Do I Have A Few Surprises For (Most Of) You!

Always an independent thinker, Rudi has not shied away from making big out-of-consensus predictions that proved accurate later on. When Rio Tinto shares surged above $120 he wrote investors should sell. In mid-2008 he warned investors not to hold on to equities in oil producers. In August 2008 he predicted the largest sell-off in commodities stocks was about to follow. In 2009 he suggested Australian banks were an excellent buy. Between 2011 and 2015 Rudi consistently maintained investors were better off avoiding exposure to commodities and to commodities stocks. Post GFC, he dedicated his research to finding All-Weather Performers. See also "All-Weather Performers" on this website, as well as the Special Reports section.

Rudi's View | Jul 04 2019

In this week's Weekly Insights (published in two parts):

-Do I Have A Few Surprises For (Most Of) You!
-M&A Is Back; Who's The Next Target?
-Conviction Calls
-Three Charts To Mark Mid-2019
-Caveat Emptor: Retail Landlords
-Rudi On Tour
-Rudi Talks

Do I Have A Few Surprises For (Most Of) You!

By Rudi Filapek-Vandyck, Editor FNArena

The first six months of calendar 2019 have again superbly proved as to why this equities bull market has been dubbed "the most hated in history".

At face value, equity markets have rallied by up to 20% suggesting making money from asset price inflation via the share market has seldom been easier for investors, but a closer look reveals nothing could be further from the truth.

Imagine an investment portfolio consisting of Adelaide Brighton, Bank of Queensland, Challenger, Caltex Australia, Domino's Pizza, Flight Centre, Link Administration, Pendal Group (the old BT Investments), South32 and the old Westfield, now Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield.

An equal weighted portfolio of these ten household names in Australia generated a negative return of nearly -10% between January 1 and June 28. That's ex-dividends, but the average yield from the portfolio cannot fully compensate for the erosion in capital values. Besides, the ASX200 Accumulation index is up nearly 20% over the same period.

And that's assuming investors venturing into some of the riskier stocks on the ASX haven't been caught out by disasters experienced by Syrah Resources (down -39%) or Wagners (-42%) or Bionomics (-72%), and numerous others.

Many a self-managing investor has portfolio exposure to the big four banks, large resources and energy producers, as well as Telstra, Woolworths, and Wesfarmers-Coles. They don't necessarily need to compare their performance with a benchmark, so they most likely are feeling happy with the Big Bounce post the Grand Sell-Off during the closing months of 2018. In particular if they also managed to pick up some additional gains from smaller cap highflyers such as Afterpay Touch, Austal and Credit Corp.

For professional fund managers, however, the scenarios for share markets in 2018 and the first half of 2019 have made beating the index an extremely tough challenge; indications are most have continued to underperform. This, mind you, at a time when ETF providers offer ever cheaper alternatives and most retail investors would feel emboldened about their own talent and capabilities too.

It should thus be no surprise that, with the notable exception of Magellan Financial ((MFG)), most listed asset managers have been relegated to the basket of consistent underperformers on the ASX, with shares in Janus Henderson ((JHG)), Platinum Asset Management  ((PTM)), Elanor Investors Group ((ENN)), K2 Asset Management ((KAM)), Pinnacle Investment Management ((PNI)), and others overwhelmingly in the doghouse at a time when most investors feel like celebrating.

Internationally, the first signals are becoming apparent the industry of actively managed investment funds is ripe for consolidation, or otherwise a shake-out. Locally, all major banks with exception of Westpac ((WBC)) have unveiled plans to divest their wealth management operations, while Magellan Financial acquiring Airlie Funds Management and Ellerston Capital acquiring Morphic Asset Management are but two early indications the industry locally is equally facing major transformation in the years ahead.


But why exactly is it that most active managers cannot beat their benchmark?

One narrative that has been going around recently is that investor exuberance is largely to blame. With stocks like Afterpay Touch ((APT)), Appen ((APX)) and other smaller cap technology stocks up 100% and more in the space of only a few months, the narrative goes that institutional investors cannot own these stocks as they are trading on valuations that can never be justified, and with these kinds of share price gains, it makes beating the index a near impossible task.

Sounds plausible, yes? Except that it doesn't stand up to the test of deeper analysis.

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