2021 investments: post-lockdown stocks

Certain economic sectors could be about score some big wins during the post-pandemic global economic resurgence.  If you are looking to make some 2021 investments, you might consider these assets for your portfolio. 

Making 2021 investments with post-lockdown stocks 

The state of play 

Certain stock classes could make solid 2021 investments as they are likely to face significant upward momentum while economies worldwide begin to recover. 

Previously shuttered or restricted businesses like high street retailers, hospitality companies, and travel firms are poised for rapid growth this year, as well as in 2022. 

A word of caution: any short-term booms may not necessarily translate into massive long-term growth. Instead, as economies and company operations normalise, they may return to their usual cyclical patterns or operating procedures. 

With that in mind, we’ve picked out some stock sectors that could potentially benefit greatly from a post-lockdown economic surge. 

Stocks groupings to watch in 2021 

Hospitality stocks 

The second half of 2021 is shaping up to be very strong for hospitality companies. In the UK alone, sales are estimated to rise by £2.5bn in the week beginning May 17th when venues will start offering inside seating and services again after months of closures. Overall UK hospitality sales growth is forecast at 63.3% across the rest of 2021. 

Investors and traders may want to raise a glass to pub stocks, as well as firms like the Restaurant Group. JD Wetherspoons, City Pub Group and Marston’s have all been eyeballed for their potential going forward. 

But remember, when investing or trading, to cast a wider eye. Drinks supplier Diageo could build on its strong position, for instance, with the reopening of worldwide hospitality markets. The firm has expanded its buybacks programme, expected to total £4.5bn, as sales and revenues pick up. £1bn is expected to be returned to shareholders by the end of the next financial year before the programme concludes in 2024. 

The fact that Diageo can do this suggests it has robust cash generation. It also highlights that the board is shareholder-friendly – something investors will no doubt appreciate.  

Airline stocks 

It’s no secret airline stocks have had their wings clipped throughout the pandemic. Share prices are still rocky. We’re not cleared for take-off just yet. American carriers, such as American Airlines, or Southwest, have been rocked considerably. British Airways owner IAG has too been burning through cash. It recently turned to the bond market to raise funding, issuing an €825m convertible bond on May 11th. 

But the skies are brightening for airlines. Demand for trips, both domestic and international, has already begun to pick up. Ryanair made 7,000 trips in April of this year alone, carrying one million passengers, compared against the 40,000 total passengers carried across the entirety of 2020.  

It all depends on the continued success of vaccine rollouts, local responses to new strains, and international travel rulings. The EU, for instance, said in April it was mulling over opening up travel to vaccinated tourists, providing they can offer proof of inoculation, and introducing a mechanism to allow individual countries to lockdown if Covid-19 cases pick up again. 

In practical terms, this could see a strengthening of share prices for airlines which could make them ideal late 2021 investments, or certainly worth looking at in 2022.  

The Zacks Airline Industry, a grouping of 28 stocks, has outperformed the S&P 500 in the year up to May 2021. It had risen by 107.9% over this period compared with the broader S&P 500 up 46.6%. 

Headwinds are still blowing, but as the skies clear, airline stocks might become essential components of post-lockdown portfolios moving forward.  

Retail stocks 

Online retailers are still worth a watch, regardless of lockdown or not. Ecommerce has soared throughout the pandemic; thus, online sellers might be key 2021 investments. For instance, in the UK, non-food online sales were up 57.4% in April compared with March, and up 4.3% y-o-y. Total annual growth in the US for 2020 was 35%. 

Retail retailers like ASOS and Boohoo, digital fashion outlets, may be stocks to watch for UK investors. ASOS has realised 23% sales growth across the past five years, whereas Boohoo’s five-year revenues have grown 55%. 

In relation to outlets and retailers, investors may wish to take a look at credit card issuers or payment platforms like Mastercard, Visa and PayPal. All of them stand to gain from the ongoing general shift towards online shopping. 

GameStop, a Reddit favourite, could be worth a look at too. It has made some sweeping management changes and has raised $551m in funding to be an eCommerce transformation.  

GameStop shares are something of a “memestock” – i.e. a stock that has been juiced by a new breed of online investors – but, despite this Reddit-based interest, GME looks like it might actually perform quite well. The transition from primarily store-based to digital sales will be key here. GameStop stocks picking up any further Reddit attention will be important to watch too. 

Lockdown or no lockdown, your 2021 investments and trades still carry risks 

Of course, the spectre of Covid still casts a long shadow. We are by no means completely out of the pandemic. Vaccines will be important, as will responses to any mutant strains that could emerge across the rest of the year. 

In addition to the pandemic, there are your usual investing and trading risks. While you can make money, you can also lose it too. Always do thorough research before investing or trading. Only do so if you can afford to take any potential losses. 

Gold funds vs cryptocurrencies: which is the new safe bet?

To help settle the ongoing debate, we look at the pros and cons of taking an old school investing approach with gold funds or putting cash into cryptocurrencies.  

Golds funds & cryptocurrency 

Gold as a store of value 

With the emergence and rapid price growth of Bitcoin and other digital tokens, a new breed of investors is looking to use cryptocurrencies as a store of value or a safe haven to hedge against inflation. Gold is seen as a safe haven and acted as a store of value, maintaining its purchasing power over thousands of years. 

Gold seems less interesting to some newer, younger, investing circles. They say it’s old news, a relic of the past.  

Is that really the case? Gold holds many characteristics that make in ideal store of value:  

  • It’s held intrinsic value since the dawn of human civilisation 
  • It’s scarce but in high demand  
  • It’s a physical, tangible asset with many different forms 

The precious metal is also no longer tied to currencies, nor is it pegged to the stock market either. That means gold can be used to hedge against fluctuations in currency markets and share prices.  

The consistency of the gold price is one of its biggest attributes where investors and traders are concerned.  

That’s not to say gold isn’t volatile in terms of its market pricing. Gold prices do fluctuate thus gold funds can go up or down in value. For instance, gold started 2021 at around $1,950. At the time of writing, the gold price was around $1,778.  

Comparatively though, gold can still be seen as a safe haven, protecting against inflation in particular. 

