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Author: Provision Wealth

Don’t fight the Fed… or the ECB or RBA

Date: Jun 21st, 2019

This decade has now seen three global growth scares – around 2011-12, 2015-16 and now since last year. Each have been associated with softening business conditions indicators (or PMIs) as indicated in the next chart – see the circled areas.


Source: Bloomberg, AMP Capital

And each have been associated with roughly 20% falls in share markets.


Source: Bloomberg, AMP Capital

All have seen central banks shift towards easing to varying degrees. And in the first two this saw growth indicators pick up again and share markets rebound and clearly move on to new highs. We now seem to be seeing a re-run – at least with respect to central banks.

Central banks go from tightening to neutral to easing

It had looked like a shift from a tightening bias to a neutral/slight easing bias – the US Federal Reserve’s “patient” “pause” and end to quantitative tightening and the European Central Bank’s new round of cheap bank financing (what they call TLTRO) and pushing out its guidance on how long it won’t be raising interest rates for – would do it for the Fed and the ECB this time.

But then the trade war resumed in May adding to a new round of fears about global growth and inflation. And so the ECB and Fed look to be going beyond neutral and back to “whatever it takes”, joining central banks in China, India, Australia, New Zealand and other countries in easing:

  • ECB President Mario Draghi has indicated this week that “in the absence of improvement…additional stimulus will be required” and that it “will use all the flexibility within our mandate to fulfil our mandate”. Further ECB easing could include more rate cuts (taking them further into negative territory) and a return to quantitative easing. ECB easing in July or September is looking very likely.

  • The US Federal Reserve at its June meeting has clearly shifted in a very dovish direction strongly hinting at interest rate cuts ahead. It downgraded its economic activity assessment from “solid” to “moderate”, it noted falling inflation expectations, it dropped the reference to being “patient” in raising rates, it noted that uncertainties have risen, it lowered its inflation forecasts to below the 2% target and it said it will “closely monitor” the economy, which is often code for moving to easing. While its dot plot of Fed officials’ interest rate expectations still sees rates on hold this year, it’s now line ball with 8 out of 17 officials now seeing a cut of which 7 see two cuts and many of those who have rates on hold see an increased case for a cut and it only requires one of those to shift for the dot plot to move to a cut this year. What’s more, the dot plot now sees a cut next year and it has lowered the long run rate to 2.5%. The dot plot is well down from a year ago when three rate hikes were indicated for this year and one for next year. Overall, absent a clear move towards resolution of trade issues and much better data the Fed looks on track for a cut in July and we continue to see two Fed rate cuts this year.


Source: US Federal Reserve, Bloomberg, AMP Capital

The shift towards monetary easing by the Fed and ECB risks ramping up currency wars again – at least in the minds of commentators – but as we have seen in the past this is just a means of spreading easing globally. And many central banks are already easing anyway.

This is of relevance to the Reserve Bank of Australia, which would prefer to see a lower Australian dollar. The Fed now moving towards easing does make the RBA’s job a little bit harder on this front. However, we still see the RBA easing more than the Fed as the Australian economy is weaker than the US economy and has much higher labour market underutilisation than the US (13.7% of the workforce in Australia versus 7.1% in the US). So, we still see the Australian dollar heading down to around $US0.65 by year end. But Fed easing which will weigh on the $US generally is one reason why the $A is unlikely to crash to past lows.

Presidents Trump and Xi to meet

In the meantime, Presidents Trump and Xi will meet at the G20 meeting in Japan next week. This could lead to a delay in the next round of tariff hikes on China – on the roughly $US300bn of remaining Chinese imports. Ultimately, I expect a deal to resolve the trade dispute because of the threat to growth in both countries (and the risks this poses to Trump’s 2020 re-election prospects). But given the false starts so far it’s not clear this round of meetings will do it just yet.

But it looks like we will get some combination of a trade deal/easier monetary policy or no trade deal and even easier monetary policy.

Implications for investors

The risks are higher this time around given the trade war mess and with the US yield curve inverting – although it does give false signals, has long lags and may be distorted by the threat of more quantitative easing, recently it may more reflect a plunge in inflation expectations as opposed to growth expectations and the normal excesses that precede US recessions aren’t present to the same degree now.

And there will be bumps along the way, i.e.) shares could still go down in response to weak economic data and trade upsets before they go up and we are in a seasonally weak part of the year.

