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Australian stocks are up 63,338% since 1900. This chart shows why long-term investing is not gambling

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The life of an investor inevitably involves periods of frustration and can prove to be an emotional experience for many – whether it involves shares, property or bonds – as we navigate the ups and downs of the economic cycle and the impact this has on our portfolio value. For this reason, some broad perspective can help appease these concerns and focus on the underlying objective of investing.

Are you an active investor? Are you a buy-and-hold investor? Or a reasonably balanced individual that wants to participate in the upside but avoid the major setbacks that occur from time to time?

long-term-chartAustin Donnelly was a great advocate of these perspective pieces, as they should instil a longer-term mindset. In the past 100+ years, we have faced two world wars, a great depression and multiple recessions. Yet, despite all of this, the market continued on a reasonably stable trajectory.

In fact, the market went up 63,338% excluding dividends in the past 116 years (equal to approximately 71% every 10 years). This is despite the fact it experienced 10 “crashes”, defined as falls of over 20%, meaning approximately once every decade anyone that was fully invested had to stomach up to a 20% loss to their life savings. Of course, there are techniques available to reduce the drawdown risk (such as diversification to negatively correlated assets) or one can attempt to identify the risks in advance and avoid the losses altogether.

Today’s concerns are arguably similar, as we face the short-term issues of a US election, US debt ceiling negotiation, an Italian vote, the Brexit process and Chinese debt concerns. We also face the long-term issues of an ageing population, high household debt levels, a seemingly elevated property market and technological change that can have a material impact on investment values. crashes

The truth is that there are no guarantees in financial markets. The best we can do is make reasonable assumptions on the best path forward and retain conviction throughout the noise and inevitable periods of market panic.   

Therefore, as an investor, it helps to consider in advance whether you have the knowledge and temperament to identify these risks in advance (plus a willingness to act on your conviction when most people remain optimistic) or whether a buy-and-hold strategy is more akin to your style.

Knowing that most people wish to avoid crashes, we provide a framework that hopefully helps you to identify the key risks and position accordingly. However, just like the 1987 crash or the 2008 financial crisis; the timing and depth of a crisis is often a great unknown. In the end, intelligent investing requires temperament and deep analysis – in that order.

 

 

 

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Shares vs property: Which will win over the next 5 years?

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DSC00808 (640x480)What is going to the best investment over the next five years? Shares, property, cash, gold, hedge funds, bonds, commodities or an alternative asset? This is a question with significant scope for error, however the drivers of supply and demand are a good place to start.

The Investing Times has helped readers assess the risk and return landscape of the share-market and many other opportunities for more than 45 years on the basis of supply and demand, however has never before released research on whether shares or property are likely to be the better investment – until now.

This research is intended to push forward our contribution to value-based investment research, and as such we have compiled a summary of the findings as well as inviting readers to download the full report at the end of this article.

History shows property has been the winner

Looking back through recent history, it should be little surprise that Australian bricks and mortar have outperformed shares. In fact, Australian residential property has outperformed shares in 73.8% of rolling 5 year periods over the past 15 years and in 55.0% of periods since our records commenced 30 years ago (capital returns). This is despite having 34.3% less risk over the past 15 years and 23.8% less risk over 30 years (standard deviation).

Shares v property 1The fact Australian property hasn’t even experienced a negative 5-year return since 1986 has led numerous Australians to form a view that property is a safe bet. This view may or may not prove to be misleading over the next 30 years, however international perspective shows it isn’t always a one-way street.

In addition, even in Australia shares have outperformed property significantly at different times in the cycle. For example, we can see that the period from 1990 to 2000 and 2003 to 2007 was a prosperous time for shares, whereas the period from 2000 to today has been a generally golden period for property.

The big question is not whether one asset-class in permanently better than the other – we know for a fact they both have the ability to produce significant wealth gains and will produce different results depending on the stage of the cycle. The big question is whether it is possible to determine the times when one is better than the other using value metrics including supply and demand fundamental analysis.

What drives shares and/or property?

If we are any chance of identifying the winner in shares versus property going forward, it is not good enough to assume property will crash relative to shares merely because it has grown so much further in the past decade and a half (although this may be a partial indicator of a “buy low sell high” logic).

It requires logical analysis and the deconstruction of the key drivers of each asset – including but not limited to debt level analysis, rental and dividend yield comparisons, interest rate moves, employment growth (or lack thereof), population changes, building supply changes; and more.

