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Tullow Oil slumps following ANOTHER disastrous update. This is what I’d do now

2019 proved to be a disastrous year for Tullow Oil (LSE: TLW) and its share price. Investors have been used to price drops in recent years, but the 64% reversal suffered last year was catastrophic. And it hasnt got off to the best of starts in 2020 after issuing a disappointing exploration update on the first trading day of the new year. That sent its share price sharply lower in the morning and despite bouncing back a little, it is still down by 7% as I write.

Whoops!

So what has Tullow said to spook traders on Thursday? Well on the plus side, it said that it had struck oil at its Carapa-1 exploration well off the coast of Ghana. News that results came in below pre-drilling forecasts was less encouraging, however, although no exact readings were given.

Commenting on the results, chief operating officer Mark Macarlane said: While net pay and reservoir development at this location are below our pre-drill estimates, we are encouraged to find good quality oil which proves the extension of the prolific Cretaceous play into our acreage.

We will now integrate the results of the three exploration wells drilled in these adjacent licences into our Guyana and Suriname geological and geophysical models before deciding the future work programme.

Once bitten

Unpredictable and often disappointing exploration and production reports are part-and-parcel of the oil and gas industry. Unfortunately for investors in Tullow, though, this has been the norm for the past several months.

The drillers share price fell off a cliff in November after it scaled back production estimates for the third time in 2019 because of long-running drilling problems at the En14-P production well in the TEN offshore field in Ghana, allied with mechanical problems at its Jubilee asset. As a consequence, full-year output estimates were slashed to 87,000 barrels per day from a prior estimate of between 89,000 and 93,000 barrels.

Twice shy

But that November fall paled in comparison to the drop in December following another shocking update, one in which it cut its 2020 production to between 70,000 and 80,000 barrels per day and advised that it anticipated output of 70,000 barrels for the following three years.

With its key assets performing significantly below expectations, Tullow axed the dividend and vowed to reassess future investment plans too. And it also decided to cut both chief executive Paul McDade and exploration director Angus McCoss adrift, meaning that key decisions will need to be made without someone currently in the hot seat. It gives plenty for shareholders to chew over (or should that be stew over?) before the next trading statement is released on January 15, and a full and frank financial and operational update is given when full-year results come out on February 12.

Investment in the oil sector is already becoming an increasingly risky business as the global economy (and thus energy demand) cools, and non-OPEC nations gradually ramp up crude supply to put further pressure on the oil price outlook. And clearly the operational problems over at Tullow Oil add another significant layer of danger. The companys forward P/E ratio of 8.5 times might make it cheap on paper, but its trading at bargain-basement levels for a reason. I wont be touching it with a bargepole.

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Stocks had a great year in 2019, but if you’re a FTSE 100 investor you may be disappointed. Here’s why

After a poor 2018, global stock markets, as a whole, produced strong gains in 2019. On the back of more accommodative monetary policy from major central banks across the world, and optimism that the trade war situation may finally be resolved, stocks had one of their best years since the Global Financial Crisis.

That said, if you only own FTSE 100 stocks (as Im sure many UK investors do due to whats known as home bias), you may be a bit disappointed by last years performance. You see, in 2019, the FTSE 100 produced a return of just 12% plus dividends, which compared to the returns of other major stock market indices such as the S&P 500 (29% plus dividends) and the STOXX Europe 600 (23% plus dividends), is actually quite low.

So why did the FTSE 100 produce such underwhelming returns compared to other stock market indices last year?

Underperformers

One of the main reasons the FTSE 100 underperformed last year is that many of the companies that have large weightings in the index are struggling for growth right now and this is reflected in their share price performances.

For example, some of the largest holdings in the Footsie are the oil majors Royal DutchShell and BP, and global bank HSBC. Together, these three companies make up a large chunk of the index. Now, last year, the share prices of all three of these companies ended lower than they started. That will have created a huge drag on the index.

By contrast, the largest holdings in the S&P 500 index include the likes of Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon. These three companies are all growing at a rapid rate and this is reflected in their share prices. Last year, Apple shares rose nearly 90% (Warren Buffett will be happy as its his top stock), while Microsoft and Amazon shares rose around 55% and 23% respectively. Its these kind of strong performances that will have turbocharged the main US index.

Brexit uncertainty

Of course, Brexit will have also impacted the FTSE 100s returns throughout the year. Despite the fact that many companies in the index are multinationals that generate a significant proportion of their revenues internationally, many global investors will have steered clear of UK equities due to the high level of economic and political uncertainty here in the UK.