Storing value in Bitcoin 

Bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency and a bellwether for the market as a whole. It’s certainly the most valuable, currently trading at around $40,000 (as of May 20th, 2021).  

Because of its enormous per-token price, Bitcoin has been identified by some commentators, such as Citibank’s Tom Fitzpatrick, as “digital gold” – a place to store value in a digitally-led world.  Much like gold, the supply of Bitcoins is finite. Only 21 million tokens will be “mined”, or created via complex computational processes using blockchain tech. 

But we must stress volatility here. Bitcoin prices started 2021 at $34,000. It climbed to an all-time high of $64,000 in April 2021, before falling back below $30,000 in a sharp market crash on May 19th  

What’s interesting, though, is how the digital token’s use has changed. Bitcoin was originally conceived as an alternative to traditional fiat currency.  

Buyers could use the token to pay for goods and services, rather than using pounds, or euros, or dollars and so on. While Bitcoin can still be used as such, it’s massive per-token price means investors are increasingly buying it to hold onto, or HODL, than using it for its intended purpose. 

Of course, Bitcoin is not the only digital currency on the market. Ether, the token for the Ethereum blockchain, is the second most popular digital coin on the market. At the time of writing, Ether is trading at around $2,700.  

Unlike Bitcoin tough, Ether has a more practical use in the sense that transactions used on the Ethereum blockchain 

Other tokens like Ripple, Dogecoin, Dash, and Polkadot continue to draw investor/trader attention. However, they have yet to reach the price heights of Ether or Bitcoin. 

At the start of May 2021, the total cryptocurrency market was valued at $2.3 trillion. Gold’s total valuation is somewhere in the region of $11 trillion. 

Gold funds & cryptocurrency: head-to-head 

So, what are the pros and cons of putting your money into a gold fund or investing in digital currencies? 

Rarity 

As we established earlier, part of what fuels the gold price is its rarity. It’s a precious metal, and extraction levels have started to drop off. We may still be some way off peak gold, but the supply shrinks each year, unless a new major discovery occurs.  

Bitcoin is also in finite supply, and the algorithm through which new tokens are generated has been altered to make them even rarer. Not all cryptocurrencies have a maximum cap, but they often put a limit on the amount of coins mined per year. 

Inherent value 

Again, we touched on this earlier. Gold has always held value for many reasons. Its rarity combined with its practical uses means it is likely to stay in high demand. 

Cryptocurrencies’ value, in price terms, has risen massively since Bitcoin was first founded in 2009. Digital tokens are meant to be the next step in global currency. Their creators hope to see more people using them for everyday transactions. The true value of cryptocurrencies, and if they will even be used for this purpose, is yet to be seen.  

Some commentators like Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey, believe cryptocurrencies have no inherent value, which puts off more traditionally minded investors from exploring digital currencies. 

Volatility 

On the price of gold is much less volatile than the price of cryptocurrencies, especially Bitcoin.  

There are some tokens called stablecoins, such as Tether, which are supposedly tied to the US dollar. These are thought to exhibit less volatility than their non-paired cousins, but these do not have the same massive per-token price tag as Bitcoin or Ether.  

Cryptocurrency price movements are also much more susceptible to market news and opinions. Even a tweet from the likes of Elon Musk can cause the price to skyrocket or tumble. Gold, while still having its own ups and downs, such as reacting to high government bond yields, does not move to the whims of markets quite so spectacularly. 

Availability  

Gold and cryptocurrencies are available to anyone who has the money.  

In terms of gold, it is available as both a physical product in a myriad of forms and a tradeable commodity on global exchanges. Gold ETFs are among the most popular ways for investors to access gold since it enables exposure to the metal without the requirement to take physical delivery and store it. 

There are no physical crypto tokens. They are an entirely digital asset. However, they can be bought via exchanges and kept in digital wallets, or tradeable with leverage via Contracts for Difference (CFDs). Gold CFDs are also available. 

Transparency, safety & legality 

Because of its long historical importance, gold has one of the most well-established tracking, authentication, weighing, and trading systems in the world. It is exceptionally difficult to forge or corrupt gold. It’s one of the reasons why gold is such a safe haven. 

Cryptocurrencies run on decentralised platforms. While that means they are accessible to anyone, there is no central governing body overseeing their creation and distribution.  

That being said, blockchain technology contains lots of encryption and complicated algorithms that makes it hard to hack and corrupt. But there have been some recent cases of exchanges collapsing and hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of coins going missing.  

While institutional support is also rising for digital currencies, there is also major push back. Retail crypto trading is banned in the UK, for example. India and Turkey are also mulling bans. Wholesale acceptance is still some way off. 

Should you invest in gold funds or cryptocurrency? 

The jury is still out.  

Bitcoin and cryptocurrency have potential, but their inherent volatility plus regulatory woes may put off investors.  

Gold, on the other hand, represents surety and security. For the more cautious investor, a gold fund may be the way to go. 

In either case, investing and trading comes with risk of capital loss. You should only invest or trade if you can afford to take any losses. 

Cryptocurrency update: ETH soars while Dogecoin spins

Ether starts the week strongly, breaching all-time highs, while Dogecoin chases its tail.

Cryptocurrency update

Ether soars to all-time high

It makes for refreshing reading when a cryptocurrency that isn’t Bitcoin makes its own stellar gains.
This week, it’s Ether (ETH), the digital token for the Ethereum blockchain. The token has reached a new all-time high, breaking above $4,000.

While Bitcoin steals the headlines, ETH has actually made more substantial gains across 2021 so far. As of May 10th, 2021, Ether’s year-to-date return was a cool 435% against Bitcoin’s 104%.

Ether’s total market cap is now valued at around $470bn. For context, the stock market valuation of JPMorgan Chase, the US’ largest bank, floats around $488bn.

Behind the ETH drive is intensified worldwide interest in Decentralised Finance (DeFi). DeFi is functions around trading, lending, and other financial processes, that seek to match those of traditional banking and financial firms, executed via blockchain technology.

The Ethereum blockchain serves as the foundation for the DeFi world, as well as being a basis for non-fungible tokens, one of cryptocurrencies hottest trends. Transactions undertaken on the Ethereum blockchain are charged in a small amount of Ether, giving the token a practical use.

