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19 Aug 2022 - Hedge Clippings |19 August 2022



Hedge Clippings | Friday, 19 August 2022


This week in review:

Scomo..... what was he thinking? Let's not go there... Neither in our view should further time and money be wasted on having an inquisition. It would seem nothing Scomo did was actually illegal, but the lack of transparency defies logic, and will define Scomo for ever. If nothing else, it at least shows the dangers of having a popularly elected President - if Donald hasn't already proven that.

Moving onwards and upwards - hopefully in more ways than one...

Markets bounced in July, with the ASX200 Accumulation Index rising 5.75%, after falling 8.77% in a horror June, while the S&P500 bounced 9.22% to make up for its June fall of 8.25%.  Funds generally enjoyed the ride, with 80% of the funds on having reporting their July results, with those hit hardest in June enjoying the best of July. Having been on the nose in June (and if it comes to that for the past 6-8 months) growth stocks, and the funds investing in them, were the big winners, although in many cases they have a long way to catch up to their previous highs. There's no doubt there was some irrational selling, particularly in the small/mid cap space, as stretched valuations, gearing, year end tax selling etc., saw some companies trading close to or below cash backing.

While we (and others) tend to focus on "performance" and top performing funds, there's a risk doing so at the expense of looking at risk and drawdowns. When the ASX200 fell 8.77% in June, 72% of equity based funds outperformed (i.e. fell less than the index). In July's market rally of 5.75%, only 40% of equity based funds managed to outperform the ASX200. Over the past few weeks we have been publishing our "Spotlight" series of articles exploring quantitative assessment of funds' returns to create a top performing portfolio. For those of you who have been following these articles, chasing top performing funds over the short term (say 1 year) is not the solution.

The problem is that taking a longer term view (say 3-5 years) involves a variety of economic and market conditions, when funds with different styles, (for example growth or value) and strategies, perform very differently. In the past 3 years alone we've had 2 "bear" or negative equity markets. Extend that further, and the Global Equity Index benchmark (effectively the MSCI) was in negative territory on a cumulative basis from late 1999 through to the start of 2014 as shown by the chart below of Platinum's International Share Fund (blue) vs. the Global Equity Index (red), showing the effects of the dot com bubble of the late 1990s, the resultant "tech wreck" in 2000, and then the GFC in 2007-08. By comparison, the recent downturn (so far) puts things in perspective.

There's a lesson in this for markets - a bubble always bursts, and the bigger or longer the bubble, the greater the burst.  As for fund selection the lesson is equally clear: Protecting the downside through active risk management should, over time, result in good long-term performance.

This week Hedge Clippings attended the Portfolio Construction Forum, as always expertly managed and MC'd by Graham Rich, with the addition of a variety of excellent speakers and panels covering (as one would expect) Portfolio Construction. The underlying theme over the two days was "The future ain't what it used to be". Given the above chart showing the variable market conditions experienced over the past 25 years, it's no surprise that asset allocation decisions (equities, bonds, alternatives, etc) are vital, but that requires a crystal ball. Having set asset allocations according to forward looking projections, the actual stock (or in our case fund) selection for a diversified portfolio is made based on backward looking history, namely the fund's track record.

Nearly every advisor and fund manager we know (understandably) relies on past performance, but if "the future ain't what it used to be" is correct, it doesn't make fund selection, or portfolio construction, any easier!

Of the many speakers at the forum, one of the most insightful was Marko Papic, Partner and Chief Strategist of the Clocktower Group in Santa Monica, who challenged the view often held in Australia that conflict over Taiwan was inevitable. His view (as my takeaway) was that the cost to China, and not just in economic terms, would far outweigh the strategic or geographic benefit of a military outcome.

We hope he's correct, otherwise the future's not only not going to be what it was, but it's looking decidedly uncomfortable.

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