Here are a few of these moves:
• Consider adding stocks. With stock prices having climbed higher and higher for more than five years, you might be wondering if it’s time to scale back on your ownership of equities. After all, no “bull” market lasts forever. Still, some factors point to continued strength for stocks over the long term. First, we are seeing signs of improving economic growth; employment gains and low oil prices are giving consumers more confidence, leading to a boost in spending. Second, corporate earnings — a key driver of stock prices — were quite strong in the second half of 2014, and companies appear poised to show more good results in 2015. Third, stocks — at least large-company stocks — are still reasonably valued, as measured by their price-to-earnings ratios (P/E). Given these factors, you might want to think about adding quality stocks to your holdings — assuming, of course, these stocks can help meet your needs for a balanced portfolio. And be aware that even the most favorable conditions can’t assure a continued run-up in stock prices, which can and will fluctuate.
• Prepare for rising interest rates. For several years, interest rates have been at, or near, historical lows. Given the strengthening economy, and the decreased need for stimulus, the Federal Reserve may well raise short-term interest rates in 2015, perhaps as early as this summer. But long-term rates may start rising even before then, so you may want to take a close look at your bonds and other fixed-rate investments. As you probably know, when interest rates rise, the value of existing bonds typically falls because investors won’t pay full price for your bonds when they can get newly issued ones that pay higher rates. One way to combat the effects of rising rates is to build a “ladder” consisting of short-, intermediate- and long-term bonds. With such a ladder, you’ll be able to redeem your maturing short-term bonds and reinvest them in the new, higher-paying bonds.
• Look for investment opportunities abroad. Although economic growth has been slow in parts of the world, especially China, many countries have now initiated policies to spur economic growth. These actions can create opportunities for international equity investments. Keep in mind, though, that international investing involves particular risks, such as currency fluctuations and political and economic instability. So if you are considering foreign investments, you may want to consult with a financial professional.
There are no guarantees, but by following the above suggestions, you may be able to take advantage of what looks to be a fairly favorable investment environment for 2015. While you should make the most of your investment decisions based on long-term considerations, it’s always a good idea to be attuned to what’s happening in the world around you — and to respond appropriately.
This article was written by Edward Jones for Jean Kim Sears of Irvington, New York.