The more use the Ethereum blockchain gets from DeFi developers then the higher ETH prices will climb, in theory, and that’s what we’re currently seeing.

Elon Musk sets Dogecoin’s tail wagging

Shiba Inus are known to be bold, strong-willed, quirky, and confident. It’s a dog breed likes to do things differently; one that doesn’t always do what its owners want.

While very cute, and with massive meme-potential as the internet has clearly shown, there’s no telling what a Shiba will do from one minute to the next.

Those characteristics that make fuzzy, feisty Shibas a bit of a handful apply neatly to Dogecoin, the once joke currency that runs to the beat of its own drum. Choosing the Shiba Inu as the token’s mascot is looking more appropriate every day.

Dogecoin had an exceptionally eventful weekend after notorious tweeter and Dogecoin meme supporter Elon musk sent the token spinning.

Firstly, on Saturday 8th May when hosting Saturday Night Live, Musk triggered a Dogecoin sell off after calling the currency a “hustle” during his opening monologue. The currency’s value subsequently tumbled.

But come Monday 10th, Musk was giving Dogecoin a bone again. This time, the billionaire meme machine said his SpaceX firm would be accepting payment via Dogecoin from a Canadian firm Geometric Energy Corp, to send a satellite to the moon.

Yes, Musk and Co. are planning to literally send Dogecoin to the moon. The DOGE-1 satellite mission is said to be launching in Q1 2022.

“This mission will demonstrate the application of cryptocurrency beyond Earth orbit and set the foundation for interplanetary commerce,” SpaceX Vice President of Commercial Sales Tom Ochinero said in a press release. “We’re excited to launch DOGE-1 to the Moon!”

According to GSC, the rocket’s payload will “obtain lunar-spatial intelligence from sensors and cameras on-board using communications and computational systems”.

Does anyone else think this is getting out of hand now? Thanks to the power of Musk’s tweets, Dogecoin has gained an almost unbelievable 11,000% year-to-date. Perhaps it’s not the Shiba Inus that need putting on a leash but Musk himself.

After all, real currency from real pepole is being pumped into Dogecoin at the whims of a figure who clearly sees it all as a bit of a joke. Of course, the token did start life as a novelty, but its huge gains, and the spotlight afforded by Musk and his ilk, is turning it into something serious. Let’s hope no one gets bitten.

BoE’s Bailey gives stark crypto warning

“I’m going to say this very bluntly again: buy crypto only if you’re prepared to lose all your money.”

Harsh words from Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey, speaking at the Bank’s Thursday May 6th press conference.

When asked for his opinion on crypto, Bailey said: “They have no intrinsic value. That doesn’t mean to say people don’t put value on them, because they can have extrinsic value. But they have no intrinsic value.”

Bailey’s words echo those of the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority. In January, the FCA said: “Investing in cryptoassets, or investments and lending linked to them, generally involves taking very high risks with investors’ money. If consumers invest in these types of product, they should be prepared to lose all their money.”

Cryptocurrency trading is currently not available in the UK for retail customers.

It will be interesting to see if Bailey’s thoughts have any actual effect on token prices.

Institutional support for cryptos as a whole as been up this year, mirroring crypto gains. Visa and Mastercard are upping their crypto offering; Tesla is dabbling with crypto trading alongside its core EV business; Banks like Deutsche Bank are exploring more crypto services.

Bailey’s comments do represent the fact that full support amongst financial circles for digital currencies has yet to be realised. They also reinforce the fact that volatility is never far away from cryptos. Massive price increases have been paired against violent crashes. Losses are a very real possibility – something all crypto traders should keep in mind.

Thematic investing: renewable energy stocks

The world is starting to invest in renewable energy. You can too. From wind energy stocks to utility firms, we take a look at some of the key clean power stocks that could perform well in the short and long term.

How you can invest in renewable energy

The case for green power

Global governments have committed to slashing their carbon emissions. The UK and US are both gunning for net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050, while the EU has pledged to cut its own greenhouse gas output in half by 2030.

We’ve also seen countries in areas like Central America go all in on renewables, adopting mass solar, wind and hydro power for their national grids. Billions is being pumped into large-scale solar farms throughout the Middle East too with Saudi Arabia, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi leading the way.

Pressure is mounting on China to cut the use of coal-fired power stations over the next decade to meet climate goals.

The historic 2016 Paris Climate agreement was a major step towards a greener future. Under its protocols, signed by 197 nations, the world essentially pledged to limit global temperatures no more than 2°C higher than pre-industrial levels. A lofty goal, to be sure, but one that could pay dividends for investors and traders.

The investment behind this worldwide initiative is nothing short of gargantuan. Joe Biden’s presidency alone is pushing through $2 trillion worth in clean energy projects and investments. Since 2019, over $54bn has been spent by the EU and UK on wind power development alone. China’s figure is over $100bn.

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges the planet faces. Countries are likely to continue to invest in renewable energy into the 21st century.

Using Britain as an example, the UK’s renewable market is expected to grow at a CAGR of other 9% from now until 2026, and that’s just one nation amongst many.

We can also see commitment to new green power generation infrastructure by looking at capacity installation. In total, 260 GW of renewable capacity was installed in 2020 – a 50% y-o-y increase.

As such, wind energy stocks, solar, and other green power sources could be poised to benefit greatly in the short and long term. See below for some renewables stocks that could be worth adding to the portfolio of the environmentally-conscious commodities investor.

Renewable & wind energy stocks to watch

Brookfield Renewable Partners

Brookfield Renewable Partners is one of the world’s largest publicly traded clean power suppliers. It has a multi-pronged approach to renewable energy, developing and supplying solar, hydro and wind power, as well as offering energy storage functions.

The bulk of Brookfield power is purchased under long-term, fixed rate deals, giving the firm steady cash flow. It also boasts a strong balance sheet and a BBB+ bond rating from S&P – one of the highest awarded to a renewables firm.

Currently, Brookfields believes it can pump around $800m-$1bn worth of liquidity into fresh projects from now until 2025. Estimates suggest annual cash flow growth per share of 11% to 16%, supporting yearly dividend increases between 5% to 9%, making it one to watch.

Vestas Wind Systems

One the key wind energy stocks is Vestas.

