April 2020: A mad bounce

It’s been a much calmer month in the markets.

Of course it’s been the month that the UK’s Prime Minister went to hospital, with a “50:50” chance of making it out alive.

Lockdown has been the word on everybody’s lips. I spent the entire month working (hard! Even a bit over the long Easter weekend) from home. And, while the UK extended its lockdown from 3 weeks to 6, by the end of the month the lockdown mood music from across Europe and beyond had noticeably improved.

Markets up almost 10%

And, my, how the market’s mood had improved. The US, the S&P rose from 2462 on 1 April to 2923 on 29 April, a rise of 19%. In a month. If you had the courage to burn dry powder on US equities in late March you could have seen over 20% gains since. My (slightly leveraged) “US tech” equity subportfolio rose about 25% – led by Amazon breaking to new highs above $2400.

S&P 500, FTSE-100, AMZN over April

US equities were in fact the standout winner, up 13% in the month, while other equity markets rose 4-6%. In part, this reflects ‘big tech’ (which account for >10% of the US market). Bonds had a pretty good month too, aside from in Oz – where the currency recovered 4%.

April 2020 market & currency movements

What’s going on : is it QE?

I have been finding the market hard to fathom.

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My ISAs need a topup

It’s that time of year again. The start of the new UK tax year (for ancient reasons, UK tax years begin on 6 April).  My favourite time in the financial calendar.

It’s time to top up the annual ISA.  ISAs are the tax-free savings accounts we are – unusually in the world – blessed with in the UK.  While the funds we put into an ISA are net of tax, with no pension-like tax relief when we save, all subsequent returns are tax free.  Forever.  If you are fortunate enough to have £20k lying around, and you move it into an ISA…. by the time it has doubled, say, four times (which it probably will, if you invest in low-cost equity trackers and live long enough) it may well be producing £20k a year of tax-free income. If you can do this enough times, when you are young, your ISA will knock your pension into a cocked hat. 

There are no upper limits on how much you can have in your ISA pots, unlike pensions. Hence, one of my ambitions is to (live long enough to) build an ISA pot worth potentially $100m.  

However, with markets melting down over the last two months, it is definitely a case of two steps forward, one step backwards. Nonetheless, my ISA’s income is £24k – up about 10% on last year – so our (two) ISAs are generating more than one of us can top up every year.  

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Portfolio tracking spreadsheet: v2.0 release notes

This post is a sequel to my Investment Tracking Spreadsheet post of three years ago.  A number of readers have found the spreadsheet (‘example portfolio returns tracker’) outlined in that post helpful, so it’s time to bring it up to date. 

Since I wrote that post I have in fact been using a Google Sheet as my ‘day to day’ tracking tool, which gives me live prices on most of my holdings.  My tracking Google Sheet uses the very same FvL example workbook as its master ‘database’, so the security data (tickers, expense ratios, etc) is updated fairly regularly. 

I have taken advantage of the long Easter weekend to release an updated public sheet (here) which supports live prices.  The difficult bit is that it handles both equities (via GoogleFinance) and also funds (as listed on Hargreaves Lansdown). 

The sheet is still read only, but you can make a copy (either download a copy in Excel, or make a copy in Google Sheets) to edit yourself.  All appropriate disclaimers apply – use at your own risk.

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