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April In Review: ASX Defensives Shine

Australia | May 04 2022

This story features RAMSAY HEALTH CARE LIMITED, and other companies. For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: RHC

While still outperforming global peers, the ASX200 experienced a -0.9% loss (total return) in April as losses in the materials and technology sectors outweighed gains for defensive sectors.

-The ASX200 lost -0.9% (total return) during April
-Growth outperformed Value, while the reverse occurred in the US
-Investors sought out defensive sectors
-The CRB Commodity Index rose by 4%
-10-year bond yields continue to climb in Australia and the US

Mark Woodruff

The ASX200 closed out April with a total loss of -0.9% (including dividends) though Australia maintained performance leadership year-to-date amongst global peers.

The MSCI Developed Markets Index dropped by -6.9%, largely driven by the S&P500 which lost -8.7% as a more Hawkish Fed pushed up real yields. The Emerging Markets World Index lost -3.5%.

In US dollar terms the monthly performance in Australia was in-line with Developed Markets, as a lower Australian dollar dragged down the loss to -6.4%.

Since November 2021 in the US, Value and Defensives have outperformed, while the Nasdaq has underperformed.

Growth outperformed Value in Australia by 2.2 percentage points (ppt) in April, while in the US Value outperformed Growth by 8.6ppt, where the Nasdaq fell by -13.2%. Macquarie points out that while Australian Technology was the worst performing sector in April, it comprises only a small part of the Australian market. Also, the more defensive Growth sectors of Staples and Health outperformed in Australia.

Large caps generally outperformed small caps though stocks within the top 20 by market cap relatively underperformed the top 50 stocks. Resources performed best within small caps, whilst Industrials had the edge in the mid-to small-cap stock universe.

As investors were seeking defensive sectors over the month, Utilities gained 9.3% to be the best performed sector, followed by fellow defensive sectors including Transport (5.4%), Insurance (5.2%) and Staples Retail which gained 4.6%.  The Technology sector lost -10.4%, while Materials and Discretionary lost -4.3% and -3.1%, respectively.

Bond markets saw material moves through April.  Australian 10-year yields climbed as investors priced in aggressive rate hikes beginning at the RBA's May meeting. (Investors were proven correct with yesterday’s 0.25% rate rise).

Meanwhile, commodity prices continue to hold up well relative to other asset classes. During April prices for energy and grains rose, while metals and livestock prices fell.

Within energy, Brent crude oil increased a relatively modest 1.9% though natural gas rose over 30% on supply disruptions. As nuclear power increasingly looks like an alternative to carbon energy sources, Macquarie notes uranium also increased by 48%.

Best and worst shares across indices

Within the ASX50, shares with the highest returns included Ramsay Health Care ((RHC)) which gained 24.5% on take-over interest, Amcor ((AMC)) 10.4%, Origin Energy ((ORG)) 9.8%, Lendlease Group ((LLC)) 9.4%, APA Group ((APA)) 7.7% and Qantas Airways ((QAN)) which gained 7.5%.

Underperformers within the ASX50 were Block Inc ((SQ2)) which lost -21.7%, ResMed ((RMD)) -10.1%, Northern Star Resources ((NST)) -8.6%, Aristocrat Leisure ((ALL)) – 8.35%, BHP Group ((BHP)) -7.2% and Xero ((XRO)) which lost -6.2%.

For the Mid-Cap50 the highest return was achieved by AMP ((AMP)) with 20.2%, AGL Energy ((AGL)) 12.4%, Mineral Resources ((MIN)) 11.1%, Orora ((ORA)) 10.8%, Ampol ((ALD)) 10.5% and Aurizon Holdings ((AZJ)) which gained 9.2%.

On the flipside, IDP Education ((IEL)) and Lynas Rare Earths ((LYC)) both lost -14.9%, a2 Milk Co ((A2M)) -14.6%, Domino’s Pizza Enterprises ((DMP)) -14.3%, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare ((FPH)) -11.8% and WiseTech Global which lost -11.4%.

The Small Ordinaries Accumulation Index lost -1.5% in April.

Outperformers included GrainCorp ((GNC)) which gained 21.6%, Viva Energy Group ((VEA)) 19.6%, Whitehaven Coal ((WHC)) 18.6%, Flight Centre Travel Group ((FLT)) 14.7%, Pendal Group ((PDL)) 14.2% and Kelsian Group which gained 12.5%.

Underperformers included EML Payments ((EML)) which lost -46.8%, Megaport ((MP1)) -37.6%, Life360 ((360)) -31.6%, Tyro payments ((TYR)) -28.7%, ZIP Co ((Z1P)) -26.3% and Liontown Resources ((LTR)) which lost -22.1%

REITs

Despite further rises in bond yields over April, REITs outperformed the broader ASX by 1.4% for the month and by 15.1% on a rolling 12-month basis.

