There is much sanctimonious finger-wagging in the press at the moment, defending the Chancellor's move to prevent residential property investment using Sipps.
"Yes," our learned commentators say, "Gordon Brown left it a bit late to tell everyone, but at the end of the day, he's made the right decision. It's the investment industry's fault for being so focused on tax avoidance."
Rubbish. It's the right of every sensible individual to minimise the amount of tax they pay, and the investment industry should do all it can to help people with this. All Mr Brown's cack-handed U-turn demonstrates is that he can't be trusted to run a bath, let alone an economy. Which is what we've been saying for years.
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We think people should be able to put their pension savings into whatever they want. But we also believe that putting your pension solely into property, particularly UK residential property at today's prices, would be a huge mistake.
So that begs the question what do we reckon looks good for the long term?
Long-term pension options: invest in India
Well, if you're interested in "a very special long-term story", India provides just that, reckons respected financial commentator David Fuller. India is his "favourite core investment position for the very long term."
The Sensex, India's main stock exchange, has risen more than 30% since the start of this year, and is on its way to breaching the 9,000 mark. That puts it at a hefty current p/e ratio of 19, compared to around 12 for South Korea, 15 for Singapore and 10 for Thailand.
But Fuller reckons that though the market is "relatively expensive", it is "far from a bubble." He believes that in the medium term, foreign investors may pull out in reaction to shocks elsewhere in the global economy, which could pull down the Sensex but this would just be "another great buying opportunity."
And there's still plenty of demand for Indian shares, both from foreign investors and importantly, from domestic ones. India's largest consumer lender, ICICI, has just raised $1.5bn, or 70bn rupees, in what was the country's second-largest share sale ever. Domestic buyers picked up a full 71% of the issued shares, which means that foreign ownership of the bank is set to fall to about 70% from 73%.
Financial services is the fastest expanding part of the Indian economy, growing at an annual rate of 9.9% during the third quarter of this year. The boom has been fuelled by the growth in India's middle class, which has tripled in size to 300m people in the past 20 years.
And that expansion seems set to continue. In the past week alone, investment bank JP Morgan, software giant Microsoft and chipmaker Intel have announced plans to increase investment in the country.
JP Morgan is doubling its India-based workforce to 9,000, mainly to clear up its backlog of outstanding derivatives contracts. This is a problem facing all investment banks, and as Christopher Hughes points out on Breakingviews.com, JPM "doubtless presumes that by jumping in first it will be able to get the best graduates for the finest prices. Other banks may not be too far behind."
Meanwhile, Microsoft plans to invest $1.7bn and nearly double its workforce to 7,000 in the next four years, and Intel is to spend $1bn on boosting its research and development in the country.
These are all high-end, high-paying jobs, which means the Indian middle class is only set to get bigger. And that means more loans to pay for more houses, cars and (eventually, no doubt) plasma-screen TVs.
For more on India, and its property market in particular, take a look at this feature: Indian property booming not bubbling.
And anyone interested in investing in India should read this special report from MoneyWeek, looking at this very sector: Move over China - why India has the real investment potential.
Long-term pension options: invest in gold
Another sound long-term investment, and one that the population of India, and most other Asian countries are also keen on, is gold. It's at two-decade highs just now, but it's likely to have much further to go.
One commentator reckons it could hit $600 an ounce by the end of this year. That might be optimistic, though perhaps not - it's hard to make such concrete predictions over such a short timescale.
But in the longer term? CLSA broker Christopher Wood says that he is "comfortable" with a price target of $3,700 an ounce by the end of this decade. That's a more than sevenfold increase in just five years.
Regular readers may have read it before, but for new subscribers and those who want a refresher, here's our guide to investing in gold: How to invest in gold.
Oh, and if you'd like to read MoneyWeek's take on the pre-Budget report, there's more in this week's issue, out on Friday. If you haven't subscribed yet, you can get your first three issues free, just by clicking here: subscribe to MoneyWeek magazine
Turning to less exotic stock markets...
The FTSE 100 closed 10 points lower at 5,528. Oil giants BG and BP were pulled lower by news that US crude oil stockpiles increased by more than expected last week. But Asian banking specialist Standard Chartered was the main faller, shedding 3% to £12.15 on a lacklustre trading update. On the upside, mobile phone giant Vodafone recovered some of its recent losses, rising 2% to 128.75p as it reported the best subscriber growth since July last year at its Japanese unit during November.
The mid-cap FTSE 250 index gained 17 to 8,504. Rail and bus operator Stagecoach was the main loser, down 6% to 116.25p as its first half results suffered from increased rail bid costs.
Over in continental Europe, the German Dax Xetra fell 34 points to 5,266, while the Paris Cac 40 fell 16 to 4,660.
Across the Atlantic, US stocks fell back from recent gains. The Dow Jones fell 45 points to 10,810, the S&P 500 slipped 6 to 1,257, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped 8 to 2,252.
In Asian trading hours, oil edged higher after yesterday's falls, trading at around $59.40 a barrel in New York, while Brent crude traded at around $55.60.
Meanwhile, spot gold set yet another fresh high, climbing to $518.50 an ounce, a level not seen since April 1981. Silver also hit its highest level since August 1987, reaching $8.86 an ounce.
In Asian stock markets, the Nikkei 225 dived 301 points to 15,183. Government data showed smaller-than-expected growth in machinery orders during October.
And in the UK, online poker giant PartyGaming has said it expects results for the year to beat City hopes.
And our two recommended articles for today...
Will there be a gold price correction?
- John Robson and Andrew Selsby at RH Asset Management are long-term gold bulls, but what might happen in the short term now that gold has breached $500 an ounce? Find out why they think that gold may not stop for a breather for a while yet, by clicking here: Will there be a gold price correction?
Are we really headed for a Brave New Economy?
- Dollars are better than gold. Trade deficits don't matter anymore. In short - 'this time it's different.' Welcome to the world of GaveKal, as argued for in Charles and Louis-Vincent Gave's new book, 'Our Brave New World'. MoneyWeek friend John Mauldin talks us through their theory, and gives his views. For more, see: Are we really headed for a Brave New Economy?
John is the executive editor of MoneyWeek and writes our daily investment email, Money Morning. John graduated from Strathclyde University with a degree in psychology in 1996 and has always been fascinated by the gap between the way the market works in theory and the way it works in practice, and by how our deep-rooted instincts work against our best interests as investors.
He started out in journalism by writing articles about the specific business challenges facing family firms. In 2003, he took a job on the finance desk of Teletext, where he spent two years covering the markets and breaking financial news. John joined MoneyWeek in 2005.
His work has been published in Families in Business, Shares magazine, Spear's Magazine, The Sunday Times, and The Spectator among others. He has also appeared as an expert commentator on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, BBC Radio Scotland, Newsnight, Daily Politics and Bloomberg. His first book, on contrarian investing, The Sceptical Investor, was released in March 2019. You can follow John on Twitter at @john_stepek.
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