Year End Review of 2021

As I have published in previous years, here is a review of my own stock market portfolio performance in the calendar year 2021. I’ll repeat what I said last year to warn readers that I write this is for the education of those new to investing because I have no doubt that some experienced investors will have done a lot better than me, while some may have done worse.

It’s worth bearing in mind that my portfolio is very diversified across FTSE-100, FTSE-250 and smaller company (e.g. AIM) shares listed in the UK. I also hold a number of UK investment trusts which gives me exposure to overseas markets, and some Venture Capital Trusts (VCTs). Although I have some emphasis on AIM shares, they are not the very speculative ones.

One feels wary of publishing such data because when you have a good year you appear to be a clever dick with an inflated ego, while in a bad year you look a fool. Consistency is not applauded on social media. But here’s a summary of my portfolio performance which turned out to be a good year despite the damage done to economies by the Covid pandemic. Total return including dividends was up 19.3% which I consider a good result bearing in mind that the FTSE All-Share was only up 14.56% which I use as my benchmark (the latter figure does not include dividends though). But the FTSE All-Share is dominated by FTSE-100 companies – the dinosaurs of the financial world in many cases – of which I hold relatively few.

During the year, and in the previous year, I had moved to a more defensive portfolio position as I thought the market was somewhat overvalued although I retained a strong emphasis in technology stocks. Cash holdings increased as I sold out from a number of companies early in the year when over-optimism for a quick recovery from the pandemic seemed common. I did purchase more holdings in property companies where REITs and property investment trusts seemed to me to be on excessively high discounts and warehousing companies such SEGRO and Urban Logistics benefited from more internet retailing. Self-storage property company Safestore also contributed. Bigger holdings in property companies also helped total dividends received to increase, with good pay-outs from VCTs also making total dividends received to be the highest level for 4 years.

Smaller technology stocks were a very mixed bunch – Tracsis was up substantially despite the fact that I expected train companies to cut back expenditure as their passenger revenue must have fallen. Clearly it’s a sector more reliant on government subsidies than simple economics to make money. Other smaller winners were DotDigital, SDI and Judges Scientific but GB Group fell substantially. Diploma and Reach were other winners supported by takeovers at Ultra Electronics and Wey Education. I had no substantial individual company losses during the year which always helps overall portfolio performance. Perhaps I am getting better at avoiding the duds.

My investment trust and fund holdings all did well often because they have substantial US holdings. I failed to beat Terry Smith’s performance at Fundsmith for yet another year but Scottish Mortgage and Polar Capital Technology produced only moderate performances as all but mega-cap technology stocks fell out of favour.

What does the future hold? Inflation is rising as Governments pump money into the economy in response to the epidemic while interest rates are still at record low levels. It’s certainly no time to be holding bonds or other fixed interest stocks. It’s a return to the good old days when you could buy a house that was rapidly inflating in price when the mortgage cost was much lower than the inflation gain. So I expect house builders to continue to do well as there is still a shortage of housing in some parts of the country despite a few people returning home to the EU. Brexit turned out to be a damp squib so far as most UK people are concerned and I see no great change in that regard in the coming year.

A year ago I said “some things may permanently change as we have become used to doing more on-line shopping, working from home, travelling less and getting our education on-line”. Those are the trends that will continue I suggest. The movement to improve the environment and halt global warming which is requiring substantial changes to the UK and other economies continues to be a priority for the Government and many businesses although there is too much hot air spouted on the subject. One has to be very careful about enthusiasm for “hot” market sectors – they often turn out to be flashes in the pan.

It looks like we will need to learn to live with Covid-19 as variants arise which hopefully will be less virulent. You can expect to receive repeat vaccinations against Covid variants – I already have my fourth lined up. Life may gradually return to normal – at least I hope so.

Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson  )

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