7 Big ways to invest your money
Here are seven ways I learned to stop worrying and love the stock market:
1. U.S. valuations aren’t excessive: According to the latest Earnings Insight report from data firm FactSet, the forward price-to-earnings ratio of the S&P 500 US:SPX now is 16.2 — the highest level since 2005. However, that reading is basically on par with the 15-year average, so this isn’t a sign for panic.
Fear of rising rates hits ‘safe’ bonds hardest(3:15)
Investors have been told that short-term bonds are the best port if they fear an interest rate storm. But two-year Treasury bonds took it on the chin last week.
Furthermore, despite some recent guidance cuts for major stocks, FactSet reports that “analysts are still projecting record-level EPS for the S&P 500 for three of the next four quarters.”
So even as stock prices rise, earnings should continue to rise in kind. Accordingly, the rally we’ve seen across the market might not be over, and broad-based plays in funds such as the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust US:SPY could continue to generate good returns in 2015.
2. Tech presents growth opportunity: Charlie Morris, head of absolute returns at HSBC Global Asset Management, recently told CNBC that he thinks the tech sector will go “nuts” in 2015 as investors pivot toward growth opportunities.
We’ve seen that story play out already via the outperformance of tech ETFs including the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Technology ETF US:IYW , which has logged 19% gains in 2014 vs. around 11% gains for the broader stock market, and that trend could continue in earnest next year. The biggest drivers will be enterprise tech demand as businesses boost spending, as well as organic growth in both large innovators like Facebook US:FB and newly minted stocks like up-and-comer Zendesk Inc. US:ZEN , which has more than doubled from its May IPO pricing.
3. Financials looking fit: Although many investors might not trust banks after the financial crisis, there has been some serious mending of balance sheets in recent years, and the outlook is bright for financial stocks in 2015.
For starters, consider that the sector saw 18% earnings growth in the third quarter, according to FactSet, as lending has remained robust. If consumer spending stays strong through the end of 2014 and into the new year, this trend will continue. Plus, the prospect of tighter central bank policy at the Federal Reserve could lead to higher interest rates and higher margins for loans in 2015. Financially focused ETFs like the SPDR Select Sector Financial ETF US:XLF have modestly outperformed in the last year or so, and that may continue in the year ahead as these cyclical stocks gather momentum on a continued U.S. recovery.
4. India looking up: If the U.S. market doesn’t hold a lot of appeal for you now, one emerging market seriously worth considering is India. This mainstay of emerging-market portfolios had been a chronic underperformer since 2010 as high inflation and political struggles battered what should have been a fast-growing economy.
However, inflation has fallen from a peak rate of over 11% in January to about 5.5% , showing that this problem might be under wraps thanks to moves by the Reserve Bank of India in the past year. Thanks to improvements, India’s growth rate should rise from a projected 5.6% this year to 6.4% in 2015 according to the IMF and World Bank — that would put India just below China, which continues to struggle with deceleration.
Tapping India’s markets could be quite profitable, considering the lack of other global growth opportunities, and one way to play that would be via India-focused funds such as the WisdomTree India Earnings Fund US:EPI and the iShares MSCI India ETF US:INDA . Both have outperformed handily in 2014 and should stay strong in the new year.
5. Global picture isn’t so bad: It’s also worth noting that the broader global picture may not be quite as bleak as some suspect — and that much negativity is already priced in. That’s why investment firm Goldman Sachs predicted above-average growth in 2015 as one of its top 10 trade ideas for the year.
Specifically, Goldman sees strength in markets such as Japan and even Europe, as well as emerging markets like China. And based on recent headlines, the brokerage firm is putting its money where its mouth is with an ambitious global investment strategy that focuses a lot on Asia. So if you’re looking for a trade but don’t trust U.S. valuations, think international like Goldman is — and perhaps hedge your bets with a diversified investment such as the Vanguard Total International Stock ETF. US:VXUS This is the ultimate ex-U.S. play, spreading money around the globe in both developed and emerging markets.
6. U.S. dollar will stay strong: Troubles elsewhere around the globe have led to a rise in the U.S. dollar US:DXY vs. other currencies. And when you couple this economic picture with the easy-money policies abroad and the prospect of tighter policy at home, it’s almost impossible to imagine a universe where the greenback loses significant ground in 2015. If you’re in the habit of trading currencies, this is a bet worth considering — or if you want to dabble, consider a fund that plays the rise in the dollar such as the PowerShares U.S. Dollar Index Bullish Fund US:UUP which has tacked on a decent 9% so far in 2014.
7. Boomers are a sure thing: I hate to sound like a broken record, but I’ll repeat this call that I’ve made several times over the last few years: If you want reliable growth, bank on the demographic shift in America caused by the aging baby boomer population.