Look east for new year opportunities: Nic Cicutti finds fund managers impressed by Japan's recovery

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The Far East remains a promising area for investors in 1994, with Japan fancied by many fund managers as an economy on the mend and Taiwan and Korea favourites in the emerging markets sector.

Britain, the rest of Europe and the US are also seen as attractive areas, provided the long-awaited recovery finally gathers pace.

The investment tips for the coming 12 months come from a straw poll of fund managers.

Ian Chimes, managing director of Credit Suisse Investment Funds, sees the Far East, especially Japan, as an important area for long-term savers. 'The dynamism of the Chinese economy will be an increasingly positive influence on the rest of Asia,' he says.

'Growing political maturity in the region bodes well for future stability. We now believe that South- east Asia merits a place as a core holding for the long term in an investor's portfolio.'

Strong economic growth in the region is possible, given even a mild recovery in more mature economies, such as Europe and the US, Mr Chimes adds.

Clive Boothman, managing director at Schroder Unit Trusts, also tips Japan. 'Once the recovery happens the market is likely to rise very strongly,' he predicts. While Hong Kong and Singapore are worthwhile areas in which to invest, Schroder is keener on Taiwan and Korea because they are undervalued and have good earnings growth.

Over the longer term, Mr Boothman says the UK composite insurance and property markets have good investment potential.

'They have had a rough time in the past two or three years but should recover quickly if interest rates come down,' he adds.

Brian O'Neill, investment director at Gartmore Fund Managers, says: 'Some of the Asian markets have moved ahead strongly in 1993, but there is scope for good performance in Korea and Taiwan.

'The Indian sub-continent should offer interesting opportunities, while there should be a broadening of interest in Latin America in the smaller company area.' He also recommends the UK as an area for investment, with economic recovery aided by the Budget.

A pick-up in world economic activity should also revive interest in resource shares, such as base metals or oils, although it is hard to see gold repeating this year's success. 'Japan has been a difficult market for investors in 1993,' Mr O'Neill adds. 'We believe there could be a good buying opportunity in 1994.'

Richard Eats, managing director of Henderson Unit Trust Managers, says: 'Our nap for 1994 is global technology funds, which are under- valued. We are still bullish about the US.'

Another sector he predicts may show significant growth is small Japanese companies. He says: 'Interest rates have been cut and a lot of money is being chucked at the economy. It could mean a very exciting earnings growth.'

Paddy Linaker, chief executive of the M&G group, says: 'We still believe in the East, but the terrific rise we have seen in recent months does take some of the gilt off the gingerbread. In Europe we are realistic. There are some signs of a recovery, mainly by means of monetary policy and lowering interest rates.'

Another area favoured by M&G is gold and commodities funds. 'Commodities are at a historically low level and we are optimistic about that sector,' he says. 'There are good long-term arguments for the patient investor.'

In the UK, Mr Linaker recommends basic industries and recovery stocks, mostly in manufacturing: 'The benefits of a more competitive pound have not come through to manufacturing yet. We will see that coming through in 1994 and probably 1995.'

Peter Smith, managing director of Axa Equity & Law Investment Managers, sounds a note of caution.

'We would not expect markets to repeat the high returns of 1993,' he warns. 'Equity markets are on very high multiples historically. It will be a year where clever stock-picking will pay off, even though markets will grow more slowly.

'The US is safe. Recovery there is steady. It is almost the lowest rated market. Our nap is UK property. Many more funds are coming back into the market, pushing up capital values strongly.'

(Photograph omitted)

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