When we started 2017, UK voted to leave the European Union; Donald Trump became the President of United States; China was asserting her control over the South China seas. These were significant events that portend an uncertain world order going into 2017.
On taking office, President Donald Trump moved to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact. President Trump put America first and adopted a more protectionist approach with nations who had a huge trade surplus against the US. We saw this played out throughout 2017.
I was expecting volatility of the financial markets as a result of the big unknowns. Instead, global stock indices powered upwards. US S&P 500 was up 19.4% in 2017 and Dow Jones Index was up 25.1%. Hong Kong Hang Seng Index was up 36%. Nikkei Index was up 19.1%. Singapore Straits Times Index was up 18.1%. The reasons for this fantastic performance were that the global economy (including Singapore’s) was better than years before and the corporations were turning in good profits. Liquidity was still plentiful and investors were finding ways to invest to improve yields on investments in face of low interest rates environment. (This may change in years ahead when US Federal Reserve starts to increase its interest rates.) Oil prices were doing better this year when compared with 2016. It increased from US$57.07 per barrel for Brent Crude to US$66.64, up 16.7%.
I was cautious throughout the year and reduced my exposure to risky assets. I sold out an Australian denominated income fund and Chinese Yuan denominated bond fund. With funds freed up, I then invested in Singapore Airline Ltd 3.035% S$ corporate bond. Having said, I am still invested in Singapore equity. It comprised 14.4% of my total portfolio. Singapore equity did well this year, up 18.1%. The Straits Times Index (STI) moved from 2,880.76 points to end at 3,402.92 points.
2017 was a good year for my investments when compared with 2016. Total Shareholder Returns (TSR)1 for 2017 was positive 1.33% against a negative 3.51% for 2016.
Total investment portfolio was negative 1.31% on cost (2016: negative 4.7%).
Income2 from investments was 2.64% (2016: 1.20%).
My Mother’s Passing
2017 marked the year when my mother passed away on 17 October, the day my family was returning back to Singapore that night from Hanoi, Vietnam. She was 93 years old and we saw her health took a turn since May. She died at her own home which was what she hoped for. Life has not been the same since her passing. I had stopped paying foreign domestic worker levy for mother’s domestic helper. We did not have to go to my mother’s rental flat every week. The routine was no more. Once a while, memory of my mother came on when I saw something that connected with her. My mother loved to eat durian and when I saw durian cake in the supermarket I would say that she liked it before. My mother had a relatively good life except for the Japanese Occupation. She had 33 children, grand-children and great grand-children who celebrated her life journey. With her passing, the four generations is now three generations. What is left is some emptiness in my heart.
I compiled a little book in remembrance of my mother. It captured how I feel as we bid a final farewell to her. I published it on issuu.com.
Travel – Hanoi, Halong Bay, Sapa
My family visited Hanoi, Sapa and Halong Bay from 9 to 17 October.
Last year (2016) in January, my family visited Ho Chi Minh City. HCMC sits at the south of Vietnam. This year, we returned again to Vietnam and this time to the north of Vietnam, Hanoi.
We arranged the tour with a travel agency in Vietnam directly through a recommendation of our friend. So for 9 days we had a tour guide who speaks good English and a 7-seater SUV car for our exclusive use.
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam. It is in the Northern part of Vietnam and is the seat of power of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam after the withdrawal of the American soldiers. Hanoi is divided into three distinct areas for tourists to visit. The northern part is the Old Quarter with the Hoan Kiem Lake. The southern part of Hoan Kiem Lake is the French Quarter. The north-western part is West Lake. We stayed at the Old Quarters and spent most time at the Old Quarter.
We took a cruise that sailed the Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Bay has some 1,600 islets with limestone karsts, some huge and many small ones rising above green and calm waters. The attraction is to go on a cruise and sail around these islets and see them up close. We had a night stay on the cruise.
The other place we liked was Sapa. It sits about 1,200 to 1,800 m above sea level. It was cool and wet when we visited. The weather for this October month was unusual. It was supposed to be a dry month but we had a very wet weather condition.
These nine days were memorable. We made friends with the owner of the local travel agency and the tourist guide. We were treated very well during the trip.
For 2017, I read 24 books (2016: 24), 6,915 pages in total (2016: 6,104). That was one book every two weeks.
Published a Book – Walk in the Parks
Singapore is not a concrete jungle with houses, buildings and roads. She is known for her parks with green fields and water bodies. Over the years, National Parks Board has done much to make our parks more accessible and beautiful. We enjoyed walking these parks both for their beauty and for physical exercises.
Instead of keeping photographs on my phone and hard disk and only I can enjoy, I thought it best I create a book to let people enjoy the beauty of the parks I had visited. In the book, I described the parks in brief. The main items would be photographs I took on these walks in the parks. (See the book on issuu.com)
Reflections on 2017
Too much things happened in 2017. I turned 60 years old and started to get senior rates on travel on public transport. My mother passed away in October. She had been in poor health since two years back. It was a precipitous drop in past five months of this year. But my family members were not too sad for she was able to live 93 years. My mother was not a major burden in her last days. We were thankful. With her passing, my brothers and my sister were even closer.
On a brighter note, for this year our financial portfolio performance did better than 2016. We achieved 2.64% actual cash return on total investable fund against 1.2% in 2016. It was more than double the return compared to last year.
As we count down to a New Year, I wish all a happy and a peaceful year!
© Copyright of Lim Kim Tong for Living Investment, 2017
1 Total Shareholder Return (TSR) in S$ term comprises dividend return (actual income received) and price return (resulting from changes in valuations of investments as at year end).
2 Income from investments comes from dividend/interest and gains/loss on sale of investments.