However, for investors it’s always worth remembering the old line “don’t fight the Fed”…or the ECB or RBA, etc. This is because low rates make shares cheaper and can help boost earnings.

While there is scepticism that central banks with the ultra low/negative rates and QE will do the trick, an investor would have made a huge mistake over the last decade betting against them!

So while the risks are higher this time around, my inclination is still to see the current period as just another global growth scare like those in 2011-12 and 2015-16 which will give way to somewhat stronger growth globally and higher share markets on a six to 12 month view.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised by Dr Oliver, please call on |PHONE| or email |STAFFEMAIL|.

 

Source: AMP Capital 20 June 2019

Important notes: While every care has been taken in the preparation of this article, AMP Capital Investors Limited (ABN 59 001 777 591, AFSL 232497) and AMP Capital Funds Management Limited (ABN 15 159 557 721, AFSL 426455) (AMP Capital) makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or completeness of any statement in it including, without limitation, any forecasts. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. This article has been prepared for the purpose of providing general information, without taking account of any particular investor’s objectives, financial situation or needs. An investor should, before making any investment decisions, consider the appropriateness of the information in this article, and seek professional advice, having regard to the investor’s objectives, financial situation and needs. This article is solely for the use of the party to whom it is provided and must not be provided to any other person or entity without the express written consent of AMP Capital.

Australian growth will be constrained but here’s nine reasons why recession is unlikely

Date: Jun 18th, 2019

For some time our view has been a less upbeat on the Australian economy than the consensus and notably the RBA. The reasons were simple. The housing cycle has turned down and this is weighing on consumer spending. And this is at a time when the risks to the global economy have increased as the trade war threat has ramped up again. All at a time when high levels of underemployment are keeping a lid on wages growth and, along with technology and competition, inflation. Consequently we have been expecting rate cuts this year which have now commenced and have further to go. We see a strong case for more fiscal stimulus to help the RBA in boosting growth and see an increasing risk that the RBA may have to use some form of quantitative easing to achieve its inflation target.

But the gloom around the Australian economy seems to have gone over the top lately with all the talk around rate cuts adding to the sense of malaise and more and more talk about a recession being inevitable. Surely it can’t be that bad! And why despite all this doom and gloom is the share market at an 11-year high, up 16% year to date and just 4% shy of its 2007 resources-boom high. There must be some positives around. And there are! So, to inject some balance into the debate around Australia here is a list of positives. They are partly why we don’t see Australia as being about to plunge into recession.

1. Australia’s current accounts deficit has collapsed

As a share of GDP, it’s the lowest since the 1970s as high iron ore prices have combined with solid growth in export volumes and pushed the trade balance into a record surplus. The current account deficit is the gap between what we spend as a nation and what we earn – so its near disappearance means we are less dependent on foreign capital. This is a big one given that a big scare of the 1980s in Australia was that the large current account deficit and rising foreign debt would lead to a major crisis, collapse the economy and require an IMF bailout. Like with most doomster stories on Australia, we are still waiting!


Source: ABS, AMP Capital

2. The Australian dollar helps stabilise the economy

The $A is down 38% from its 2011 high and is likely to fall further and this provides a shock absorber for the Australian economy as a lower $A makes Australian businesses that compete internationally more competitive – eg higher education, tourism, mining, manufacturing, agriculture.

3. The drag from falling mining investment is over

The big drag on growth (which was up to around 2 percentage points at one stage) as mining investment fell back to more normal levels as a share of GDP is likely over and mining investment plans look to be moving up again.

4. There is scope for extra fiscal stimulus

The Federal budget is nearly back in surplus and while we have had a long run of deficits our public finances are in good shape compared to the US, Europe and Japan.


Source: IMF, AMP Capital

Some fiscal stimulus is already on the way with tax refunds for low and middle income earners. While the Government is focussed on achieving a surplus it seems to be recognising the case to do more to help the economy with talk of bringing forward infrastructure spending.

5. Infrastructure spending is booming

Infrastructure spending is booming. While growth in public capex may peak this year, NSW has flagged another round of asset sales to fund new infrastructure spending and suggestions to bring back Joe Hockey’s asset recycling program (that saw the Federal Government provide a financial incentive to states to sell existing assets and use the proceeds to plough back into new infrastructure spending).

