Uncertainty in the eurozone looks set to dominate markets for the third summer in a row. We all know about Greece and the upcoming elections on June 17 no doubt mean more uncertainty in the immediate short-term.
Spain could be an even bigger worry as their fourth largest bank Bankia asked for another 19 billion euros recently from Madrid – but can Spain afford it?
Spain’s economic minister, Luis de Guindos has dismissed talk of it seeking a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as “senseless”. We shall no doubt see if he is right in the forthcoming months.
This political and economic uncertainty has seen equity markets fall sharply in recent weeks, for example the FTSE 100 has fallen by circa 10 per cent in only the last two months. So, equities look set for continued uncertainty.
At the other end of the scale, there looks to be no move in interest rates any time soon so cash is not working hard for investors especially when inflation is taken into consideration and you are in a negative real return situation.
Government gilts have worked well for the last couple of years but with the 10-year yield at circa 1.8 per cent these do not look attractive. Commodities have been hit hard in recent years and even the perceived safe haven of gold is well off its relatively recent $1,900 per ounce highs at circa $1,550 per ounce.
Absolute return funds can offer some promise at times like these but a lot of them do not deliver on the promises and bold statements they make so investors need to be careful here.
The major asset class that remains is the darling of investors only a few years ago – that of commercial property. Nobody seems to be talking of it these days after a sharp fall during the credit crunch and financial crisis.
Over the last three years, the investment trust property sector has returned over 50 per cent. Prime British property has been a decent place to be with all the noise and troubles of the eurozone surrounding us. Rents and capital values for property in general have been under pressure but prime commercial property in London and the South East have done better than most by attracting wealthy foreign investors.
Indeed, the pricing is such that domestic buyers are finding it progressively difficult to compete with the strength and depth of overseas buyers. This type of investor gives reason for continued optimism for this part of the sector at least despite ongoing macroeconomic concerns.