JEFF PRESTRIDGE: Worried your wealth’s under fire? Try my bargains for investment Bravehearts 

These are difficult days. At times, it feels like the world is shuddering to a halt. There are fewer people as I wind my way to and from work every day and night on public transport. 

The high street where I work is quieter than it has been for a long time and local restaurants are lucky to be half full. 

We seem to be edging ever closer to inevitable lockdown, confined to our homes while waiting for the coronavirus hurricane to abate.

It’s hardly a backdrop from which to wax lyrical about investments and talk about wealth building, but I’m going to give it a go – so persevere with me.

The coronavirus has caused the FTSE to nosedive but Jeff Prestridge argues there are bargains to be found

First, the bad news. However you look at it, there is no doubt that coronavirus is going to impact adversely on our economy and the wider global market. 

Company earnings are going to fall and profits will be trimmed – and in some cases coronavirus will be the straw that finally breaks the camel’s back.

For sure, airline Flybe will not be the only corporate casualty, although some experts say the airline was a basket case long before the virus wrapped its evil claws around the globe.

Other companies – large and small – are likely to fall by the wayside despite assurances from the Government in the past few days that it will do all it can to help business through the difficult months ahead, including the provision of ’emergency loans’.

We will probably learn a lot more about the Government’s plans on Wednesday when new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak presents the Budget – please, Chancellor, no tax increases.

Markets all over the world are in the red thanks to the coronavirus scares

Markets all over the world are in the red thanks to the coronavirus scares 

Yet, according to the experts, coronavirus is unlikely to be with us for long, peaking in May and June. Maybe then the economy will move into recovery mode and by this time next year we will have moved on. I do hope so.

For investors with Isas and self-invested personal pensions, coronavirus has already impacted on their wealth, triggering sharp falls in stock markets, not only here but in Asia and the United States. 

And according to some commentators, further corrections cannot be ruled out – maybe, 20 per cent from here.

Yet, no one really knows. For every investment bear, there is an investment bull.

According to a straw poll by wealth manager Interactive Investor, most investors (53 per cent) are currently taking the falls on the proverbial chin and leaving their portfolios untouched. 

Only 10 per cent have so far reduced their exposure to equities and gone into cash.

The Asian markets were even worse hit by the news as the virus disrupted supply chains

The Asian markets were even worse hit by the news as the virus disrupted supply chains

For those investing for the long-term – in other words, most of us – weathering the storm is the best way forward.

As Peter Hargreaves, co-founder of wealth manager Hargreaves Lansdown said last week, timing the market – selling high and then buying back when it has reached the bottom – is ‘invariably pure luck’. ‘Time,’ he added, ‘is far more important than timing in investment.’

In other words, it’s better to be in the market for the long term rather than constantly diving in and out.

The interesting slice of Interactive Investor’s research is that 35 per cent of its investors have been exploiting market falls to buy shares, investment trusts and investment funds that are significantly cheaper than a week ago.

It’s a brave strategy, but it shouldn’t be discounted. Investment fund managers often use stock market corrections to buy equities that they like on the ‘cheap’. 

It’s a tactic that veteran fund manager Colin Morton, of investment house Franklin Templeton, has been using in recent days (see opposite).

He’s been adding to stakes in companies he knows will come out of the other end of the coronavirus crisis – the likes of Legal & General that reported some impressive 2019 results last week, BP and Shell. 

Interestingly, he hasn’t sold a single holding within his fund – just used any cash within the fund and money coming in from new investors to buy more equity exposure. 

Of course, it’s not Mr Morton’s personal wealth he is risking, although he does have money tied up in the fund. But as Ben Yearsley, a director of Shore Financial Planning, told me last week: ‘It might seem nerve-racking seeing your investments fall sharply but that is part and parcel of long-term investing. 

Embrace the dips and use them to buy into the market.’ So, do a ‘Morton’ – a strategy most investment managers are currently employing.

One of the best ways for investors to pick up stock market bargains is to invest in quality investment trusts. Listed on the stock market, these vehicles are invested in a portfolio of shares, so offer investors diversification.

They are managed by some of the best investment brands in the country – the likes of Aberdeen Standard Life, Baillie Gifford, JP Morgan and Janus Henderson. Also, investment charges do not tend to bite too deeply into investor returns.

Some have also been around since time immemorial – or as Annabel Brodie-Smith of the Association of Investment Companies more eloquently puts it: ‘Some investment trusts have survived two world wars, the Great Depression, the bursting of the technology bubble in 2000, the 2008 financial crisis and continue to help investors meet their needs.’ Well said.