Home bias can hurt your returns

Ultimately, the FTSE 100s poor performance last year shows how important it is to avoid home bias, and diversify your portfolio properly.

If you only owned a FTSE 100 tracker fund, or a handful of FTSE 100 stocks last year, your overall returns would have been quite underwhelming. However, had you owned a diversified portfolio that included exposure to international equities last year, chances are, your returns would have been far more impressive.

Having a strong home bias is one of the biggest mistakes that investors make. If youre reviewing your portfolio as we start the new year, nows a good time to make sure youre fully diversified.

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Forget buy-to-let! Here’s how I’d invest £20k in 2020 to make a million

The past decade has been highly profitable for many investors in buy-to-let properties. House prices across the UK have benefitted from low interest rates, a lack of supply and high demand among first-time buyers to post strong capital gains.

As such, many investors may be contemplating the purchase of property to boost their financial future. However, with the affordability of property being lower than it once was, and tax changes potentially affecting net returns, now may be the right time to look elsewhere when it comes to aiming to make a million.

Buy-to-let difficulties

The political consensus towards buy-to-let investing appears to have shifted over the past decade. Tax changes are perhaps the most obvious example of the government seeking to make it easier for first-time buyers to get on the property ladder. Property investors now pay a higher rate of stamp duty on second homes, while advantages such as being able to offset mortgage interest payments against rental income have receded for many investors.

Alongside this, house prices versus average incomes are relatively high. They are towards the upper end of their historic range, which suggests that house price growth may fail to be significantly higher than wage growth over the coming years. The end result could be relatively disappointing levels of capital growth for buy-to-let investors.

Stock market prospects

While the stock market has also experienced a decade of growth following the financial crisis, it appears to offer much better value for money than buy-to-let investments. For example, a large number of FTSE 100 shares trade on price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios that are below their historic averages at the present time. Likewise, around a quarter of large-cap shares have dividend yields that are in excess of 5%. This indicates that they could deliver further capital growth following the indexs 12% rise in 2019.

In terms of the potential catalysts to push share prices higher, an improving forecast growth rate for the world economy in 2020 could cause investor sentiment to improve. It may also enable companies operating across the world economy to experience higher growth rates in their top and bottom lines. As such, buying a range of shares could provide access to a higher rate of capital growth than buying a property especially with political risk in the UK expected to persist at high levels as Brexit negotiations continue in 2020.

Starting today

With the stock market appearing to offer long-term growth potential, now could be the right time to buy a range of shares that trade on low valuations. Doing so through a tax-efficient account such as a Stocks and Shares ISA is relatively cheap and straightforward. It could produce significantly higher returns than purchasing a buy-to-let property, and may improve your chances of making a million in the coming years.

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Retirement saving: four smart financial moves I’d make to kick off 2020

The start of a new year is always a good time to review your finances. This is particularly true if youre saving for retirement now is the perfect time to analyse your progress and determine whether youre on track to achieve your goals.

Need to get your retirement savings into shape? Heres a look at four smart financial moves that could help you.

Consolidate your pensions

One of the smartest things you can do if youre serious about retirement planning isconsolidate all your different pension accounts. When you have multiple pensions set up (as a lot of people do because theyve had multiple employers over the years) its hard to keep track of your overall pension balance and how your money is invested. This makes the process of planning for retirement more challenging.

By consolidating all your pensions into one account, youll find it much easier to keep track of your pension savings. This, in turn, will make it easier to determine whether youre on track to achieve your financial goals.

Ill point out that there are some situations in which a pension consolidation isnt the best move. For example, if youre a member of a final salary pension scheme, you may be better off leaving your account as it is. However, in general, bringing together your old pension accounts is a great idea.

Determine your overall asset allocation

Another smart move to make is to determine your overall asset allocation across all your different investment accounts (pensions, ISAs, savings accounts). When you have multiple accounts set up, it can be challenging to work out exactly how much exposure you have to different asset classes. This is a problem, because your money may not be invested optimally.

What I like to do at the start of every year is to create a spreadsheet that lists all my assets across my different accounts. Then, I group the assets into different asset classes (UK equities, global equities, property, cash) so I can see exactly how my money is invested overall. By doing this, I can determine whether I need to increase or decrease my exposure to certain asset classes.

Review your tax-efficiency

Next, make sure youre taking advantage of all the tax-efficient investment options that are on offer.