It’s a bit of a behemoth when it comes to wind power, being a cornerstone turbine supplier to on and offshore projects throughout the world, including three upcoming projects in Australia totalling 420 MW. The Danish firm is also mulling over expanding its footprint in the UK’s offshore sector.

In 2020, Vestas revenues grew by an impressive 22%, with its bottom line amount too €771m. Profitability did dropped by 25%, to €750m, caused by Covid-incurred costs. Deliveries, however, increased over 2020, with Vestas delivering 17.2 GW of capacity to project sites across the world – a 34% year-on-year rise.

Vestas’ €43bn project backlog is enough to inspire major confidence. It has increased dividend by over 5% in 2021, making the company one of the few renewable energy stocks with a pay-out (although its yield is less than 1%).

NextEra Energy

NextEra Energy powers 5.5m Florida homes with a combination of wind and solar and claims to be one of the world’s largest suppliers of wind and solar-generated power.

The company has been pumping cash into its renewables subsidiary over the past decade. Under its Florida Power & Light utility provider, the firm will be piloting something new for Florida: a “green hydrogen” plant, generating clean gas production via solar power, set to go live in 2023.

What’s more, NextEra has snapped up desirable acreage throughout the Sunshine State. It has plans to develop these key sites over the next 20 years.

In the short term, NexEra’s investments should power earnings growth of at least 6% to 8% per year through 2023. The firm could also increase its dividend by about 10% annually through at least 2022.

Want to invest in renewable energy? Remember the risks

While in the long term, the world is shifting towards a cleaner, greener future for energy generation, please be aware that all investing and trading is risky.

Whether you want to add wind energy stocks to your portfolio, or you’re looking at renewable utility suppliers or solar companies, bear in mind your investment can go up or down. You can lose more money than what you started with.

Only invest or trade if you are confident you can afford any losses.

Learn the stock market: understanding stocks

In this guide, we’ll help you understand stocks, what they are, and how they’re grouped, so you can enter the world of stock market trading and investing.  

Understanding stocks & how they work 

What are stocks? 

Understanding stocks is simple. When you buy stocks and shares, you are buying a small piece of a company. This is called equity ownership and another name for stocks or shares is equities.  

Buying them means you’re a shareholder and are now entitled to capital appreciation and dividends if the company pays them. Dividends are payments made to shareholders as a share in a company’s profits. However, not all companies pay them. 

Essentially, you hold onto stocks in the hope they will increase in value. This is investing. You would physically own the shares you have bought. 

Stock market trading, on the other hand, is trading on a stock’s price movements. This is done using financial products called derivatives, such as contracts for difference (CFDs) or spread betting. Here, you don’t own the underlying asset you are trading. Any profit made is generated from movements in share prices. 

Asset sectors 

Another key part of understanding stocks is understanding asset sectors. To properly learn the stock market, you will have to learn what sectors equities are usually grouped into. Different sectors tend to move in different cycles, falling in and out of favour with traders and investors, and changing performance levels, throughout the year. 

A lot of investors and traders diversify their portfolios by picking equities from across the sectors. This helps them mitigate their risk. We’ll take a look at portfolio diversification later on. 

For now, we’ll look at the main sectors stocks are grouped into. 

Consumer discretionaryStocks that offer non-essential services. Think luxury goods, or consumer goods outside core needs. Examples of consumer discretionary stocks include: 

  • Nike 
  • McDonald’s  
  • Disney 

Consumer staplesThese are stocks in companies that produce products that are considered essential. Think items like food, drinks, agricultural products, tobacco, and pharmaceutical products. Non-durable household goods and personal products, including grocery stores and supermarkets are also included in this asset category. 

Examples of consumer staple stocks include: 

  • Nestlé 
  • Tesco 
  • Proctor & Gamble

EnergyThese are stocks companies who produce energy. Oil & gas tends to dominate here, but this class also includes started to include renewable energy stocks, nuclear and coal power. 

Examples of energy stocks include: 

  • ExxonMobil 
  • Royal Dutch Shell 
  • Canadian Solar  

FinancialsFinancials are stocks that cover financial services for retail and commercial customers. This includes banks, insurance companies, savings plans, investment managers, mortgage companies, and real estate. 

  • ING 
  • HSBC 
  • Allianz 

HealthcareCompanies that deal with medical goods and services fall into the healthcare stocks sector.  This includes hospital management firms, medical equipment, and medical products. It also includes research, development, production, and marketing of medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, and new biotechnology. Examples of healthcare stocks include: 

  • Bayer 
  • GlaxoSmithKline 
  • AstraZeneca 

IndustrialsIndustrial stocks cover a lot of different sub-sectors. In this case, we’re looking at aerospace, industrial machinery, and military & defence equipment. It includes cement, metal fabrication, pre-fab houses, and waste management. Industrials also include airlines and transport & logistics. Examples of industrial stocks include: 

  • IAG 
  • EasyJet 
  • BMW 

MaterialsCompanies in this sector are involved in the production or extraction of materials, as well as chemical production. Paper, containers and packaging also fall under the materials umbrella. Examples of Materials stocks include: 

  • BASF 
  • Rio Tinto Group 
  • Anglo American  

TechnologyThis sector includes IT businesses and companies that research, develop, produce, and distribute communication equipment such as cell phones, towers, cable, etc. It includes computer hardware and software, home entertainment, office equipment, data management, processing systems, and consulting services. Examples of technology stocks include: 

  • Apple 
  • Microsoft 
  • Spotify 

UtilitiesThis sector distributes electricity, oil, gas, water, etc.  Example of utility stocks include: 

  • E.ON 
  • Engie SA 
  • SSE 

How are the different asset classes affected by different economic cycles? 

Different asset classes behave differently depending on how the economy is performing. A good example of this is the difference between how consumer staples and consumer non-discretionary stocks behave.  

In tough economic times, the share price of non-discretionary stocks will likely go down. That’s because consumers won’t necessarily have the spare cash to spend on luxuries. Conversely, the share price of staples might go up because their services or products are considered essential. 

