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Global markets plunge: what should investors do?

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24/08/2015
Pension funds and private investors alike will have been left spooked by market sell-offs worldwide amid deepening concerns over China's economic strength.

The UK stockmarket saw £160bn wiped off its value between 10 and 21 August in what experts are calling a “frightful fortnight”.

According to Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, the sell-off may have further to run “seeing as such a large part of the UK stockmarket is in thrall to capricious commodity prices”.

Although, this is undoubtedly an uncomfortable period for investors, Khalaf says it at times like these that it pays to keep your head.

“Stock market corrections, like the one we are witnessing, present investors with an opportunity to put new money to work in the market at lower prices. No-one knows when this bout of angst will end, and stock prices may yet have further to fall. But when the market as a whole is fearful, it’s usually a good time to top up your holdings,” he says.

The outlook for the UK market still looks favourable, according to Hargreaves  Lansdown, with economic growth healthy, but not strong enough to force interest rates upwards too quickly.

The FTSE All Share looks close to fair value, standing at a forward price/earnings ratio of 15.4 with a prospective yield of 3.8%. While that does not mean the index doesn’t have further to fall, Khalaf says it is not an expensive point at which to buy into the market.

Both oil and gas stocks and mining stocks have fallen significantly and may start to attract investor attention – both BP and Royal Dutch Shell are now trading on a prospective yield of 6.9%. However these companies come with a risk warning attached; they are largely at the mercy of global commodity market and the reason yields look so high is the market isn’t entirely convinced dividends will be delivered.

Protect your portfolio

Adrian Lowcock, head of investing at AXA Wealth, says it is worth preparing for market corrections as they often occur when least expected and are hard to predict.

“Having a mix of investments with some defensive assets helps cushion any falls. Falls in markets also provide some of the best investment opportunities for those able to top up their investments,” he says.

Here are his five tips to protect against market falls:

  • Do not panic. Selling out when you see markets falling can be hugely destructive to the value if your investments.
  • Review your investments goals. Remind yourself what you are investing for whether it is a dream holiday or for your retirement. Reviewing your reasons for investing in the first place provides perspective.
  • Ensure you are diversified. A well-diversified portfolio will be better positioned to weather a crash in one market as you won’t have all your eggs in one basket.
  • Hold some defensive assets. Make sure there are investments. Absolute return funds can make money in a falling market as well as a rising market helping investors protect their portfolios.  Likewise assets like gold are seen as safe havens particularly in times of volatility.
  • Cash – Having some cash set aside ready to invest following market corrections. These often provide the excellent investment opportunities for long term investors.

 

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