Where you should put your money for the new year: A selection of financial experts offer investment advice for 1994

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THE NEXT 12 months offer opportunities for savers, as long as they are prepared to choose carefully where they invest their funds.

The Independent asked a number of financial experts, including accountants, independent advisers, lawyers and stockbrokers, for their tips in the coming year.

David Norton is an accountant and director of Norton Partners, a financial planning company. 'Anyone looking for a low-risk income fund might want to consider international utilities,' he says.

'The Cazenove Utility Bond Fund pays annual income at 6.2 per cent gross and can be placed in a PEP, avoiding tax charges. It also has low management charges.'

Another income fund is the Newton International Bond, currently paying 7.3 per cent a year and among the top performing funds in its sector last year.

Mr Norton also suggests the Hypo Foreign & Colonial Protected Capital Plus Fund, which is linked to rises in the FT-SE 100 share index. But the original investment is protected if the market falls. Among higher-risk investments, he singles out the Prolific Technology Fund, which invests in international high-technology shares. 'They are very volatile but potentially superb in the long term,' he says.

Brian Tora, chairman of the investment strategy committee at stockbroker Greig Middleton, says: 'The case for China is still very compelling. In that area, I would recommend the Fleming Chinese Fund.'

Europe may be another suitable area for savings, given a predicted economic recovery. Mr Tora recommends the Fidelity European Values Fund as a worthwhile investment.

He adds: 'The successful conclusion of the Gatt talks should be good for some parts of the American economy. The Foreign & Colonial US Smaller Companies Fund is a good fund in this area.

'If one wanted to be clever, it might be an idea to look at investment trusts approaching the end of their lives. In order to extend them, they will offer deals that favour the investor. Sphere, a UK high-income fund, has about 18 months to run.'

Mr Tora also singles out M&G Recovery as likely to outperform its sectors. Finally, he recommends funds investing in east European privatisations: 'The Polish market increased eightfold last year because of all the money kicked in to it.'

David Hanrahan, financial services manager at Coole & Haddock, the Sussex-based law firm, says: 'For a fund group, I would be looking to Fidelity. They are innovative and have previously shown good performance.'

Mr Hanrahan recommends Gartmore British Growth to those who want to invest in UK funds. He says the fund, which invests in blue-chip companies, has performed strongly since its launch. He adds: 'For income, and still low risk, the Newton Income Fund pays about 4.1 per cent, slightly above the UK average, with good capital growth.'

For those looking to the Continent in the expectation of gaining from its economic recovery next year, the Fidelity European Fund has a good long-term perfomance record. In addition, The Morgan Grenfell Europe Growth Trust, a medium-risk fund, has had consistent top-10 perfomance in that sector. Finally, Mr Hanrahan advises more speculative investors to look to the commercial property market, especially where properties have assured tenancies. He tips Norwich Property Trust as a potential gainer in 1994.

Roddy Kohn, of the financial adviser Kohn Cougar, says: 'A relatively low-risk investment is the Perpetual Smaller Companies Trust. Also, the John Govett High Income Investment Trust pays a sensible income of about 6 per cent but with reasonable prospects for capital growth.

More speculative investors can opt for John Govett's Mexican Horizons Investment Trust. 'If they want to go for something a bit hotter than a building society account, they can look to City Financial's Beckman International Capital Trust, which invests in gilts and fixed-interest securities,' Mr Kohn advises.

'Generally, the vast majority of readers should not take a one-year look at any investments. Like anything else, they should be looking to the long term when they invest their money,' Mr Kohn cautions.

However, Alan Steel, a financial consultant at Alan Steel Asset Management, says he prefers not to give specific product tips.

'For the last 20 years, consumers have been buying products rather than focusing on their needs. Every day I come across people who buy products. They have had them stuffed down their throats. They may not even be appropriate.

'The coming year should be one where people do a thorough spring clean of their finances. It should be one for thinking strategy rather than buying products per se.'


DAVID NORTON: Cazenove Utility & Bond Fund, Newton International Bond, Hypo Foreign & Colonial Capital Plus, Prolific Technology.

BRIAN TORA: Robert Fleming China Fund, Fidelity European Values, F&C United States Smaller Companies, Sphere, M&G Recovery.

DAVID HANRAHAN: Gartmore British Growth, Newton Income Fund, Morgan Grenfell Europe Growth Fund, Norwich Property Trust.

RODDY KOHN: Perpetual Smaller Companies, John Govett High Income, John Govett Mexican Horizons.

ALAN STEEL: Focus less on products and more on tax planning in the year ahead.

(Photographs omitted)