few broad themes to this: it’s not as simple as last year’s ‘commodities are over-sold’ message. But retail is one sector where I’d go shopping, looking for niche players with a distinctive offering. Engineering is another, where the weaker pound appears to be boosting exports. And utilities are another: water companies, for instance, currently offer attractive yields.
 
And thirdly, this is a year in which I suspect that quality will rule – especially if, as we saw with Brexit, circumstances lead to temporary mis-pricing. So look for big brands, and look for Warren Buffett-style moats, and preferably look for the two together. Companies such as Unilever and Diageo are rarely cheap, but continue to serve patient investors well.

In a nutshell

How to sum all this up? That’s easy.
 
In the absence of clarity about major investing themes, the next twelve months are likely to be about taking advantage of opportunities to pick up individual stocks at advantageous prices.
 
So pick well! Because for me, 2017 is going to be more difficult than 2016.

Is this little-known company the next ‘Monster’ IPO?

Right now, this ‘screaming BUY’ stock is trading at a steep discount from its IPO price, but it looks like the sky is the limit in the years ahead.

Because this North American company is the clear leader in its field which is estimated to be worth US$261 BILLION by 2025.

The Motley Fool UK analyst team has just published a comprehensive report that shows you exactly why we believe it has so much upside potential.

But I warn you, you’ll need to act quickly, given how fast this ‘Monster IPO’ is already moving.

Click here to see how you can get a copy of this report for yourself today

Malcolm owns shares in BHP Billiton, Royal Dutch Shell, IMI, Weir, and Unilever. The Motley Fool owns shares in Apple, Alphabet and Unilever, and has recommended shares in Weir, IMI, Royal Dutch Shell and Diageo .

Our 6 'Best Buys Now' Shares

Renowned stock-picker Mark Rogers and his analyst team at The Motley Fool UK have named 6 shares that they believe UK investors should consider buying NOW.

So if you’re looking for more stock ideas to try and best position your portfolio today, then it might be a good day for you. Because we're offering a full 33% off your first year of membership to our flagship share-tipping service, backed by our 'no quibbles' 30-day subscription fee refund guarantee.

Simply click below to discover how you can take advantage of this.