You probably know that you can put 20,000 into a Stocks and Shares ISA per year and invest this tax-free, but did you know that the Lifetime ISA (which is only open to those aged 18-40) comes with bonuses of up to 1,000 per year?

And did you know that if you contribute into your pension, the government will add in some extra money for you? The more tax-efficient your strategy, the better.

Review your investments

Finally, the start of the year is always a good time to monitor your existing investments. Do all your holdings still suit your risk tolerance? Is it worth selling any small holdings to clean up your portfolio? Have your funds performed as well as you expected? And if not, are there better options? Is your portfolio diversified properly? Are there any stocks that are worth buying at the present time? These are all good questions to ask when reviewing your investments at the start of a new year.

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Here’s how I’d invest £1,000 in an ISA to beat the FTSE 100 in 2020

The FTSE 100s performance in 2019 was stunning. The index recorded a rise of 12% during the calendar year. When its dividend is added to that figure, the FTSE 100s total return for the year was around 16%. Thats almost twice as much as its annualised total return since inception, and shows that many investors will have enjoyed a profitable 2019.

Looking ahead, the index continues to offer good value for money in many instances. Alongside this, there appears to be strong growth potential for companies operating within the UK and in international markets. By focusing on such companies, it may be possible for you to beat the index in 2020 and generate high returns within a tax-efficient product such as a Stocks and Shares ISA.

Low valuations

Despite its strong rise in 2019 and the bull market experienced over the past decade, the FTSE 100 continues to offer good value for money. For example, the index has a dividend yield of 4.4% at the present time. This is much higher than its historic average, and suggests that the index could offer further capital growth potential over the medium term.

Additionally, many of the indexs members currently trade on low valuations compared to their historic averages. This may be because of the uncertainty that has surrounded the UK and world economies in recent months. In many cases, stocks with low valuations have bright growth prospects that could mean investors have priced-in the risks they face. For long-term investors, this could present numerous buying opportunities that enable them to improve the risk/reward ratio of their portfolios.

Growth potential

Although the UK economy faces continued political uncertainty in 2020, it is expected to deliver relatively encouraging performance compared to 2019. For example, GDP growth is forecast to be similar to last year, while data such as unemployment figures and wage growth could prove to be more robust than many investors are anticipating. This could mean that those FTSE 100 companies that have exposure to the local economy deliver bottom-line growth that merits a higher share price level.

Similarly, the global economic outlook could prove to be relatively positive. The world economy is expected to grow at a faster pace in 2020 than in 2019. Since many of the FTSE 100s members have exposure to fast-growing economies such as India and China, they could benefit from rising demand for their products and services over the next 12 months.

Outlook

The FTSE 100 could deliver further impressive capital growth in 2020. Through purchasing those large-cap shares that trade on low valuations and that have exposure to fast-growing economies, it may be possible for you to outperform the wider index. In doing so, you may be able to improve your financial future especially when investing through a tax-efficient product such as a Stocks and Shares ISA.

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Forget the January Premium Bond draw results! Here’s why I prefer stocks to bonds

At the start of each month, over 22m people who have investments in Premium Bonds no doubt excitedly check their accounts to see if they have won any prizes. The sums range from smaller sub-100 prizes to the golden goose of 1m.

Given the potential to make such a large return from your initial bond stake (it can be from as little as 25) and the fact that winnings are tax-free, many look to the bonds as a great way to potentially score capital appreciation. Some even neglect investing in stocks and put their savings into Premium Bonds instead.

But is that really the best investment strategy for your money?

Low risk, low return

One of the key benefits of Premium Bonds is that they are risk-free in nature, being backed by the government. Indeed, the only way you could lose the capital invested is if the government defaulted on the debt, which is seen as unlikely. But with this comes the flip side that the return offered is very low.

Sure, you could win the 1m prize in January, or any other month, but the chance of winning this is actually 42bn-to-one (thats for every 1 invested). For me, this is more like a lottery ticket than an investment. If you had 1,000 invested in these bonds, then the statistics show that three in five people in your position would earn 0 over a 12-month period.

It is in fact logical that when buying a bond (which is a debt instrument) backed by the UK government, the return offered would be low as the government is unlikely to default on the debt issued. If there was a Premium Bond offered by the Argentinian government, then the returns would likely be substantially higher!

Sticking to stocks

If you were one of those in the category of earning 0 on the 1,000 invested over the past year, then investing in the stock market instead could offer you better returns. For a start, you can look to invest in a FTSE 100 tracker fund that pays out a dividend.

