ASX building.

Australian shares produced a total return of more than 20 per cent in both 2012 and 2013. Photo: Andrew Quilty

The sell-off on global sharemarkets was always expected after the bumper returns of 2013.

But just because it was expected does not make it any less painful for investors. Asian shares took a hammering yesterday on fears US Federal Reserve is about to continue tapering its stimulus and concerns of a slowdown in Chinese economic growth.

It is worth recalling Australian shares produced a total return (including dividends) of more than 20 per cent for each of 2012 and 2013.

International shares, in Australian dollar terms, returned more than 45 per cent in 2013.

The odds of another year of big returns from shares this year was always very long. Sharemarkets were due for a breather.

But it is hard to see that it is going to be anything more than a pause that refreshes.

Despite the poor year so far for global equities there are reasons for optimism. The US economic recovery is picking up pace. The economies of Japan and the Eurozone are improving.

Share prices never go up in a straight line. Successful share investing requires patience over the long term. Investors, as opposed to speculators, should not be putting money into shares if they intend to invest for less than 7 years.

While the gyrations on markets are fodder for the headline writers, it should not distract investors from the bigger picture. And that is one where global share prices are likely to finish the year higher than they started the year.

Probably nothing like last year, but higher. Interest rates globally remain low with Australian interest rates likely to remain on hold for the year.

It could even be that Australian miners, helped by the lower Australian dollar, take the baton from the banks and lead the way on the Australian sharemarket this year.