Credit Suisse believes the risk to REITs under the broker’s coverage from rising rates is immaterial for FY22 though more pronounced for FY23 and FY24.

The broker doesn’t envisage negative revaluations in the June-2022 reporting period and believes the market has already priced in expectations of asset declines and/or negative earnings revisions for certain stocks.

At current levels, Credit Suisse prefers Stockland ((SGP)) among the large cap diversifieds, Goodman Group ((GMG)) from the fund managers and Scentre Group ((SCG)) for regional mall exposure.

For yield-focused investors, the analysts see value in Centuria Office REIT ((COF)) among small caps. Also, Charter Hall Retail REIT ((CQR)) and Shopping Centres Australasia ((SCP)) are expected to be well supported in the short term, given exposures to supermarket tenants that pay turnover-based rent.

Outperformers for April included Charter Hall Retail REIT, Shopping Centres Australasia, Hotel Property Investments ((HPI)), Goodman Group and GDI Property Group ((GDI)).

Underperformers included fund managers Charter Hall Group ((CHC)) and Centuria Capital Group ((CNI)), residential-exposed names Ingenia Communities Group ((INA)) and Mirvac Group ((MGR)), as well as National Storage REIT ((NSR)).

Interest rates

In the US, the 10-year treasury yield rose by 56bpts to 2.89%, while in Australia the 10-year bond yield climbed by 30bpts to 3.12%.

Futures markets are pricing steep rate hikes by both the RBA and the Federal Reserve.

For the US, Morgan Stanley notes an expectation by the futures market for eleven rate hikes in the next twelve months, while in Australia the broker expects inflation pressures to continue to build, after strong first quarter increases for headline and underlying CPI.

Commodities

The CRB Commodity Index rose by 4% to 308.3 in April.

Brent crude oil rose by 1.3% to US$109.3/bbl.

Iron ore price fell by -8.8% to $US144.5/t.

The gold price decreased by -2.1% to US$1,897/oz.

Hard coking coal prices remained steady, while thermal coal increased by 26.1% during April.

Foreign exchange

The US dollar Index (DXY), a measure of the value of the US dollar relative to a basket of foreign currencies, gained 4.7% to 102.96.

The Australian dollar fell by -5.6% to close out April at US71.10 cents.

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CHARTS

360 A2M AGL ALD ALL AMC AMP APA AZJ BHP CHC CNI COF CQR DMP EML FLT FPH GDI GMG GNC HPI IEL INA LLC LTR LYC MGR MIN MP1 NSR NST ORA ORG PDL QAN RHC RMD SCG SCP SGP SQ2 TYR VEA WHC XRO

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: 360 - LIFE360 INC

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: A2M - A2 MILK COMPANY LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: AGL - AGL ENERGY LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: ALD - AMPOL LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: ALL - ARISTOCRAT LEISURE LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: AMC - AMCOR PLC

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: AMP - AMP LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: APA - APA GROUP

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: AZJ - AURIZON HOLDINGS LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: BHP - BHP GROUP LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: CHC - CHARTER HALL GROUP

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: CNI - CENTURIA CAPITAL GROUP

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: COF - CENTURIA OFFICE REIT

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: CQR - CHARTER HALL RETAIL REIT

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: DMP - DOMINO'S PIZZA ENTERPRISES LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: EML - EML PAYMENTS LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: FLT - FLIGHT CENTRE TRAVEL GROUP LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: GDI - GDI PROPERTY GROUP

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: GMG - GOODMAN GROUP

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: GNC - GRAINCORP LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: HPI - HOTEL PROPERTY INVESTMENTS LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: IEL - IDP EDUCATION LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: INA - INGENIA COMMUNITIES GROUP

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: LLC - LENDLEASE GROUP

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: LTR - LIONTOWN RESOURCES LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: LYC - LYNAS RARE EARTHS LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: MGR - MIRVAC GROUP

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: MIN - MINERAL RESOURCES LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: MP1 - MEGAPORT LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: NSR - NATIONAL STORAGE REIT

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: NST - NORTHERN STAR RESOURCES LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: ORA - ORORA LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: ORG - ORIGIN ENERGY LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: PDL - PENDAL GROUP LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: QAN - QANTAS AIRWAYS LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: RHC - RAMSAY HEALTH CARE LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: RMD - RESMED INC

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: SCG - SCENTRE GROUP

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: SGP - STOCKLAND

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: SQ2 - BLOCK INC

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: TYR - TYRO PAYMENTS LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: VEA - VIVA ENERGY GROUP LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: WHC - WHITEHAVEN COAL LIMITED

For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: XRO - XERO LIMITED