6. There is no sign of panic property selling

Despite the falls in property prices we have seen no sign of a “crash”. Non-performing loans are still relatively low even in Perth where prices are down nearly 20%. There has been no significant panic selling. The switch for many from interest only loans to principle and interest has not seen mass defaults or mass selling. And the combination of the removal of the threat to negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount along with rate cuts has seen buyer interest return.

7. The political environment remains sensible

While the Federal election has been analysed to death, the bottom line is that Australians as a whole were not prepared to support a populist agenda of higher taxes on the “top end of town”, substantially increased public spending and redistribution. Just like they weren’t prepared to support a more right-wing free market agenda in 1993. Australia is not immune to the populism seemingly sweeping the world, but it seems to be limited to a relatively minor influence. Maybe it’s the moderate climate, maybe it’s the lack of extreme inequality, maybe it’s the compulsory voting system that keeps motivated extremists in their place in favour of a sensible centre.

Whatever it is – economic policy making in Australia could always be better (economists would love to see a greater focus on economic reform) but it’s generally pretty sensible.

8. Population growth remains strong

Australia’s population growth at around 1.5% pa is strong and supported by a high fertility rate and high levels of immigration. While it’s far from a world beater – with the top 10 countries by population growth seeing growth of between 3 to 5% pa – it is at the high end of comparable countries and roughly double the OECD average and of the US and UK and is faster than India.

Of course, strong population growth is not without issues –around integration, congestion, the environment, adequate housing and infrastructure. And ultimately in terms of living standards it is economic growth per person (or per capita) that matters not total growth and lately per capita GDP has gone backwards. But solid population growth also has significant benefits in terms of supporting demand growth in the economy, preventing lingering oversupply (as today’s excess – say Sydney apartments – can quickly turn into tomorrow’s shortfall) and keeping the economy dynamic. It also means that while Australia’s population is ageing, the problem is far less challenging than in most advanced countries as by comparison Australia with a median age of 37 is relatively young and it has a relatively low old age dependency ratio.

9. The RBA can still do more

While the official cash rate is at a record low of 1.25%, it can still go lower and we think it will, whereas in Europe and Japan rates are already at zero (or just below). Our view remains that the RBA will cut the cash rate to 0.5% beyond which it will probably conclude it’s of little benefit as it will make it harder for banks to pass on rate cuts as they will have more bank deposits at zero and so cutting mortgage rates would mean reduced profit margins and probably less lending.

But the RBA can still do quantitative easing – if needed. This basically involves seeking to boost the economy by injecting more cash into the economy using printed money. The lesson from the US, Europe and Japan was to go early and go hard. Japan and then Europe left it a bit too late, but the US went early and has achieved more success with QE.

QE as practiced there – using printed money to buy assets on the hope that banks would use the cash to lend, people would borrow and investors would help the economy by taking on more risky investments – may help. But it may not be the most efficient approach (as much of the cash just ended up in bank reserves) or the most equitable (to the extent it boosted prices for shares and other risky assets that are disproportionately held by high income/wealthier people).

A better option in terms of QE may be to use printed money to finance fiscal stimulus – maybe by directly buying bonds issued by the government. This is a radical step. The Austrian economists would scream hyperinflation! But they did with QE in the US a decade ago too and we are still waiting. In any case the problem is a lack of inflation and the risk of deflation. But it would work in terms of boosting spending in a fair way. It could involve either government spending on things like infrastructure (which both adds to demand and the economy’s productive potential) or tax cuts or “cheques in the mail” with use by dates.

But bear in mind Australia is a long way from needing to do this – we are not in recession so it’s really a debate about what can be done ahead of time which is actually healthy. Better this than wait for a crisis to hit then scramble on what to do.

Australian shares – what’s going on?

Which brings us to the strong Australian share market. Much of the recent surge in the Australian share market reflects strong gains in mining stocks on the back of the strong iron ore price, strong demand for high yielding stocks as bond yields have plunged and the post-election bounce. And if global shares have a further setback on the back of trade fears then Australian shares will be impacted too. But it’s also worth noting that the Australian share price index has underperformed global share markets for almost a decade now reflecting tighter monetary policy from October 2009, the surge in the $A into 2011, the end of the commodity price boom, worries about a property crash and a mean reversion after Australia’s 2000 to 2009 outperformance. Many of these factors have run their course, have reversed or have been factored in by the share market so maybe the decade-long underperformance by Australian shares is coming close to an end.