Utilities are also considered essential, so the share prices, in theory, should remain relatively stable. Until very recently, oil & gas stocks used to be very strong too. However, they are susceptible to volatility caused by market conditions. Oil prices crashed during the Covid-19 pandemic, and thus oil companies have seen their share prices fall in line with that. On the other hand, with governments investing heavily in renewable energy, green energy stocks are rising. 

Essentially, the principle of supply and demand is at play here. More on that later. 

Understanding stocks: Portfolio diversification 

Diversifying your portfolio is a way of mitigating your risk. In practice, it basically means building a portfolio of stocks from different sectors. The theory goes that if a sector is underperforming, any losses created as a result can be offset by gains in stocks in other sectors that are performing well. 

All investing and trading are risky. You can make a profit, but you can also make losses. Any steps to help lower your risk should be taken. Understanding stocks and learning how stock trading works will help you do just that. Remember to do careful research when picking equities to add to your portfolio. 

Where do stocks get their value? 

A stock’s value comes from the principles of supply and demand. High demand usually means a higher price; low demand usually means a lower price. Another factor that gives a stock value is the ROI it can give to investors and traders.  

Investors might look at stocks with strong fundamentals. Other this smaller, under-appreciated businesses are the best companies to invest in, as they might have great growth potential. What you choose is up to you, but a blend of technical and fundamental analysis will give you a clearer view of the markets and help inform your choices. 

There are some methods you can use to find out a stock’s valuation and whether it has been under or overvalued. 

Which cap fits? 

Away from asset classes, stocks can also be grouped according to their market capitalisation or market cap. This is a key part of learning the stock market.  

This is how market cap is calculated: 

  • Total outstanding company shares x share price 

There are no official market cap groupings. However, the market generally divides companies into the following groups. 

Group  Value 
Mega cap  $200 billion or over 
Large cap  $10-200 billion 
Mid cap  $2-10 billion 
Small cap  $300 million – $2 billion 

 

There are also micro and nano cap stocks, covering up to $300 million. 

Mega and large cap stocks are generally thought to have less growth potential but are more likely to weather challenging market conditions. Smaller stocks may offer higher returns, but this is tempered by potentially high volatility.  

Dividend stocks 

A dividend is a portion of a company’s profits it can choose to return to shareholders. Dividend stocks are those that pay out this little reward.  

Not all companies pay dividends, but those that too tend to be popular stock picks. You might consider them if you’re going for a long-term investment strategy. They may be some of the best shares to invest, so if you’re learning the stock market read up on dividend stocks. 

Investing, trading & risk 

Trading and investing are both risky. You can make money, but you can also lose it if stocks turn against you. Only pursue these activities if you can afford any potential losses. 

Apple earnings preview: not crunch time yet

So far it looks very much like profit margins are holding up, earnings are rising fast at most companies and earnings expectations are doing fine. Wednesday sees the big one: Apple.

Shares in Apple are up just 1.5% YTD but the stock has nevertheless enjoyed a stellar run up in the last 12 months and in the last month has rallied from a trough around $116 to $134 by Tuesday to get back close to the all-time high. The pandemic has been good for Apple but the value rotation has crimped gains this year. But this remains a go-to stock with immense potential and expectations are not too high for once, albeit with the stock trading at about 36x trailing 12-month earnings it’s looking pretty rich. Here are a few things to look out for from Wednesday’s Apple earnings.

Apple is seen reporting EPS of $1 on $77.30bn in revenues. Last quarter it blew past expectations posting all-time record revenue of $111.4 billion, up 21% year over year, and quarterly earnings per diluted share of $1.68, up 35%.

Guidance: Apple has declined to offer guidance since the pandemic struck, so investors will be keen for this to change now that the clouds of the coronavirus are lifting. The capital return programme (see below) update is usually made alongside the March quarter and so now would be a reasonable time to star offering some guidance for the coming quarters.

iPhone: Still the golden goose, but there are concerns about a softening in demand as well as lower demand in China. Demand will be decent, with about a third of the iPhone installed base up for renewal, albeit we likely see some moderation from the last quarter. Overall, the Street may underappreciate the resilience in iPhone demand from the delayed launch last year and picks up market share thanks to stimulus cheques.

Mac and iPad: Can very strong demand for home computing products like Macs and iPads hold up the pandemic abates? Whilst vaccinations are driving a lifting of lockdowns, I still see a strong demand from WFH and home education trends globally.

Ecosystem: Revenues from Services remains a central plank of the investment thesis and with a growing installed base this should continue to deliver. Last quarter Services growth reached +24% with the first quarter of Apple One subscription bundles helping to lift the category.

Returns: I think this quarter will underline just how strong the free cash flow is and investors are going to start to see more cash coming their way after a record year for sales. Apple could aggressively add to share buybacks and increase the dividend to as much as $0.90, implying a 10% increase.

Last quarter’s summary: Apple shares fell in the aftermath of its January earnings report covering the holiday quarter. Revenues hit a record $111.4bn, well ahead of forecasts and representing 21% year-on-year growth thanks to broad-based gains across its product suite. The iPhone 12 launch quarter was exceptionally strong, with sales +17% in iPhone, taking the installed base for iPhones to 1bn from 900m. Mac revenues rose 21% yoy, whilst iPad sales jumped 41%. As noted in our preview, growth in personal computer sales driven by pandemic trends such as work from/stay at home was always likely to boost Mac and iPad sales. Growth in Other Products – devices like the Apple Watch and AirPods, climbed to 29% yoy. Services growth reached +24% with the first quarter of Apple One subscription bundles helping to lift the category. The growing installed iPhone user base should further support Services growth in the coming quarters, we noted at the time. We also noted very strong international sales (now 64% of total sales vs 61% a year ago), whilst revenues from Greater China rose 57%. The confidence in Apple fiscal first quarter earnings was well justified and the slight pause in the shares reflects a little profit taking after a strong run in 2020 whilst the lack of guidance for the second quarter was a thorn. A record-breaking quarter but it should not be seen as a high watermark for Apple.

Forecasts

Apple Q1 2021 earnings forecast.

Analysts

Apple Q1 2021 analyst sentiment.

Earnings season: estimate-topping stocks to watch

It’s the final week of April: a time that traditionally brings opportunities for earnings-driven volatility.