What makes some of these trusts more appealing now is that their share prices do not reflect the value of their underlying assets – essentially a result of falling stock markets and the fact that more investors have been selling shares in these trusts than purchasing them. 

The technical term is that the shares of these trusts stand at a ‘discount’ to the value of the underlying assets. Bigger discounts than for a long time.

When markets bounce back (fingers crossed), investors in these trusts should not only benefit from the rise in share prices, but from a narrowing of these discounts. A form of performance top-up.

Opposite are six investment trusts that currently sit at a discount, have meaty assets under management of more than £500million, have been around for more than 30 years (reassuring) and have solid long-term investment records.

Long term, they should not let you down, but there will be many bumps along the way, especially over the coming weeks and months. So, for Bravehearts only – and to be held as part of a broadly diversified investment portfolio…

[email protected] 

Scottish Mortgage

Managed by: Baillie Gifford

Current share price: £5.69

Stock market code: BLDYK61

Annual total charge: 0.37%

Investment performance over

One month One year Five years

–3.5% +20.7% +143%

Why you should consider it: This £8.8billion trust, a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index, invests in high growth companies from across the globe – most are listed but some are unquoted. Its investment record is exemplary. Jason Hollands, of wealth manager Tilney, says the trust is a ‘stellar performer’ and has ‘very low ongoing charges’.

Murray International  

Managed by: Aberdeen Standard Life

Current share price: £10.46

Stock market code: 0611190

Annual total charge: 0.69%

Investment performance over

One month One year Five years

–11.6% –5.4% +30.6%

Why you should consider it: This £1.4billion trust, like Scottish Mortgage, is invested worldwide and has been around for more than 100 years. Dzmitry Lipski, head of investment research at Interactive Investor, describes the trust as ‘high quality’ and likes the fact that it provides an attractive income, equivalent to 4.8 per cent a year.

He adds: ‘In times of stock market volatility, investors are often reminded of the fact that boring can be beautiful. Global investment trusts such as Murray International wear that boring label very well.’

Henderson Smaller Companies 

Managed by: Janus Henderson

Current share price: £8.81

Stock market code: 0906506

Annual total charge: 0.42%

Investment performance over

One month One year Five years

–16.7% +8.0% +74.3%

Why you should consider it: The fund has seen its share price fall sharply in response to the potential economic impact stemming from coronavirus. But Interactive Investor says it remains one of its ‘super 60’ rated funds.

Lipski says: ‘The trust has a well-diversified portfolio of more than 100 holdings and represents a good long-term pick.’

It also provides a half-decent income, equivalent to just under 2.5 per cent. Lipski warns the trust’s share price could suffer short term if the outlook for the UK economy deteriorates markedly.

Ballie Gifford Japan 

Managed by: Baillie Gifford

Current share price: £6.61

Stock market code: 0048583

Annual total charge: 0.7%

Investment performance over

One month One year Five years

–16.4% -9.1% +54.2%

Why you should consider it: The Japanese stock market has been badly hit by fallout from coronavirus, resulting in trusts invested in Japan experiencing sharp price falls. Baillie Japan has not escaped this, seeing its share price fall 14 per cent over the past month.

Laura Suter, personal finance analyst at wealth manager AJ Bell, says the trust is ‘not for the risk-averse’ but is well run with the managers carrying out meticulous research – including company visits – before making investments. Familiar trust holdings include Sony, SoftBank and research company M3.

Finsbury Growth & Income 

Managed by: Lindsell Train

Current share price: £7.98

Stock market code: 0781606

Annual total charge: 0.66%

Investment performance over

One month One year Five years –10.7% +3.3% +52.4%

Why you should consider it: Run by Nick Train – a long-established fund manager – this £1.7 billion trust invests in UK equities. Top holdings include drinks giant Diageo, luxury goods company Burberry and Unilever. Jason Hollands, of wealth manager Tilney, says Train has a ‘fantastic track record’ as an investment manager. With the shares down more than 9 per cent over the last month, he says they represent a ‘buy’.

JP Morgan Emerging Markets

Managed by: JP Morgan

Current share price: £9.44

Stock market code: 0341895

Annual total charge: 1.02%

Investment performance over

One month One year Five years –5.5% +11.6% +71.3%

Why you should consider it: Tilney’s Hollands says emerging market and Asian funds are ‘as popular as steaks in a vegan restaurant’. But he says they could bounce back strongly if the coronavirus threat is contained and then conquered.

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