Source: Thomson Reuters, AMP Capital

Concluding comment

The point about all this is that while Australian growth may be going through a rough patch and this could go on for a while yet, there is a bunch of things going well for the Australian economy and there is plenty of scope for more monetary and fiscal stimulus. So – barring a significant global downturn threatening our export earnings big time – recession is unlikely, and it would be wrong to get too gloomy on Australia.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised by Dr Oliver, please call on |PHONE| or email |STAFFEMAIL|.

 

Source: AMP Capital 18 June 2019

Important notes: While every care has been taken in the preparation of this article, AMP Capital Investors Limited (ABN 59 001 777 591, AFSL 232497) and AMP Capital Funds Management Limited (ABN 15 159 557 721, AFSL 426455)  (AMP Capital) makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or completeness of any statement in it including, without limitation, any forecasts. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. This article has been prepared for the purpose of providing general information, without taking account of any particular investor’s objectives, financial situation or needs. An investor should, before making any investment decisions, consider the appropriateness of the information in this article, and seek professional advice, having regard to the investor’s objectives, financial situation and needs. This article is solely for the use of the party to whom it is provided and must not be provided to any other person or entity without the express written consent of AMP Capital.

The $A still has more downside, but a lot of the weakness is behind us

Date: Jun 14th, 2019

While some have expressed surprise at the recent resilience in the value of the Australian dollar around the $US0.69-0.70 level despite weak Australian growth and Reserve Bank rate cuts, from a big picture sense it has already fallen a long way. It’s down 37% from a multi-decade high of $US1.10 in 2011 and it’s down 15% from a high in January last year of $US0.81. So, having met our long-held expectation for a fall to around or just below $US0.70 and given its recent resilience now is an appropriate time to take a look at its outlook.

 

The $A is slightly undervalued long term

The first thing to note is that from a very long-term perspective the Australian dollar is around or just below fair value. This contrasts to the situation back in 2011 when it was well above long-term fair value. The best guide to this is what is called purchasing power parity (PPP) according to which exchange rates should equilibrate the price of a basket of goods and services across countries – see the next chart.


Source: RBA, ABS, AMP Capital

If over time Australian inflation and costs rise relative to the US, then the value of the $A should fall to maintain its real purchasing power and competitiveness. And vice versa if Australian inflation falls relative to the US. Consistent with this the Australian dollar tends to move in line with relative price differentials – or its purchasing power parity implied level – over the long term. And right now, it’s around or just below fair value.

But as can be seen in the last chart, it rarely spends much time at the purchasing power parity level. Cyclical swings in the $A are largely driven by swings in the prices of Australia’s key commodity exports and relative interest rates, such that a fall in Australian rates relative to US rates makes it more attractive to park money in the US and hence pushes the $A down. “Investor” sentiment and positioning also impacts – such that if the $A is over-loved with a lot of long positions then it becomes vulnerable to a fall and vice versa if it’s under-loved.

The negatives for the $A…

For some time, our view has been that the $A would fall into the high $US0.60s and this has happened. But notwithstanding this and that the $A has already fallen a long way from its 2011 high, it could still face a bit more downside over the next six to 12 months. The main reason is that Australian growth is weaker than US growth and spare capacity is much higher in Australia. For example, labour market underutilisation is 13.7% in Australia versus just 7.1% in the US, growth in Australia is running at 1.8% year on year compared to 3.2% in the US and the drag on growth from the housing downturn is likely to keep growth relatively weak in Australia for the next year or so.


Source: Bloomberg, AMP Capital

This will keep inflation lower in Australia than in the US and so we see the RBA cutting rates more than the Fed. And the RBA is much closer to having to do quantitative easing or some variant of it (ie using printed money to boost growth) than the Fed. This will continue to make it relatively less attractive to park money in Australia. As can be seen in the next chart, periods of a low and falling interest rate differential between Australia and the US usually see a low and falling $A.


Source: Bloomberg, AMP Capital

So this all points to more downside for the Australian dollar.

…and the positives

Against this there are a bunch of forces acting to support the $A, and this has been evident in its relative resilience despite bad news in recent weeks. Firstly, global sentiment towards the Australian dollar has been negative for some time and this has been reflected in short or underweight positions in the $A being at extreme levels – see the next chart. In other words, many of those who want to sell the $A have already done so and this leaves it vulnerable to a rally if there is any good news.