The average dividend yield of the FTSE 100 is currently 4.23%, meaning that you would get some kind of above-inflation return from your investment. There is no luck in being paid a dividend. If the fund says that it will pay one, it will be paid.

But individual stocks also offer you the opportunity to see some real capital appreciation by being an active investor. Researching a particular firm you are positive about, or reading articles suggesting potential ideas, can help you get a head start as you work to boost your investment.

Contrast this to Premium Bonds, where you have no opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Everyone is in the same boat, with the same chances of winning. This limits your potential to outperform peers.

Overall, with the January Premium Bond draw just being released, dont be disappointed if you didnt win the big prize. Indeed, you might not have won any prize. If that is the case, then I would consider reviewing my allocation, and look to move into the stock market instead.

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How I’d invest £10k following Warren Buffett’s investment tips

Legendary investor and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Warren Buffett is worth $89bn and is the third richest person in the world after Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, and Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft.

He has shared many nuggets of investing wisdom over the years, but it all boils down to considered his strategy being to buy and hold stocks for the long term. This has served him well in amassing his considerable fortune.

Some key factors Warren Buffett looks for in a company before investing include:

  • Management with integrity
  • Reasonably low price-to-earnings ratio (P/E)
  • Room for growth
  • A plan to make a profit
  • Dividend payments
  • A sensible level of debt

Spreading the risk

If I had 10k to invest today and was to follow Warren Buffetts advice, Id look for two to four companies to invest in. Around 2.5k to 5k per investment seems like a sensible sum to get started with (anything less and the transaction fees eat into any profits).

Id vary the sectors to dilute risk, and Id look to invest in areas relevant to the political climate we are living in.

Some areas of investment I anticipate increased interest in for 2020 are:

  • Plant-based diets
  • Fighting data breaches
  • Terrorism protection
  • Reducing our carbon footprint

Taking these into consideration, Id probably look for a company in health and pharmaceuticals, one in defence and one involved in manufacturing healthy ingredients. Examples that spring to mind include FTSE 100 companies Hikma Pharmaceuticals and BAE Systems and FTSE 250 business Tate & Lyle. However, these stocks all did very well in 2019 and may now have P/Es higher than preferable for a Warren Buffett-type investment.

When researching companies for yourself, its important to look at past performance, current sentiment surrounding the stock and the future outlook management has planned for the company. A good place to start is reading the latest annual report.

Debt and dividends

Choosing well-established companies that you can count on to go the distance means your money will be better protected in times of recession or political uncertainty. By investing in a company that you understand and that makes sense to you as a viable business is a big part of the selection process. Each of the companies I mentioned above make sense to me and I think they have a strong purpose in the world today.

When you find a company about which you feel the same, I must say that one key issue to be aware of is any firms debt levels. A manageable level of debt is acceptable to allow a company to grow. But if a company has too much debt, then it doesnt have the leverage to expand the business, make acquisitions or achieve shareholder retention through increases in dividends.

And dividends really count. The value of the dividend is that it can help compound your gains and increase your wealth generation more quickly than relying on share price increases alone. The promise of a dividend payment on your investment gives you as close to a guarantee as you can get for stock market gains. The power of compounding cant be overstated and over time it allows you to gain interest on your interest. I think both new and seasoned investors alike would do well to heed Warren Buffetts advice before diving headfirst into buying stocks.

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2020’s here! But how did UK FTSE 100 shares perform in 2019?

Its that time of year when we look back and reflect on the year thats just gone. From a UK stock market perspective, despite all the negative headlines and geopolitical drama, 2019 turned out to be a pretty good year for investors.

Solid gains for the FTSE 100

The FTSE 100 rose by 12% over the course of the year, largely thanks to a late post-election rally in December, when the main index rose by 5% in less than four weeks. That said, the FTSE 100 still finished the year slightly below its peak, which came back in July.

The FTSE 100 is weighted towards the companies that have the highest market capitalisations. Its also rebased at various times of the year, which involves the promotion and demotion of companies into and out of the index. In theory, this method should ensure that the FTSE 100 performs better than it otherwise would do, since falling stocks are removed and rising stocks are added.

Investing the same amount in all 100 stocks, that made up the FTSE 100 at the start of the year, would have generated a return of 18% (without dividends). Therefore, removing any weighting towards the biggest stocks would have beaten the market by 6 percentage points, supporting the idea that cheaper, smaller companies provide the greatest returns.

