At the risk of slightly sounding melodramatic, the world is a decidedly different place to when we last updated you in early February. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had massive military, geopolitical and, tragically, human consequences. But, it’s also had huge implications on economies around the world; and the UK is no exception.
In this issue, we’ll go through some of the more important stories relating to the financial impact that the conflict has had on Western and UK markets and, more specifically, UK consumers and investors. More broadly, we’ll also look ahead to the new tax year, assess the current cost of living crisis, as well as inflation and mortgages, and, on a happier note, take a quick look at this year’s International Women’s Day. It’s a busy one.
First up, though, as always, here’s your monthly message from our director, Liam. Enjoy.
A message from our Director…
Unsurprisingly, this month’s newsletter is dominated by the developing situation in Ukraine following the Russian invasion.
I’d like to begin by saying that my thoughts - as with everyone here at Danbro Financial Planning - are very much with the people of Ukraine as they suffer terrifying hardship from the bombardment of their cities to the largest humanitarian displacement in modern history. I really cannot imagine what Ukrainian citizens are going through right now.
In that context then, it might seem somewhat inhumane to be worrying about financial markets and our pensions and investments at a time like this, but the market volatility we’re all seeing is a by-product of the ongoing insecurity. And, let’s face it, it’s human nature to worry about all sorts of things during periods of uncertainty.
Yes, the value of all our investments and pensions will have been going down in recent weeks and, in reality, we all know the reasons why. So, what should we be doing about it? Well, I do practice what I preach and my reaction has been to, quite literally, do nothing with my own assets. I’ve been reminding myself of my future objectives and tried to avoid staring at my online app for a valuation every day.
I’d encourage you all to read the summary provided by our friends at the asset manager, Betafolio, which concludes that quite often the best thing to do when it comes to investments - specifically when faced with a crisis - is, well, nothing at all!
As ever, please do get in touch if you need to talk.
In the news this month…
What’s happening in Ukraine is nothing if not fast-moving. The situation is live and changing all the time with new, distressing developments seemingly every hour. Our coverage in this newsletter will focus on some of the broader financial implications of the conflict. Please bear in mind that some of the information included in the featured articles may be a little out-of-date at the time of reading. Of course, it goes without saying that the thoughts and prayers of the entire Danbro Family are with Ukrainians everywhere, as we hope for a swift conclusion to the current crisis.
Pressing ahead as we must, earlier this month the London Stock Exchange (LSE) suspended trading on nearly 30 companies that have links to Russia amidst plummeting prices resulting from global sanctions imposed against the country. Some of the companies affected include lenders, Sberbank, and giant gas conglomerate, Gazprom. With many ‘oligarchs’, such as Roman Abramovich and Oleg Deripaska, also being targeted, the sanctions are beginning to take a real toll on Russian businesses, making markets even more unpredictable. LSE boss, David Schwimmer (no, not that one), said the decision had been taken in order to ‘run an orderly market’.
So, what’s going on in the stock market as a result of the situation in Ukraine? Well, this article from personal investment firm, Fidelity International, looks at the impact that inflation, geopolitical instability, and food shortages is having on stocks and shares through the prism of a selection of funds they’ve been analysing for some time.
Furthermore, UK asset management provider, Betafolio, recently suggested that, despite the market’s current volatility, now might not be the best time to alter your investment strategy. “Fleeing the market in times of a downturn could result in missing out on some significant gains when the markets recover. This can have a considerable impact on your long-term performance,” they said. It’s worth mentioning here that the article was published before the Russian military first entered Ukraine. However, the sentiments around protecting your investments in an uncertain climate still hold sway.
One illustration of just how erratic financial markets are at the moment is the performance of the pound. Earlier this month, sterling soared to a five-plus year high against the euro whilst simultaneously sinking to its lowest value against the dollar for nearly 18 months. According to Reuters, a ‘surge in commodity prices and the impact of the war on EU economies’ are the main reason for the euro’s weakness.
Of course, concerns about Western currencies are dwarfed by the troubles with the rouble. One rouble will now buy you less than one US cent, and many Russians are trying to protect their assets through stores of value such as gold, overseas currency, and even certain cryptocurrencies. With Russia effectively ostracised from international finance as a result of their disconnection from the SWIFT payment system, this article from Yahoo! Finance assesses whether China’s CIPS international payment system - and the yuan itself - could provide financial refuge for Russia and, in the process, ‘create the unwanted side effect of a new global economic system based upon the Chinese yuan’.
We’ve talked about inflation a lot in this news round-up. So, it might be helpful to bring together some of the other main headlines.
- UK inflation rose to a three-decade high in the month of January which, crucially, was a number of weeks before the invasion of Ukraine.
- Currently at 5.5% - and rising - official forecasts suggest inflation could reach more than 7% by the spring.
- Amidst soaring oil and gas prices, experts from the energy sector are predicting that household bills could reach an average of £3,000. Unsurprisingly, petrol prices are also at record levels too.
- UK Finance suggests that ‘mortgage affordability’ and the volume of people seeking ‘extra borrowing through refinancing’ will both ease this year due to the cost of living hike.
- Meanwhile, house price rises show no sign of slowing. Figures compiled by Nationwide show that the cost of an average UK home is over £260,000 following a near £30,000 increase in the last year alone. That’s the biggest single annual increase since they started compiling the data in 1991.
- Even stamps are going up! From April, a first class stamp will cost you 95 pence - 10p more than they do currently (so, get stocked up). Second class stamps will also increase by 2p to 68p.
This month’s featured article…
April 6th marks the start of a brand new tax year and brings with it a raft of new financial legislation. So, in this month’s featured article, from The Mirror, we’ll look ahead to the changes that are coming into play next month.
The new laws include car tax rises, council tax rebates, corporation tax changes, and even new taxes on plastic packaging (though please feel free to skip the small section on the changes to divorce laws…).
The Mirror: ‘The New Laws Coming Next Month’
On a lighter note…
Last week was International Women’s Day, with people around the world celebrating women’s achievements and coming together to ‘imagine a world free of stereotypes, discrimination and gender bias’.
To mark the occasion, here’s an Enterprising Investor article from the CFA Institute containing interviews with five high-profile women from the world of investment. Featuring stories from Stockholm to Singapore the article, which was originally published last year, explores how women from different backgrounds have achieved huge success in what remains a male-dominated field. Enjoy.
CFA Institute: ‘Five Investing Success Stories from Five International Women’
Your capital is at risk. The value of your investment (and any income from them) can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. Investments should be considered over the longer term and should fit in with your overall attitude to risk and financial circumstances.
The content of this newsletter is for your general information purposes only and does not constitute advice. It is not an offer to purchase or sell any particular asset and it does not contain all of the information which an investor may require in order to make an investment decision. Please obtain professional advice before entering into any new arrangement. Although endeavours have been made to provide accurate and timely information, there can be no guarantee that such information is accurate as of the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of any articles.