Source: Bloomberg, AMP Capital

Secondly, there has been good news with the iron ore price pushing above $US100 a tonne and this combined with solid growth in export volumes has pushed the trade balance into a record surplus which has shrunk the current account deficit as a share of GDP to its lowest since the 1970s. Of course, the iron ore price will likely fall back somewhat when Vale gets production back to normal after its dam disaster, but Chinese economic stimulus may help keep it and other commodity prices supported. The smaller current account surplus means Australia has become less dependent on foreign capital inflows.


Source: ABS, AMP Capital

Finally, in response to the threat to growth from President Trump’s trade wars, mixed economic data and weak inflation, investors have moved to price in rate cuts from the Fed over the next year. And this is negative for the $US generally after a multi-year bull market since 2008.

So where to from here?

Overall, we expect that the weaker growth outlook in Australia relative to the US and the likely continuing decline in the interest rate differential versus the US will dominate and push the $A still lower. But with the $A having already had a big fall, short $A positions running high, the current account deficit having shrunk and the US dollar looking toppy we see the $A falling to around $US0.65 on a six to 12 month horizon as opposed to crashing down to say the 2001 low of $US0.48. Of course, if the global economy falls apart, causing a surge in unemployment in Australia as export demand and confidence collapses and another big leg down in house prices then all bets are off and the Aussie will fall a lot more…but that’s not our base case.

What does it mean for investors?

With the risks skewed towards more downside in the value of the $A, albeit less so than say a year ago, there are several implications for investors.

First, there remains a case – albeit not as strong as it was when the Australia dollar was much higher – to maintain a decent exposure to offshore assets that are not hedged back to Australian dollars. A decline in the value of the $A will boost the value of an investment in offshore assets denominated in foreign currency one for one. Meanwhile, the fall in Australian interest rates relative to global interest rates has reduced the incentive to hedge because when Australian rates are above global rates investors are “paid” to hedge.

Second, if the global outlook turns sour due to say Trump’s trade wars, having an exposure to foreign currency provides protection for Australian investors as the $A usually falls in response to threats to global growth. As can be seen in the next chart there is a rough positive correlation between changes in global shares in their local currency terms and the $A. Major falls in global shares associated with the emerging market/LTCM crisis in 1998, the tech wreck into 2001, the GFC, the Eurozone crises and the 2015-16 global growth scare saw sharp falls in the $A. So being short the $A and long foreign exchange provides good protection against threats to the global outlook.


Source: Bloomberg, AMP Capital

Finally, continuing softness in the $A will be positive for Australian industry sectors that compete internationally like tourism, higher education, manufacturing, agriculture and mining and this will benefit shares exposed to these areas.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised by Dr Oliver, please call on |PHONE| or email |STAFFEMAIL|.

 

Source: AMP Capital 14 June 2019

Important notes: While every care has been taken in the preparation of this article, AMP Capital Investors Limited (ABN 59 001 777 591, AFSL 232497) and AMP Capital Funds Management Limited (ABN 15 159 557 721, AFSL 426455)  (AMP Capital) makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or completeness of any statement in it including, without limitation, any forecasts. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. This article has been prepared for the purpose of providing general information, without taking account of any particular investor’s objectives, financial situation or needs. An investor should, before making any investment decisions, consider the appropriateness of the information in this article, and seek professional advice, having regard to the investor’s objectives, financial situation and needs. This article is solely for the use of the party to whom it is provided and must not be provided to any other person or entity without the express written consent of AMP Capital.

The nine most important things I have learnt about investing over the past 35 years

Date: Jun 06th, 2019

I have been working in and around investment markets for 35 years now. A lot has happened over that time. The 1987 crash, the recession Australia had to have, the Asian crisis, the tech boom/tech wreck, the mining boom, the Global Financial Crisis, the Eurozone crisis. Financial deregulation, financial reregulation. The end of the cold war, US domination, the rise of Asia and then China. And so on. But as someone once observed the more things change the more they stay the same. And this is particularly true in relation to investing. So, what I have done here is put some thought into the nine most important things I have learned over the past 35 years.