Many companies reporting their quarterly earnings have strong track records of beating analyst estimates and subsequently seeing their share prices rise.

Bespoke Investment Group, as reported by CNBC, has pulled together the below list of firms that, 90% of the time, beat estimates, and enjoy average day-after jumps of at least 1%.

Stock Company EPS beat % Average 1 day % price move
TDY Teledyne Tech 100 2.18
AVNT Avient 100 1.5
TRU TransUnion 100 1.27
NGVT Ingevity 100 1.74
GFF Griffon Corp 100 11.41
OPI Office Properties 100 2.62
UFI Unifi Inc 100 2.33
CSGP CoStar Group 96.7 2.18
EXPO Exponent 96.6 1.56
SHOP Shopify 95.7 3.54
PATK Patrick Industries 94.7 1.2
JBT JBT Corp 93.5 1.75
MA MasterCard 93.2 2.09
SLAB Silicon Labs 92.3 1.29
SYNH Syneos Health 92.3 3.22
FB Facebook 91.4 2.52
SPSC SPS Commerce 90.7 1.66
ABBV AbbVie 90.3 1.26
SPGI S&P Global 90 1.6

 

These reports suggest earnings are off to a great start this quarter. Companies have so far reported aggregate earnings 23.6% above expectations, according to FactSet. If the trend continues, then we’ll be looking at the highest surprise percentage since FactSet began recording the metric in 2008.

Interestingly, amongst the megacap tech companies reporting this week, Facebook is the only one to make the list. Bespoke highlights its average day-after jump of 2.5%. Facebook reports quarterly earnings today after the closing bell.

Facebook’s average analysts’ price target was up approximately up 14% over Friday’s level on Tuesday, trading at $342.37 per share, feeding into potential longer-term upsides.

Shopify, the Canadian e-commerce company, has consistently been one of the fastest growing stocks for the past 3 years. Since 2018, Shopify shares have grown a massive 700%.

MasterCard is also a bit of a big hitter with a proven ability to come out above analysts’ expectations. The credit card firm beats predictions 93% of the time. MasterCard currently enjoys an 85% buy rating on Wall Street, reports FactSet, with the stock up 9% year-to-date.

Looking to small caps, some of those on Bespoke’s list as consistently punching above their weight, estimates-wise, include Office Properties Income Trust and TransUnion.

Cryptocurrency update: BTC leads fight back, Binance stocks tokens & PayPal predictions

In today’s look at crypto markets, we’re seeing some old familiars: market volatility and institutional support from one angle set against regulatory-headache inducing moves from another.

Cryptocurrency update

Bitcoin stages comeback after massive losses

What a week it’s been for Bitcoin. The bellwether crypto dropped considerably from record highs last week, falling to $47,655.

At the time of writing, however, BTC was staging a bit of a comeback. Starting on Sunday evening, Bitcoin has started changing hands for above $53,200, driven by Asian bulls.

Speculators are trading BTC with hopes of a decent correction. Last week’s price crumble was precipitated by a couple of big issues. One was Joe Biden flirting with the idea of raising US capital gains tax. Regulatory reform and straight up bans in some countries also caused a wobble, alongside frothy market conditions caused by the Coinbase IPO.

However, when prices dropped, investors may have seen that as a green light to buy. Many saw value in purchasing BTC at the $47-48,000 level. The fact buyers have apparently been quick to snap up tokens during the price lull may have helped cause the upswing we’re seeing today.

Global cryptocurrency markets are up 8% overall. Bitcoin’s rally has caused a jump in other tokens. ETH is up 10% and knocking on the door of all-time highs. Ripple is surging too, rising 11%. However, Dogecoin continues to slide. Dogecoin is basically run on the power of memes and internet culture, but it looks like even that power source is running out of steam. Dogecoin has dropped 5.7%.

One thing is clear: volatility looks like it’s here to stay in the Bitcoin and the wider cryptocurrency market.

PayPal CEO heralds massive crypto demand

Dan Schulman, PayPal CEO, has said demand for crypto tokens has far outstripped the payment platform’s expectations.

Speaking in an interview with TIME Magazine, Schulman suggested cash may be on the way out, with digital currencies ready to overtake traditional currency soon.

“Demand on the crypto side has been multiple-fold to what we initially expected,” Schulaman told TIME. “There’s a lot of excitement. We’ve been looking at digital forms of currency and DLT for six years or so. But I thought it was early, and I thought the cryptocurrency assets at the time were much more assets than they were currency.”

PayPal added a “Checkout with Crypto” service to its platform in March 2021. US-based consumers can now pay merchants via digital tokens using PayPal. It’s reckoned PayPal will begin rolling this service out to global audiences across 2021. Its subsidiary Venmo also started accepting crypto assets like BTC and ETH last week.

Schulman’s comments come in a year when institutional acceptance of cryptocurrencies is reaching new levels. Tesla snapped up billions of BTC; banks like Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs have stepped up their crypto offers; Visa allows settlement in digital currencies. This is a very small chunk of the institutions upping their crypto game.

But while demand is high, it’s worth reiterating that regulatory issues remain. As mentioned above, crypto trading is banned in some countries and others are clamping down too, or reshuffling regulations to be more restrictive. UK bank Natwest has also said it will not engage with customers who accept Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies as payment, as part of its commitments against money laundering.

But the fact remains that interest in crypto trading is still exceptionally high worldwide, despite consternation from some angles.

Binance adds Microsoft, MicroStrategy & Apple stocks to exchange

China’s largest cryptocurrency exchange Binance has added more tokenised stocks to its exchange.

Users will be able to get exposure to Microsoft (MSFT), MicroStrategy (MSTR) and Apple (AAPL) tokens, paired against Binance’s own token Binance Coin.

Each of these tokens allows its owner to hold or trade fractionalized shares of the stocks they are associated with. The minimum trading amount is set at 100th of a token, equating to 100th of a stock. These are backed by a depository portfolio of underlying securities held by CM-Equity AG, Germany, according to Binance.

Coinbase and Tesla were the first two stock tokens available on Binance.

It’s an interesting move, but one that is open to regulatory scrutiny. Does Binance have the relevant license to start dealing equities to customers?  According to the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC), no.

Binance said it is “monitoring demand” and may add further tokens in the future.

