Wondering where to put your money in 2008? It may seem like all the choices are bad, and I'm not talking about the presidential candidates. Stocks, bonds, real estate, and money market funds have all been underwhelming -- at best. Chinese stocks, gold, oil and India suggest bigger gains but also much bigger risks.
It could be a wild ride.
The year 2008 is an election year; they're usually bullish. But it could be a slow (or no) growth year; a year in which recession AND inflation are very real possibilities, and in which it's worth remembering that the worst times always precede the best times.
It's also worth remembering this caveat from Tim Swanson, chief investment officer at National City Bank: Markets often move in the direction that the fewest people expect.
With that said, here are some observations and trends about where to put your money down in 2008.
The housing slump will continue downward pressure; globalism will help keep things humming. The weak dollar and low interest rates could signal growth; the tapped-out consumer could snuff it. Bottom line? The prevailing prediction is for a sluggish 2008; maybe including a full-fledged recession, and maybe not.
Next year seems like a year in which consumers who don't have to buy a car, for example, won't. Think about sectors that sell what people need, not what they want. That includes health care and banks, according to Larry Adam, an investment strategist for Deutsche Bank Alex. Brown. The financial sector has historically been able to recover fairly quickly from a credit crisis, Adam notes.
But globalization is here to stay. Bottom line? If you haven't diversified into foreign stocks, there are good reasons to do so. But if more than 15 percent of your portfolio is invested in them, now might be a good time to pull back a bit. Be careful, too, about using today's super-cheap dollar to buy costly European securities; you might be buying at the top of both the euro and of Euro-stocks.
One bright spot for real estate investors is private student housing, according to Millennium Credit Markets, a Troy, New York, firm which arranges private equity deals.
The exception? High-yield bonds of companies with questionable credit ratings. The yields are better, as are the prospects, in either a strengthening or weakening economy. Protect yourself against default risks by buying them in a big, diversified mutual fund or ETF, instead of trying to pick and choose which risky bonds you want to buy.