The funds that look set to sparkle whether you're cautious or cavalier

Where high-risk and low-risk investors should go in what could be a bumpy year for shares
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The Independent Online

It could be time to hold on to your hats.

Maybe you're looking to buy shares for the first time through an equity individual savings account (ISA), or just trying to shake up your portfolio.

Either way, the global stock markets in 2007 are likely to provide the same bumpy ride as they did in 2006, warn fund managers, independent financial advisers (IFAs) and seasoned market watchers.

Last year, a vertiginous FTSE 100 dip in May - the index dropped by nearly 200 points in a single day's trading - provided a scare for millions of investors. Yet the UK markets crawled back up and finished over 10 per cent up on the year.

The bumps over the next 12 months will probably be provided by the US economy, as the powerhouse behind global growth is now slowing amid concerns about a housing crash - although few managers expect a full-blown recession.

But there are worries over the UK economy, too. A bearish view - held by Neil Woodford, a fund manager at Invesco Perpetual - is that high levels of personal debt built up by consumers over the past few years will force people to tighten their belts in the coming months, putting the brakes on spending.

Others are more hopeful. Clive Beagles, a fund manager at JO Hambro Capital Management, says UK stocks are still quite low priced and paying out hefty dividends. "We expect markets to continue to rise over the coming months," he adds.

For investors hoping to invest their hard-earnt cash in 2007 - whether they're cautious or happy to take risks in the pursuit of potentially high returns - here's a guide to the funds favoured by the specialists.

High risk

There are a few opportunities for those prepared to chance their arm.

Ben Yearsley at IFA Hargreaves Lansdown tips the Neptune Russia and Greater Russia fund, run by Robin Geffen. This was the best performer of any UK investment fund in 2006, returning 56.74 per cent. "Russia is going to be a pretty decent market this year. It is still relatively cheap [for share values], and oil and natural gas prices are high, which means cash is flowing into the country."

Hugo Shaw at IFA Bestinvest says technology funds are worth a look - a tip that might send shudders down the spines of any investors with memories of the post-millennium bursting of the tech bubble. However, he explains: "Many think that after several years of struggling, there is money to be made in this area."

For the more speculative investor, he advocates the SG Technology fund or AXA Framlington Biotech fund.

Medium risk

For those with a more moderate approach to risk, Mr Yearsley argues that the Income fund run by Neil Woodford at Invesco Perpetual remains a good core investment. "It is a boring and sensible fund but he is a very good manager."

Mr Shaw says moderate investors should think about continental Europe, arguing that because interest rates are lower, it is easier for firms to borrow to take each other over and boost share prices into the bargain. The Cazenove European fund is worth considering, he says.

Low risk

People in this category should look at non-equity funds, with Mr Shaw believing that bonds and property should form a part of most portfolios, although many specialists warn that returns from bricks and mortar are set to plummet.

Mr Shaw suggests either the New Star or Norwich Union Property funds, which are UK focused.

For those investors who want better returns than with cash savings but don't want to take too big a risk, Neil Shillito, director of SG Wealth Management, thinks the Investec Cautious Managed fund, run by Alistair Mundy, is a useful vehicle. It is around 60 per cent invested in large British companies, with the remainder in fixed interest.

"Alistair Mundy's track record is very good and [the fund] returns around 9 per cent year in, year out," explains Mr Shillito.

"It is stable and has low volatility but consistent high single-digit returns. Investors are getting twice cash with very low risk."

Cash funds that try to beat prevailing interest rates are also an option, he says. But he adds: "If you are that cautious, I'd say: 'Why not just stuff it in a savings account?'"

Tim Sharp writes for 'New Model Adviser' magazine, published by Citywire

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