In our commentary at the end of January (Opportunity Knocks or Apocalypse Postponed?) we set out a blueprint for markets in the 12-24 months ahead. The ink was barely dry when the markets had their first wobble in what seems like years. It was only a wobble, but it still got the media into a frenzy. Since then unfolding world events have served to highlight the wide range of risks to markets.
When President Trump was elected there were concerns over his protectionist tendencies encapsulated in “America First”, which would hit global trade, the pillar of global growth for the last couple of decades. Now this policy is coming into focus with promised tariffs on steel and aluminium imports. There is no historical precedent for this ending well. The child-like response of EU technocrats (“we’ll tax your peanut butter”) spoke volumes at different levels. On which note…
I promised myself I wouldn’t mention Brexit again. I’ve done well so far! My favoured analogy at the time of the vote was that there was a choice between the crumbling cliff of the EU and the dense fog of post-Brexit UK. Perhaps the dense fog hanging over the post-Brexit era is beginning to clear – though it’s certainly not all sunny uplands that are coming into focus.
The crumbling cliff which is the EU has come under renewed pressure in this last two weeks. The populist backlash across Europe was very evident in Italy, where more than half of the electorate appear to have voted for anti-EU parties.
As we have said many times in recent years, the march of disillusioned voters is unstoppable for years ahead across the indebted and ageing Western world. It remains a strong possibility that, eventually, a political event will cause the most serious market cracks.
Guess what? The Russians understand very well the cracks that have been developing over years not just in Europe, but across the developed world. The poisonings in Salisbury are just the latest episode in a string of events where Russia is testing the resolve of the West. Which is also why we are so keen on the East, which is full of opportunities, as you will have seen in the most recent TopFunds Guide (click here if you have not yet ordered your free copy).
Closer to home, UK tax rates are going up for years to come, because the UK, like most of the developed world, is living beyond its means. This problem can only be solved by the government cutting spending (austerity never really got going), or somewhat higher economic growth (unlikely with current debt levels and an ageing population) or increasing taxes – bingo!
That’s a long-winded way of saying get your ISA in place for this tax year. Do get in touch if you are still looking for ideas, and please don’t leave it until the last minute.