As we look ahead to 2019, prospects seem pretty unsettled. In the UK, business confidence is waning, consumers are worrying and the economy is suffering.
In America, the outlook is hard to gauge and trade wars with China are a growing concern.
Continental Europe is faring better but populism is on the rise, fuelling fears about the future. For investors, however, there are pockets of hope.
UK shares are widely acknowledged to be undervalued, presenting clear opportunities across the market.
Cooking up a storm: Overcooked is a best-selling computer game for the developer Team17
Our three tips for 2019 all demonstrate certain defensive qualities, that should allow them to deliver growth, even under difficult circumstances.
Mention video games and most people think of teenage boys and violence.
Team17 is run by a woman, Debbie Bestwick, and its best-selling products include Overcooked, where chefs have to prepare meals in kitchens filled with obstacles, and My Time With Portia, a fantasy game set in the town of Portia.
Founded in 1990, the company floated on Aim in May at £1.65, soared to more than £2.80 by September and has now drifted back to £1.83. At this level, the stock is a buy.
Bestwick, 48, has been a games enthusiast since the age of seven, when she started playing Space Invaders.
A co-founder of Team17, she became chief executive in 2009, since when the company has amassed a portfolio of more than 90 games, played all over the world.
These range from family products to more conventional games, such as the hugely popular Worms series, featuring warring worms, and The Escapist, where players try to break out of jail.
Team17 creates games itself and helps small, independent developers turn initial concepts into commercial reality.
Based in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, rather than the west coast of America means that Team17’s costs are much lower than many peers.
Bestwick invests no more than £1million on each project, so risks are widely spread and game sales do not need to run into hundreds of thousands for the group to recoup its costs.
Team17 is also known within the gaming industry for providing genuine support to developers so many of the most talented minds in the sector come to Bestwick with their ideas.
Brokers expect sales of £37million and profits of £11.6million, rising to £44million and £13.7million respectively in 2019.
Once, gamers could only buy physical copies of their favourite products. Today, enthusiasts prefer digital versions, which can be upgraded and updated, providing Team 17 with an ongoing opportunity to make money.
MIDAS VERDICT: Gaming has become a multi-billion pound industry and gamers are likely to carry on playing regardless of economic conditions.
Team17 is at the forefront of its field and the shares should rise. At 183p, they are a buy.
3i Group is a publicly listed, private equity business so it buys private businesses, helps them to improve and sells them on to new owners.
The shares are £7.95 and should rise materially in 2019 and beyond.
Ten years ago, 3i owned hundreds of firms and had borrowed heavily to buy them.
Today, the company has just 35 businesses in its portfolio so it can keep a close eye on all of them and actively support them when they need help.
These firms are spread across the UK, Northern Europe and the US and they have all been selected for their growth potential – with 3i aiming to double their value over three to five years.
Businesses include Action, the leading non-food discount retailer in Europe; Dynatect, a US engineer; Christ, an upmarket German jeweller, and OneMed, a leading medical supplies group.
3i also has a 34 per cent stake in 3i Infrastructure, which invests in businesses expected to deliver consistent, long-term growth, such as Infinis, which generates electricity from landfill gas, and Wireless Infrastructure, Group, which owns thousands of mobile phone towers.
The combination of 3i’s private equity operation and its involvement in 3i Infrastructure has proved a winner in recent years. Chief executive Simon Borrows also recognises the importance of rewarding shareholders with decent dividends.
In the year to March 2018, 3i paid a 30p dividend and analysts expect it to be higher this year, putting the stock on a yield of just over 4 per cent. Importantly too, 3i is financially robust so the dividend is one of the safest in the FTSE 100 index.
MIDAS VERDICT: 3i shares have suffered this year, in line with the wider market. At £7.95, they should prove a rewarding investment – and the dividends add an extra bit of spice.
Resistance to antibiotics is a big problem, so much so that the World Health Organisation recently described it as one of the greatest threats to human life today.
Motif Bio has developed a new antibiotic, iclaprim, which is safer and more effective than existing drugs and saves hospitals money.
The shares are 28p and brokers believe they could more than triple in the coming months.
For most small biotech companies, the biggest challenge is whether they can receive regulatory approval for new products before running out of cash.
Motif Bio is already well down the track. Trials have been completed and the US regulator, the FDA, is expected to approve iclaprim in February.
At the same time, Motif Bio chief executive Graham Lumsden, is looking for a deep-pocketed partner to help bring the drug to market. Discussions are under way and further news should emerge in the next few months.
Iclaprim will initially be used to treat elderly or otherwise high-risk patients with acute skin infections – around a million people in the US alone. In time, the drug is likely to be prescribed for other conditions, including pneumonia.
MIDAS VERDICT: Motif Bio shares have fallen this year but the company is doing everything right. At 28p, the stock has serious potential. Buy.