Budget announcements are inherently political affairs. Even so, Rishi Sunak’s Spring Statement was a particularly political broadcast. The Chancellor talked up the 5p per litre cut to fuel duty with the fervour of a vegetable market stallholder (By contrast, Germany just slashed a litre of petrol by 30 cents), as he did with the rise in the National Insurance Contributions threshold. Reminding MPs of his avowed fiscal responsibility, he noted the fuel tax cut would last for only one year.
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, delivered his 2022 Spring Statement on 23 March, confirming implementation of the politically contentious 1.25 percentage-point rise in most National Insurance contributions, though with revised thresholds to mitigate the impact. He declared that his overall plan “builds a stronger, more secure economy for the United Kingdom.” The fiscal update included a number of specific measures and a new ‘Tax Plan’ which the Chancellor said would help families with the cost-of-living squeeze. Mr Sunak said, “People should know that we will stand by them, as we have throughout the last two years.”
Last time we reminded portfolio investors of the importance of making sure that long-term investment decision-making is not overly influenced by short-term market fluctuations. At Vizion Wealth, we aim to ensure portfolios remain positioned appropriately, and are fine-tuned when medium-term changes in the economic and market outlook either necessitate adjustments or indeed present new opportunities.
For the last few weeks, we have regularly had to caveat our commentary with the phrase “as we write”. The chart below shows how much the German DAX benchmark equity index (which tracks the top 40 German companies) has on average moved every 30 minutes over the past year:
During the course of last week, the impacts of the war on global financial assets changed in nature. Over the past weeks, we wrote that minor sanctions were a help for asset prices even if the sanctions did not match the level of outrage. Starting last Sunday, the European Union (EU), US and UK imposed new sanctions almost every day. Perhaps inevitably, this has resulted in equity market weakness.
As this week’s title suggests, for some of us it invokes memories of the cold war era of the West vs the USSR in the ‘70s and ‘80s. It is even more remarkable then, that at the time of writing, stock markets have rallied back to roughly where they stood this time last week. The same cannot be said about Russian asset prices, which have roughly halved since last autumn as the chart below illustrates. Perhaps this indicates who markets believe will ultimately pay for Putin’s megalomania.
Given the devastating news today, we would like to express our utmost concern for the people of Ukraine and of course, our thoughts and wishes are with them. It is our duty as advisers to comment on the economic and financial impact of geopolitical news, but we do so with the utmost respect for the broader context and the devastating impact the current situation is having on people’s lives.
Even if you are a sophisticated investor, one of the most important tools available is diversification. Whether the market is bullish (rising) or bearish (falling), maintaining a diversified portfolio is essential to any long-term investment strategy.
Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine reached a new level this week after Russia’s president Putin officially recognised the two self-proclaimed separatist ‘republics’ in Ukraine’s Donbas region. Most importantly, he ordered official troops to move in for what he declared to be ‘peacekeeping operations’. This has triggered the West to announce a stepping up of sanctions. Meanwhile Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Putin had merely "legalised" troops already present in the republics.
Stock markets around the world continued their volatile trading pattern over the past week, although compared with January, trending slightly up rather than down. Bond markets, on the other hand, continued to retreat as yields continued to rise. This type of market action has now become characteristic for capital markets this year, as they experience their very own climate change, now that the coronavirus appears to have lost its lethal impact on the majority of the population.
As another tax year end approaches, it’s important to finalise your 2021/22 tax planning to reduce your obligations wherever possible. The current tax year started on 6 April 2021 and ends on 5 April 2022. Reviewing your tax affairs now will enable you to make the most of any allowable deductions and strategies available to minimise or mitigate a potential tax burden.
We made the case last month that we disagree with the market maxim that “How January goes, so goes the year”, at least for 2022. After a disappointing January for investors, February made a promising start, only to revert to last month’s wild down and up trading pattern towards the end of the week. This was despite the week not having been dominated by the US Federal Reserve (Fed) or Russian manoeuvres (admittedly Boris Johnson was still big news – but only in the UK).
The unnerving start to the year escalated this week, with many lay observers attributing market volatility to the rising possibility of war between Russia and Ukraine. But as outlined in the video market update we posted on Tuesday, while political tensions are not helping markets (nor energy prices), the heart of the market rout lays with the re-emerging determination of central banks to fight inflation through monetary tightening. Markets are concerned central bankers, namely the US Federal Reserve (Fed) have veered from downplaying the inflation threat to overreacting, particularly now, when the economic temperature is coming back down on its...
Financial success doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a process starting with having a goal, planning carefully and being confident of making the right decisions at the right time. It is easy to stray from basic, solid principles of finance. These remain true no matter what your age or circumstances. It’s those same principles that need to be applied to your financial affairs.
It has been an all-action year so far. Global equity markets have been in a downward trend since the end of 2021, led by US stocks. America’s mega-cap tech companies that were so loved throughout the pandemic have taken the biggest hit – with the tech-heavy Nasdaq falling nearly 10% in January.
With the tax year end (5 April) on the horizon, taking action now may give you the opportunity to take advantage of any remaining reliefs, allowances and exemptions. We have provided some key tax and financial planning tips to consider prior to the end of the tax year. Now is also an ideal opportunity to take a wider review of your circumstances and plan for the year ahead.
The scandals seem to keep coming for Boris Johnson, with several Tory MPs openly calling for his resignation. Betting markets now have the Prime Minister odds-on to resign this year, and discussion is rife about the government’s future. But capital markets took no notice. Indeed, UK assets outperformed on the week, with both the FTSE 100 and the value of sterling finishing higher.
Although 2021 did not close with another ‘Santa rally’, December – and the year as a whole – generated some pleasing returns for diversified investment portfolios. Compared to 2020 (another strong year in performance terms), equity investors fared considerably better than bond investors. Overall, and across asset classes, investors have experienced a notably better pandemic than so many other aspects of society.
Many of those who seek to change their lives and move forward find they encounter roadblocks. These roadblocks, which come in the form of unnecessary fears and worries about what might happen next, can stop us from reaching our potential and achieving happiness.
Looking back, the year has exceeded some expectations and underdelivered on others. In terms of our expectations for the economic recovery and capital market performance, 2021 has been better for investors than we dared to hope and forecast at this time last year. On the other hand, I am surely not alone in having hoped the vaccination drives that began one year ago would have ensured further progress in putting the pandemic behind us than where we are now.