# 1 There is always a cycle

Droll as it sounds, the one big thing I have seen over and over in the past 35 years is that investment markets constantly go through cyclical phases of good times and bad. Some are short term, such as those that relate to the 3 to 5 year business cycle. Some are longer, such as the secular swings seen over 10 to 20 year periods in shares. Some get stuck in certain phases for long periods. Debate is endless about what drives cycles, but they continue. But all eventually contain the seeds of their own reversal. Ultimately there is no such thing as new eras, new paradigms and new normal as all things must pass. What’s more share markets often lead economic cycles, so economic data is often of no use in timing turning points in shares.

# 2 The crowd gets it wrong at extremes

What’s more is that these cycles in markets get magnified by bouts of investor irrationality that take them well away from fundamentally justified levels. This is rooted in investor psychology and flows from a range of behavioural biases investors suffer from. These include the tendency to project the current state of the world into the future, the tendency to look for evidence that confirms your views, overconfidence and a lower tolerance for losses than gains. So, while fundamentals may be at the core of cyclical swings in markets, they are often magnified by investor psychology if enough people suffer from the same irrational biases at the same time. From this it follows that what the investor crowd is doing is often not good for you to do too. We often feel safest when investing in an asset when neighbours and friends are doing the same and media commentary is reinforcing the message that it’s the right thing to do. This “safety in numbers” approach is often doomed to failure. Whether its investors piling into Japanese shares at the end of the 1980s, Asian shares into the mid 1990s, IT stocks in the late 1990s, US housing and dodgy credit in the mid 2000s or Bitcoin in 2017. The problem is that when everyone is bullish and has bought into an asset in euphoria there is no one left to buy but lots of people who can sell on bad news. So, the point of maximum opportunity is when the crowd is pessimistic, and the point of maximum risk is when the crowd is euphoric.

# 3 What you pay for an investment matters a lot

The cheaper you buy an asset the higher its prospective return. Guides to this are price to earnings ratios for share markets (the lower the better – see the next chart) and yields, ie the ratio of dividends, rents or interest payments to the value of the asset (the higher the better). Flowing from this it follows that yesterdays winners are often tomorrows losers – because they became overvalued and over loved and vice versa. But while this seems obvious, the reality is that many find it easier to buy after shares have had a strong run because confidence is high and sell when they have had a big fall because confidence is low. But the key point is that the more you pay for an asset the lower its potential return and vice versa.


Source: Global Financial Data, AMP Capital

# 4 Getting markets right is not as easy as you think

In hindsight it all looks easy. Looking back, it always looks obvious that a particular boom would go bust when it did. But that’s just Harry hindsight talking! Looking forward no-one has a perfect crystal ball. As JK Galbraith observed “there are two kinds of forecasters: those who don’t know, and those who don’t know they don’t know.” Usually the grander the forecast – calls for “great booms” or “great crashes ahead” – the greater the need for scepticism as such calls invariably get the timing wrong (in which case you lose before it comes right) or are dead wrong. Market prognosticators suffer from the same psychological biases as everyone else. If getting markets right were easy, then the prognosticators would be mega rich and would have stopped doing it long ago. Related to this many get it wrong by letting blind faith – “there is too much debt”, “house prices are too high and are guaranteed to crash”, “the Eurozone will break up” – get in the way of good investment decisions. They may be right one day, but an investor can lose a lot of money in the interim. The problem for ordinary investors is that it’s not getting easier as the world is getting noisier as the flow of information and opinion has turned from a trickle to a flood and the prognosticators have had to get shriller to get heard.

# 5 Investment markets don’t learn

A key lesson from the history of investment markets is that they don’t seem to learn. The same mistakes are repeated over and over as markets lurch from one extreme to another. This is even though after each bust many say it will never happen again and the regulators move in to try and make sure it doesn’t. But it does! Often just somewhere else. Sure, the details change but the pattern doesn’t. As Mark Twain is said to have said: “history doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes.” Sure, individuals learn and the bigger the blow up the longer the learning lasts. But there’s always a fresh stream of newcomers to markets and in time collective memory dims.

# 6 Compound interest is like magic

This one goes way back to my good friend Dr Don Stammer. One dollar invested in Australian cash in 1900 would today be worth $240 and if it had been invested in bonds it would be worth $950, but if it was allocated to Australian shares it would be worth $593,169. Although the average annual return on Australian shares (11.8% pa) is just double that on Australian bonds (5.9% pa) over the last 119 years, the magic of compounding higher returns leads to a substantially higher balance over long periods. Yes, there were lots of rough periods along the way for shares as highlighted by arrows on the chart, but the impact of compounding at a higher long-term return is huge over long periods of time. The same applies to other growth-related assets such as property.


