Where to find cheap stuff

The flight of capital from panicked markets has left behind a bevy of bargains for the rest of us, says Merryn Somerset Webb. So where should you put your money now?

What do you do when the world is falling to bits around you? You can panic. After all, everyone else is. Or you could not panic. Here at MoneyWeek, we're going for the latter.

We at least have the advantage of not being surprised by the events of the last few weeks. Regular readers will know that, with a few minor wobbles, we have remained utterly pessimistic about the global economic outlook for going on a decade. We've never believed that things would return in a hurry to what those who have spent the last 30 years in the market consider to be normal; and we've always assumed that the endgame of the popping of the great credit bubble would be not one, but an ongoing series of sovereign and banking crises.

This is helping us keep things in perspective. You see, while things are bad (OK, very bad), I can't agree with last year's bulls when they tell me (repeatedly in panicky voices) that this is "the worst global economic crisis ever". There are many other contenders for the "worst ever" prize (I give you the end of the Roman Empire, the Black Death in Europe, World War I, etc), so much so that I can't even see future financial historians putting our crisis in their top ten (yet).

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So if we aren't panicking, what are we doing (apart from admiring our gold holdings)? You won't be surprised to find that the answer is looking for cheap stuff. Look at our cover storyand you will see that John thinks he's found the place he wants to let his money sit out the rest of the European crisis.

It's in the middle of the European crisis Italy, a stockmarket that now discounts almost everything that might ever go wrong in Italy and very little that might ever go right.In my blog,I mention a few other funds with exposure to peripheral Europe you might look at a subject I suspect we'll return to often in the coming months.

Otherwise, we're still keeping an eye on the good quality, income-producing stocks that have a history of producing the best returns in the market over the long term. We have a few funds that do this that we have long liked. On the unit trust side I'm keen on Kennox and we have, of course, long been on at you to own the likes of Bruce Stout's Murray International.

But there's a new contender for the space in your portfolio devoted to quality and income: Socit Gnrale's new Quality Income ETN (SGQI). While, as an ETN (exchange traded note), it comes with SocGen's credit risk, it is cheap (the management fee is 0.7%), global, defines quality in terms of balance sheet strength and, most importantly, tracks a quality income index created by strategists Andrew Lapthorne, Dylan Grice and Georgios Oikonomou.

Their backtesting shows that it has delivered net total returns of over 11% a year for the last 20 years. I'm considering it for my Isa, alongside the Italy ETF from this week's cover story. And you might want to do the same.

Merryn Somerset Webb

Merryn Somerset Webb started her career in Tokyo at public broadcaster NHK before becoming a Japanese equity broker at what was then Warburgs. She went on to work at SBC and UBS without moving from her desk in Kamiyacho (it was the age of mergers).

After five years in Japan she returned to work in the UK at Paribas. This soon became BNP Paribas. Again, no desk move was required. On leaving the City, Merryn helped The Week magazine with its City pages before becoming the launch editor of MoneyWeek in 2000 and taking on columns first in the Sunday Times and then in 2009 in the Financial Times

Twenty years on, MoneyWeek is the best-selling financial magazine in the UK. Merryn was its Editor in Chief until 2022. She is now a senior columnist at Bloomberg and host of the Merryn Talks Money podcast -  but still writes for Moneyweek monthly. 

Merryn is also is a non executive director of two investment trusts – BlackRock Throgmorton, and the Murray Income Investment Trust.