This average return is the one we would be most likely to get if we just picked a stock at random which is not what Im recommending. A median return of 19% shows that this average is not skewed by a few out-performers.

Some 76% of FTSE 100 constituents gained in value, while 61% managed to beat the FTSE 100s gain of 12%. This means that 24% lost value, with the average loss being 14%.

Meanwhile, half of the constituents registered gains of over 20%, with 15% returning more than 40%. At the other end of the spectrum, just 16% of stocks lost more than 10% during the year.

So what does this mean for investors?

On the face of it, this looks like it would be better to only invest in a few stocks to achieve higher returns. While its true that achieving a higher than average return is more likely when investing in a few stocks, its also more likely that a lower than average return will be achieved. Simply put, increasing the number of stocks in other words diversifying reduces investment risk.

To explain this further, if we invested equal amounts in four FTSE 100 companies at the start of the year, there would be a six percent chance that all stocks would have lost value. However, investing in all constituents would have reduced this chance to zero. Likewise, picking just one stock at random, would have had an almost 1-in-4 chance of losing value.

Personally, I am not comfortable taking on this amount of investment risk, which is why I make sure to diversify my holdings through the number of stocks that I invest in. But for best results, Im not recommending that we all just buy index trackers. I believe that by researching individual stocks, we can identify those that are more likely to outperform the market and weed out the ones that are least likely to do well.

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Which stocks should I buy in 2020?

The political backdrop of 2019 truly tested investors nerves and I think this is set to continue throughout 2020.

Despite an air of calm (along with a share price rally) descending on the markets post-election, I think this will be short-lived. The Conservative win halted the market uncertainty that had been weighing it down, but as the reality of a Boris Brexit becomes ever more real, I think the fallout for British business will be clear.

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) and sustainability themes have been at the front of investors minds as increasing concerns around climate change moved up a gear or two in 2019. Raging Australian bushfires, Greta Thunberg meeting Sir David Attenborough and Mark Carneys keynote speech warning big business to take responsibility before its too late, mean that weve ended the year with the climate emergency remaining headline news.

The pressure is on for capitalism to help prevent an almighty climate disaster and for companies to govern in a responsible way, creating opportunities, while improving lives and the environment.

Yet as investors, we shouldnt forget that crisis brings opportunity. All of which causes me to consider some companies I think could go the distance in 2020 and prosper in a world more focused on ethical and sustainability issues.

FTSE 100 favourite

Unilever (LSE:ULVR) is a FTSE 100 consumer goods specialist with many household brands under its banner include Dove soap, Surf detergent and Knorr.

Its considered a relatively safe stock to own, with its regular 3% dividend yield and plentiful supply of brands that consumers love to buy on repeat. Its also a feel-good stock as it has championed alternatives to animal testing for over 30 years and in November it received the US Corporate Consciousness Award for industry-leading work to end animal testing.

Its committed to sustainability and the environment too. It unveiled reusable packaging innovations a year ago. Last month it announced that it has partnered with speciality chemicals company Evonik to create an environmentally friendly cleaning ingredient, Rhamnolipid.

It has an 114bn market cap, price-to-earnings ratio of 17, earnings per share of 2.53 and its continued growth prospects look good too as it has considerable exposure to emerging markets such as Asia, Brazil and India.

A sweeter future

Associated British Foods (LSE:ABF) aims to provide safe, nutritious food and affordable clothing through its recognisable brands such as Twinings, Dorset Cereals, Ryvita, and Silver Spoon sugar along with its high street favourite retailer Primark.

The company has a 21bn market cap, trailing P/E of 23 and earnings per share are 1.11. Its dividend yield is 1.8%.

Despite (or perhaps because of) its Primark operation having been criticised from ethical and sustainable viewpoints in the past, in its 2019 responsibility report, it outlines its ethical business practices. Its working to reduce its carbon footprint, use natural resources efficiently and promote biodiversity.

At its December AGM, it predicted another year of strong profit and margin growth in its grocery brands. Although its sugar division brought profits down in recent years when an oversupply problem caused prices to be suppressed, this seems to be taking a turn for the better and increasing demand is expected to increase prices in 2020.

I like both these companies as potential 2020 buys as theyre long-standing businesses with a catalogue of well-known brands and FTSE 100 status. I also think theyll stand strong in post-Brexit Britain.

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How much a £1k investment in this FTSE 250 stock 10 years ago would be worth now!

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Femi Ogunshakin Managing Director
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