Could this be the future of stock trading? Maybe. It will depend on how Binance’s stock offer performs.

How you can invest in emerging markets

Emerging economies can offer investing and trading opportunities you may have missed. As such, you might want to consider investing in emerging markets to diversify your portfolio. Here’s how to do it.

Investing in emerging markets

What are emerging markets?

Emerging markets (EMs) are simply economies that are becoming more involved with the global market as their prosperity and GDP grows. They usually share, or are starting to show, characteristics common with developed economies.

That means they will have some liquidity in local debt and equity markets, increasing trade volumes and foreign direct investment, and internal development of domestic financial and regulatory institutions, and stock exchanges.

How are EMs different to developed markets?

While they are on track to reach the same levels of economic complexity as their developed peers, there are some differences that set emerging markets apart from their developed peers:

Characteristic Developed economy Emerging economy
Industrialisation Developed nations tend to have already heavily industrialised and have transferred into service-led economies. Emerging markets tend to rapidly expand their industrial base.
Growth Growth in developed economies is often slow but steady. Emerging economies’ GDP growth is usually higher-than-average.
Demographics Population growth has slowed in most developed markets while the middle class has been firmly established. GDP per capita tends to be high. Emerging markets usually have rapidly growing populations and a developing middle class, however GDP per capita is lower than the developed average.
Currency Developed market currencies are less volatile than their emerging counterparts and are easily exchangeable. Currencies in emerging markets are more volatile. Exchange rate mechanisms are being developed to discourage citizens from sending cash overseas and encouraging FDI.
Commodities Developed economies are not as vulnerable to swings in commodity prices. Many emerging markets are dependent on commodities for their economic prosperity, thus are susceptible to price swings.

 

One of the key takeaways here is rapid growth but high volatility. Take Russia for instance. Its economy is intrinsically linked to oil & gas.

40% of government revenues come from its hydrocarbons industries. While it has prepared measures to encourage financial investment, such as localisation deals for car manufacturers and oil & gas equipment producers, its economy is still highly susceptible to oil price volatility.

PwC forecasts the Emerging 7, i.e. the most prominent emerging economies, will experience annual average growth of around 3.5% between 2016 and 2050, well ahead of the G7’s forecasted growth of 1.6%.

Which countries are considered emerging markets?

Developing economies are found across the globe, but if you’re looking to invest in emerging markets, you may want to start with the Emerging 7. These are seven countries identified by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2006 as future global economic powerhouses, as a counterpoint to the traditional Group of Seven (G7) economies that dominated the 20th century (US, UK, France, Germany, Canada, Japan & Italy).

The Emerging 7, and their current GDPs, are:

  • China – $14.9 trillion
  • India – $2.59 trillion
  • Russia – $1.72 trillion
  • Brazil – $1.36 trillion
  • Mexico – $1.32 trillion
  • Indonesia – $1.08 trillion
  • Turkey – $761.4 billion

Certainly, these countries grab the emerging economy headlines – especially China. Investors are increasingly looking at how to invest in China because it’s predicted that the country will overtake the US as the world’s preeminent economic power at some point this century.

How to invest in emerging markets

There are plenty of options open to invest and traders who are looking at investing in emerging economies.

As ever, it’s very important to do thorough research if you plan on trading and investing. Doing thorough analysis on stocks, emerging market ETFs, and so on will help you pick stocks or assets suitable for your investment or trading strategy.

Historically, returns from EM equities have been relatively low. According to JPMorgan, EM equity returns have only averaged +3.6% per year from 2010 to 2019. But 2020 was different.  The MSCI Emerging Markets Index outperformed the S&P 500 for the first time since 2017 (EM gained +18.5% versus the S&P 500’s +18.4%).

Past performance is not indicative of future results, but the above rise could be encouraging for investors looking to put capital into emerging economies.

So, how can you get involved? You may wish to invest in companies based in emerging markets. Taking South Korea as an example, Samsung and Hyundai are viable, internationally renowned large caps helping power the South Korean economy.

In China, Alibaba, Tencent, and Geely Motors are all tech-related stocks that have performed well over the past year.

Emerging markets investors may also use ETFs. Exchange traded funds group together stocks and assets into a single fund, giving investors exposure with lower risk.

On our Marketsx trading platform, for instance, we offer the Wisdom Tree Emerging Markets High Dividend ETF (DEM). This draws its constituents from a Wisdom Tree index that measures the performance of EM stocks that offer high dividend returns.

It is composed of mainly Russian and Chinese firms, including Rosneft and the Industrial Commercial Bank of China, but also includes other big hitters like Brazil’s Vale, one of the largest mining companies in the world, Taiwanese plastics giant Formosa Plastic Group.

You may also consider bonds. Bonds are fixed-income instruments representing a fixed amount of debt. They are most often issued by governments or corporations, paying regular interest payments until the loan the bond is drawn from is repaid.

There are several different varieties of bond, so you could potentially create a diverse portfolio of just bonds issued by governments of emerging economies. Bonds are generally considered a more secure investment than equities too.

Risks of investing in emerging markets

One important thing to remember is volatility is more likely in emerging economies than developed ones. Economic conditions may change more suddenly in an emerging market than a developed one, so bear that in mind when investing. You may end up losing more than you initially invested.

We spoke earlier about how emerging markets are often more susceptible to commodity price swings. Russia is a good case study here. In 2015, the oil price dropped significantly.

As mentioned earlier, Russia relies heavily on oil & gas for revenues and the performance of its hydrocarbons industry has major ramifications for its economy as a whole. During this time, the value of rouble effectively halved, making Russia less attractive for oil & gas investment and development for international firms.

It’s these type of market trends you have to fully consider when investing in emerging markets. However, the purpose of investing in emerging markets is to trade higher risk with potentially higher rewards.

If you are planning on investing in emerging markets, it’s a good idea to ensure you have a diverse portfolio of stocks and assets. You may wish to include an emerging market ETF, plus several stocks from one country, a mixture of stocks from one country and so on.

