One word for equity performance for the year to date: uncertain. The rest of the year: uncertain. In an uncertain world, wouldn't it be nice to give up on equities and go for commodities, bonds or cash?
Two words for commodities: uncertain and volatile. One word for bonds: unattractive. One phrase for cash: "show me the money". Which brings us nicely back to equities for our "risk/growth" focused assets.
Which market? My point for the week: one of the more unheralded "middle ground" markets for global equities is Australia. It's one market that combines the goings-on of commodities with the goings-on of equities with a bit of US dollar thrown in because of the pricing of commodities. Moreover, it's not in a multi-confusing economic bloc, but sat out there on the edge of the world. Alone.
What about Bric? You say. Well, Bric year to date has been trailing the developed world. Until this month, Russia was doing well before a -9 per cent in May. When a market can do that and not hit the headlines it tells you how small it is. Ditto India. India's -2 per cent per month average this year is probably better-known in these parts because of the Gulf News demographic profile. Globally, it will have had less impact.
The Bric year to date figures, serve to remind us that Bric remains relatively small, and relatively volatile. In a word: uncertain.
In contrast, all the "bad things" said about the US, debts and all, is no longer being reflected in markets which have been more attracted to the future of the G7's best corporates.
The Bric to G7 comparison is instructive as they represent the two polar opposites of equity investment choice. You could argue the case for bringing in Emerging Markets, or Asia, but the point will remain the same: in these uncertain times the markets are voting in the developed economies (or their biggest companies) above the fast growing ones.
For the inexperienced investor thinking: "why doesn't my fund manager pick the top performing ones?"; which, for record keeping at May 16, were:
The answer: there is nobody out there with such brilliant foresight. Markowitz's Nobel Prize paper starts with a point of this ilk.
This brings us back to our central point:
Part 1: that the comparison of evolved and evolving markets is a central investment focus of our time.
Part 2: In trying to find one market that acts as "middle ground" between the two, our recommendation is to follow Australia.
For insight on Australia, as at today, we recommend the research of John Goodlad at Hartley's in Perth. Oz fell with everybody from a year high in April, down 6.8 per cent, Goodlad's view is; "a fall of several per cent is still within the bounds of a normal market correction and is even welcomed by those who see it has helping the market consolidate ready for its next push up!"
Looking forward, it's the diversity of the resource-driven Aussie economy that leads Goodlad to state: "The old aphorism — buy when others are fearful — should be applied.
Bottom line: cheap and uncertain, so buy and hold. For this to be a bad call commodity and equity markets need a correlated depression.