Source: Global Financial Data, AMP Capital

# 7 It pays to be optimistic

The well-known advocate of value investing Benjamin Graham observed that “To be an investor you must be a believer in a better tomorrow.” If you don’t believe the bank will look after your deposits, that most borrowers will pay their debts, that most companies will grow their profits, that properties will earn rents, etc then you should not invest. Since 1900 the Australian share market has had a positive return in roughly eight years out of ten and for the US share market it’s roughly seven years out of 10. So getting too hung up worrying about the next two or three years in 10 that the market will fall risks missing out on the seven or eight years out of 10 when it rises.

# 8 Keep it simple stupid

Investing should be simple, but we have a knack for overcomplicating it. And it’s getting worse with more options, more information, more apps and platforms, more opportunities for gearing and more rules & regulations around investing. But when we overcomplicate investments we can’t see the wood for the trees. You spend too much time on second order issues like this share versus that share or this fund manager versus that fund manager, so you end up ignoring the key driver of your portfolio’s performance – which is its high-level asset allocation across shares, bonds, property, etc. Or you have investments you don’t understand or get too highly geared. So, it’s best to keep it simple, don’t fret the small stuff, keep the gearing manageable and don’t invest in products you don’t understand.

# 9 You need to know yourself to succeed at investing

We all suffer from the psychological weaknesses referred to earlier. But smart investors are aware of them and seek to manage them. One way to do this is to take a long-term approach to investing. But this is also about knowing what you want to do. If you want to take a day to day role in managing your investments then regular trading and/or a self managed super fund (SMSF) may work, but you need to recognise that will require a lot of effort to get right and will need a rigorous process. If you don’t have the time and would rather do other things like sailing, working at your day job, or having fun with the kids then it may be best to use managed funds. It’s also about knowing how you would react if your investment suddenly dropped 20% in value. If your reaction were to be to want to get out then you will either have to find a way to avoid that as you would just be selling low and locking in a loss or if you can’t then you may have to consider an investment strategy offering greater stability over time (which would probably mean accepting lower returns).

So what does all this mean for investors?

All of this underpins what I call the Nine Keys to Successful Investing which are:

  1. Make the most of the power of compound interest. This is one of the best ways to build wealth and this means making sure you have the right asset mix. 

  2. Don’t get thrown off by the cycle. The trouble is that cycles can throw investors out of a well thought out investment strategy. But they also create opportunities. 

  3. Invest for the long term. Given the difficulty in getting market and stock moves right in the short-term, for most it’s best to get a long-term plan that suits your level of wealth, age, tolerance of volatility, etc, and stick to it. 

  4. Diversify. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. But also, don’t over diversify as this will just complicate for no benefit.

  5. Turn down the noise. After having worked out a strategy thats right for you, it’s important to turn down the noise on the information flow and prognosticating babble now surrounding investment markets and stay focussed. In the digital world we now live in this is getting harder.

  6. Buy low, sell high. The cheaper you buy an asset, the higher its prospective return will likely be and vice versa. 

  7. Beware the crowd at extremes. Don’t get sucked into the euphoria or doom and gloom around an asset.

  8. Focus on investments that you understand and that offer sustainable cash flow. If it looks dodgy, hard to understand or has to be based on odd valuation measures or lots of debt to stack up then it’s best to stay away. 

  9. Seek advice. Given the psychological traps we are all susceptible too and the fact that investing is not easy, a good approach is to seek advice.

 

Source: AMP Capital 6 June 2019

Important notes: While every care has been taken in the preparation of this article, AMP Capital Investors Limited (ABN 59 001 777 591, AFSL 232497) and AMP Capital Funds Management Limited (ABN 15 159 557 721, AFSL 426455)  (AMP Capital) makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or completeness of any statement in it including, without limitation, any forecasts. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. This article has been prepared for the purpose of providing general information, without taking account of any particular investor’s objectives, financial situation or needs. An investor should, before making any investment decisions, consider the appropriateness of the information in this article, and seek professional advice, having regard to the investor’s objectives, financial situation and needs. This article is solely for the use of the party to whom it is provided and must not be provided to any other person or entity without the express written consent of AMP Capital.

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