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Expect the Unexpected in the year of the Sheep 2015

In the new lunar year beginning 19th Feb 2015, we welcome the Year of the Sheep.

Unlike the Year of the Wooden Horse where we are exiting, the sheep belongs to the docile class of animals. Thus, their natural character affinity is milder and tend to co-exists with the others in the green grasslands peacefully. Within the flock, the sheep tend to observe the discipline of the leader sheep well and hold the leader in the greatest esteem.

Chinese astrology is based on yin-yang 5 elements of wood, fire, water, earth and metal. Combined with each of the 12 animals, every birth chart will have its own 5 element weights which is the basis of prediction of one’s fortune, marriage, health and life. It is interesting that the coming lunar new year will see a balance among the 5 elements.

Coupled with the 5 elements, people born in the Year of the Sheep tend to exhibit remarkable endurance and assiduous spirits. Sheep people tend to have a strong vitality enamored by an iron will and enterprising spirit underlying their soft and fluffy façade. When dealing with tasks, they are not impulsive but always considerate, analyze carefully and complete satisfactorily

My predictions in the Year of the Wooden Horse ( investing in the year of the wooden horse 2014) has turned out to be almost prescient. I had predicted that –

Equities will outperform yield-dependent assets like bonds, but can be more volatile
Emerging markets (EM) will start to gallop again
Monetary tapering will continue without the tantrum
Oxen work hard, horses enjoy the
Be prepared for black swan events

For the Year of the Sheep, I would be cognizant of a few investment trends –

  1. Angry Sheep may dislocate markets

    Like the famous Angry Bird game, all it needs is a few irritations for angry birds to show their mettle. Previous Sheep Years in 2003 and 1991 have seen warring sheeps dislocated markets -

    1. On 21st Mar 2003, the Sheep running on the Yin water element saw the Second Gulf War when George W Bush ordered US troops into Iraq for the 2nd time. This coincided with the outbreak of SARS in Asia which sent the FTSTI index down a slippery waterfall.
    2. On 16th Aug 1991, the Yin Metal sent ballistic canons to oust the then Soviet ruler, Mikhail Gorbochev. He was the 8th and last ruler of the Soviet Union. Again, the FTSTI sold off in a big way.

    In the Year of the Sheep, the smart investor should position his portfolio to take advantage of exogenous events such as those that happened in the last 2 Sheep years. The recent Charlie Hebdo shootings in France is a reminder that satirical publications featuring cartoons, reports, polemc and jokes that are non-conformist in tone, anti-racist and anti-religious presents a hotbed of discontent in the world.

  2. Equities will continue to outperform bonds

    January 2015 saw the US 10-year and Singapore 10-year bonds go below the historic 2% level. Prognosticators calling for higher interest rates have never been more wrong in their forecast.

    As predicted, one of my favorite sectors – Singapore REITS, have done well in 2014. I will continue to sing ba-ba-black sheep with them in the coming year.

  3. Asian markets will continue to graze on greener pastures

    Global markets are in tumult due to the plunging oil price and there is little sign of any let-up as we enter the Year of the Sheep. Russia is at the epicenter of the perfect storm due to its dependence on energy exports - and the drag effect of Ukraine sanctions - but many other oil-related markets like Venezuela and Malaysia are feeling the negative fallout from cheaper oil.

    While oil-producing nations and companies are under severe pressure, lower fuel prices are expected to slash industry costs and trigger a consumer spending boom that eventually aids the global economic recovery. Already, the Japanese and Chinese markets are getting the turbo-boosters as Nikkei raced towards 18,000 again while the Shanghai Composite scaled 3,371, a whopping 60% climb from June 2014, just 7 months ago!

Ranking the eighth position of all the animals in Chinese zodiac, the Sheep represents solidarity, harmony and calmness. The smart investor should possess such traits in the coming year in reaping another great year from the markets.

Happy Grazing.

Gabriel Yap
Gabriel Yap

Mr Gabriel Yap,CFA was an eminent stockbroker who retired from stockbroking in 2009 to devote himself to philanthropy to help the needy, poor and handicap globally. He has donated and assisted Charities Aid Foundation, Australia (CAF), a not-for-profit donor funds management business.  

Mr Yap is also Executive Chairman of GCP Global Pte Ltd, an investment firm that invest in both direct capital markets, bonds, real estate, commodities, foreign exchange and builds businesses. Mr Yap appears regularly for the TV media like Channel News Asia and Bloomberg and radio channels like FM93.8 for their various investment programs.

Previously Mr Yap has also lectured at renowned government institutions like the SEASEN Course for the Monetary Authority of Singapore and at AsianDevelopment Bank. Mr Yap has also lectured at financial institutions like the Stock Exchange of SingaporeInstitute of Banking and Finance, the Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Singapore Institute of Management and the Securities Investors Association of Singapore.

In 2010, the venerable Reader's Digest magazine created the Money Savvy column in their magazine, helmed by Mr Yap who writes on all things finance and answers questions from the magazine's subscribers.

Mr Yap presently splits his time between Melbourne, Europe and Singapore.