2015: Reasons to be fearful
If you prefer to look on the gloomy side, here are some reasons to be nervous about your financial prospects in 2015.
1) Geopolitical tension – Russia is looking troubled. It is burning through its foreign exchange reserves while the oil price – on which its economy is dependent – is falling, with OPEC apparently unwilling to support it. There is ongoing tension in the Middle East. This is exactly the type of problem that gets stock markets very nervous.
2) The General Election – the UK goes to the polls in 2015 and it is extremely difficult to predict who will be the winner. In practice, there is unlikely to be an outright winner and the balance of power may lie with anyone from the Liberal Democrats to UKIP. This creates significant uncertainty and may put pressure on sterling.
3) The lack of recovery in some major countries – for the time being at least, Europe has shown only tentative signs of recovery and Japan not at all. Six years on from the financial crisis, central banks are still looking to quantitative easing to shore up their flagging economies. These are major players on the world economic stage and their weakness could create problems.
4) Interest rate rises in the US – the consensus now appears to be for an interest rate rise in the second half of next year. This is unlikely to have a significant effect on consumers – interest rate rises will be gradual and limited – but it may create significant disruption in the bond market, which may have knock-on effects elsewhere.
5) Tensions in the Eurozone – The Greek elections have seen the anti-bailout left-wing Syriza party ahead in the polls. After some time believing that a Eurozone break up was no longer a threat, the rise of radical parties across Europe has once again demonstrated that this is a possibility.
6) Stock and bond markets are, in aggregate, expensive – in general, if it’s considered ‘safe’ and it pays an income – think government bonds, or solid dividend paying companies – it is very expensive. The cheaper parts of the market tend to be those in which no-one would want to invest – commodities, Russia.