Diversifying your portfolio is way to help you mitigate risk. You’re aiming to lower the effects of under or negatively performing assets. Gains in one asset may help offset losses in another. An example diversified portfolio, based around EMs, might look something like this:

  • 20% developed economy stocks
  • 22% foreign stocks from emerging markets
  • 22% bonds from emerging markets
  • 22% bonds from developed markets
  • 9% commodities
  • 5% long-term investments

This example portfolio draws heavily on stocks from EMs, but it also balances that out with capital allocated to equities and bonds in developed markets. In theory, any losses caused by market volatility in emerging economies could be offset by steady performance from the developed economies.

Investing vs trading: what’s the difference?

Before investing in an emerging market, it’s important to know the difference between investing and trading as distinct practices.

The goal of investing is to gradually build wealth over an extended period of time through the buying and holding of a portfolio of stocks, baskets of stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and other investment instruments. You hold onto them in the hope they will grow in value over the long-term.

Trading involves more frequent transactions, such as the buying and selling of stocks, commodities, currency pairs, or other instruments. Many trading services, such as ours, run using products like CFDs or spread betting.

Unlike investing, you do not own the underlying asset here. Instead, you are trading on its price movements. CFD trades use leverage, so you can get exposure to a stock or market for the fraction of the initial cost it would take to invest. However, because you are trading on margin, your losses can be increased too.

Both practices require you to mitigate risk as best you can. Trading and investing are risky and can result in capital loss. Always do your research and due diligence prior to committing any funds, and always ensure you can afford any losses you may occur.

Trading strategies: how to pick stocks

With thousands of stocks out there for you to invest your cash in, finding the best stocks to invest in is all part of successful investing and trading strategies. But where to begin? Here’s how to choose stocks for your portfolio.

Picking the best stocks to invest in

How to start choosing stocks

Let’s be clear: there is no right or wrong way when it comes to picking the best companies to invest in. Adding stocks to your portfolio really boils down to personal preference. But we can give you some key guidelines on how to get started.

  • Research – It’s an obvious one, but make sure you do your research first. Have a look at company performance, or the general sector performance. There’s a couple of ways you can do this, which we’ll have a look at in more detail later.
  • Make your portfolio diverse – You don’t have to just invest in stocks. There are other options out there. You might consider foreign currency (forex), commodities, or invest in exchange traded funds (ETFs). The idea behind creating a diverse portfolio is to cast a wide net so you’re minimising risk. You can lose money when investing or trading. It’s inherently risky.
  • Cut out the emotion – Use your head, not your heart. Just because there is hype around a particular stock or asset does not mean it is suitable for you. Do not rush into buying or selling decisions. It’s important to remember trading and investing is risky so try and keep a clear head.

What do you want to get out of investing?

The most effective investing and trading strategies are based on achieving well-defined goals. That also feeds into finding the best companies to invest in for your personal preferences.

Obviously, everyone invests to make money, but there are different reasons for doing so. You may be looking to put away a nest egg for retirement, for instance, or you might just be looking to preserve your existing wealth. You might also just be wanting to build your wealth.

Think about this deeply before you commit any capital.

Doing your research: fundamental analysis

Let’s look at research. Picking the best stocks to invest in revolves around research. Generally, successful investors use quantitative and qualitative analysis to help them select equities. It’s an investing fundamental.

Fundamental analysis is based on estimating a stock’s intrinsic value, i.e. how it is worth. This is where we measure qualitative and quantitative factors relating to the economy, industries, and companies. Understanding these factors might give you an idea of the best companies to invest in for your individual goals.

Qualitative factors

Qualitative factors are things like company news, personnel changes within businesses or major financial events. Think the Covid-10 pandemic. All of them factor into share price movements. For instance, many companies, like cinema chains or cruise liners, have struggled in the pandemic, thus their share prices have dropped. That’s an example of how qualitative factors should be considered before investing.

Quantitative factors

Quantitative factors help investors pick stocks by looking at aspects of a business that are quantifiable. Earnings releases are important here. Publicly traded companies release quarterly financial reports detailing their earnings for the last quarter. If a company’s earnings drop and the share price does not move in line with the new earnings level, then the stock price might not reflect true value.

Likewise, balance sheets are important too. These list a company’s liabilities and assets. Generally, a stronger balance sheet means a strong stock price, because it reflects a company’s earnings potential.

Then there are dividends, which we’ll go into in a bit more detail later on.

Doing your research: using technical analysis to choose equities

Technical analysis looks at stock price data and movements. It includes analysing patterns and trends that may show future market movements. There are a lot of indicators to be aware of if you’re taking a technical approach to selecting stocks, such as moving average, morning average, and so on. If you’re a beginner, have a look into these if you’d like to take a more technical stock selection approach.

What makes stocks valuable?

A stock’s value comes from the principles of supply and demand. High demand usually means a higher price; low demand usually means a lower price. Another factor that gives a stock value is the ROI it can give to investors and traders.

Investors might look at stocks with strong fundamentals. Other this smaller, under-appreciated businesses are the best companies to invest in, as they might have great growth potential. What you choose is up to you, but a blend of technical and fundamental analysis will give you a clearer view of the markets and help inform your choices.

There are some methods you can use to find out a stock’s valuation and whether it has been under or overvalued.

How to tell if a stock is over or undervalued

It’s important to note that when analysing stocks in this way you’re not looking for cheap or expensive stocks.

You should be trying to find quality stocks that are priced below or above their fair valuations. Assuming market prices correct themselves over time to reflect stocks’ true values could potentially make you a profit. You might work on this assumption by taking a long position on an undervalued stock, or by going short on an overvalued one.

Stocks may also be over or undervalued if market conditions change due to shifting dynamics, news, cyclical fluctuations, or misjudged results.

Let’s talk about dividends

Dividend stocks are often found in a long-term investor’s portfolios. A dividend is a portion of a company’s profits it can choose to return to shareholders. Investors can either take those dividends for themselves, but many choose to reinvest the dividend payment, which in turn can lead to higher gains down the line.

Not all companies pay dividends, but those that tend to be popular stock picks. You might consider them if you’re going for a long-term investment strategy. They may be some of the best shares to invest.

Investing & risk

Investing is inherently risky. You can make money, but you can also lose it if stocks turn against you. Only invest if you can afford any potential losses. Make sure to diversify your portfolio too, so you’re more protected against risk.

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