Published On: Mon, Jan 1st, 2024

Bitcoin hits $100,000 and UK shares boom in 2024 – but there’s bad news for savers | Personal Finance | Finance


Wall Street, savings rates, the gold price and bond yields all rose in 2024, while cryptocurrency Bitcoin flew to the moon. Some individual stocks did brilliantly, with US chip maker Nvidia skyrocketing 238 percent. UK-listed aircraft engine maker Rolls-Royce almost matched that by growing a blockbuster 225 percent, making it the best performer on the FTSE 100.

Cash has been king this year. Laith Khalaf, head of investment analysis at AJ Bell, said savers have revelled in the forgotten delight of getting a reasonable rate of interest for little or no risk.

Now he warns the fun may be coming to an end. “Markets are pricing in several interest rate cuts next year, which would hit savers if it happens.”

Today, bank rate stands at 5.25 percent. Markets reckon the Bank of England could cut it to just 3.5 percent by year end, as the inflation threat recedes.

Rates on fixed-term savings bonds will fall before then. In fact, the process has already started as banks and building societies get in ahead of base rate cuts.

Khalaf said: “Savings rates are already coming off the boil, with the average one-year fixed rate now offering 5.2 percent, down from 5.5 percent in October.”

Savers might soon find they can get more from easy access accounts, without having to lock their money away.

Today, Metro Bank pays a market-leading variable rate of 5.22 percent, with Cynergy Bank paying 5.10 percent. These rates will fall the moment the BoE cuts base rate, though.

Don’t leave too much money in cash, Khalaf said. 

Barclays data going all the way back to 1899 shows that shares beat cash nine years in 10, and equities will look even more attractive when savings rates start to slide.

New York’s S&P 500 index rocketed 25 percent last year, as the so-called Magnificent Seven US technology stocks such as Apple, Microsoft and Nvidia surged due to the hype over artificial intelligence.

Now US shares look expensive. “Sky-high US tech stock valuations leave little room for performance error. Any slip-ups could be harshly punished,” Khalaf said.

The FTSE 100 disappointed yet again in 2023. The benchmark index grew just 2.37 percent, with a total return of 6.27 percent once the average dividend yield of 3.9 percent is included. “UK banks, mining and insurance companies look pedestrian compared to the fast-moving US tech revolutionaries,” Khalaf said.

Yet the FTSE did enjoy a year-end rally and 2024 could be better, as UK stocks pay some of the most generous dividends in the world. They will look even more attractive once savings rates and bond yields fall.

The gold price spiked to all-time high of almost $2,200 an ounce in early December, up 15 percent on the start of the year.

The precious metal pays no income but that is less of a concern with savings rates and bond yields set to slide.

Gold is supposed to be a safe haven but Khalaf said the price can be volatile and urges caution. 

“People rush to buy gold in times of financial stress but afterwards it can fall quickly. Between 1980 and 1982, the gold price fell by over 60 percent, and by 45 percent between 2011 and 2015.”

READ MORE: Plunging inflation changes EVERYTHING – 2024 just got a lot better

The bond market rebounded in 2023 as higher interest rates pushed up yields and slashed prices.

Bonds are no longer boring, said Emma Wall, head of investment analysis and research at Hargreaves Lansdown. “This could the most interesting entry point in decades, with income and growth both possible.”

Bonds are more volatile than before but have nothing on cryptocurrency Bitcoin, which enjoyed a blistering year.

It started 2023 at $16,000 and ends it trading at just over $42,000, a rise of more than 160 percent.

Alyse Killeen, managing partner of Stillmark Capital, said demand will rise even higher if the US grants regulatory approval to exchange traded funds (ETFs) investing in Bitcoin. “They could attract everybody from big institutions to people who don’t read the financial pages.”

The so-called Bitcoin “halving” in April will cut supply, further squeezing up the price, she said.

Bloomberg reckons the price will top $50,000 next year. Standard Chartered predicts $100,000. Matrixport predicts $63,140 by April and $125,000 by the end of the year. BitQuant predicts anything up to $250,000. Cryptonews reckons the price could hit $300,000, but only in 2028.

The only certainty is that Bitcoin and other cryptos will remain risky and volatile, and most ordinary investors should stand well clear.

Investment predictions are wholly unreliable. The best way to survive whatever 2024 throws at us is to build a balanced portfolio containing cash, bonds, shares gold and (possibly) Bitcoin, adjusted to match your own attitude to risk.

That reduces your losses if one asset class crashes, as at least one of them surely will.



Source link

Verified by MonsterInsights