For example, we know property tends to excel in times of economic prosperity (no recessions), when unemployment is stable, interest rates are falling and the population is booming. We also know that shares tend to produce the highest performance in times when the share-market is cheap (“buy low, sell high”), when dividend yields are high, when earnings are rising and when households are generally increasing their participation in the share-market.

Our research agenda allows us to explore these drivers in impeccable detail, and we monitor what we consider to be nine of the key drivers for each market. These drivers can be considered a part of the “science of investing” and are detailed with the intention of helping readers make assessments on the risk and return outlook for asset types.

MetricsDo the drivers work?

If done correctly, the analysis should hopefully speak for itself. As a hint of what to expect, it can be seen in the charts below that the 9 drivers are generally quite predictive of the future 5-year return – especially for shares but also for property. For example, in times when the less than 4 of the 9 share-market drivers are positive, the average forward 5-year annual return is 1.1%. In times when more than 6 of the 9 drivers are positive the average forward 5-year annual return is +17.5%. The same applies to property, with 4.1% versus 10.5% forward 5-year annual returns respectively.

If the future valuations of property and shares stay true to their underlying drivers, which is probable but not guaranteed, one should have a reasonable view of the relative value between the two assets (we say “if” because we must acknowledge the limitations of using any system as a basis for future returns).

It is a combination of logic/common-sense as well as historical perspective.

What do the drivers say today? 

Shares v property 6At present, the share-market has 6 of the 9 drivers positive, while the property-market has 3 of the 9 drivers positive. All things being equal over the next 5 years, this leads us to expect reasonable positive returns for shares versus an expectation for relatively subdued returns for property.

In fact, using 25 years of historical analysis, we can see the likelihood of shares beating property over the next 5 years is approximately 3:4 or 74% from the current backdrop. Obviously this means there is room for error. The backdrop is also likely to change over the course of the next 5 years and clearly the results will vary by sector and individual asset.

Regardless, keeping up with the trends in fundamental valuations of shares and property may prove to be useful asset allocation information at the highest level. This is especially true in the current world of excessive noise and fear-mongering.

We wish you safe and prosperous investing and note that if you wish to see the full report, including the full analysis of all 18 drivers, it can be downloaded via the link below at no cost. All you give is your email and name, which we use to share similarly insightful and valuable reports (no spamming) to advance our authority as an independent research house.

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Recession risks: what are 10 of the top indicators to watch and why it works.

By | Economy, Headline Article, Most Viewed | No Comments

IMG_1116 (640x477)What does it take to identify an impending recession? Obviously, this is an extremely complex question. However, there are at least 10 factors that have had a strong historical track-record of identifying recessions, and below we outline ten metrics to add to your watch-list:

  • Household spending – The amount of money households spend on everyday goods and services is the number one determinant of economic growth. It represents more than half of GDP at 55.7% and is thus a directly attributable indicator and of significant importance to any GDP insight. Household spending changes tend to change instantaneously with the rate of economic growth, however given that consumer confidence tends to go in cycles it is still a useful tool to foresee future recessionary risks.
  • Business investment – Technically called ‘private fixed capital formation’, business investment is a direct line in the GDP calculation and thus has a direct effect on recessionary conditions. Business investment accounts for 20% of GDP so it’s thus seen to be a very important component and indicator for future recessions. Apart from its direct impact, it is also a clear signal of business confidence which has flow on effects for future GDP results.
  • Dwelling formation – Dwelling formation refers to the activities involved in new and used private houses, including alterations and renovations. It now accounts for 5.3% of the entire economy and is thus seen to be strongly correlated with the overall economic growth rate. Similar to household spending, it is seen to be an indicator of consumer confidence and thus has the ability to act as a leading indicator for economic growth. An encouraging signal involves a positive and/or growing rate.
  • Corporate earnings – Corporate earnings refer to the aggregate profitability of businesses and is a data series produced to gauge the health of the corporate sub-set of the economy. If the average company is highly profitable, it makes sense that the overall economy will be expanding. With this logic, we can see a strong correlation between the current status of corporations and the future growth rate of the country. The risk of recession is seen to increase when corporate profitability is deteriorating on average.
  • Yield curve – The yield curve simply refers to the difference in ‘borrowing rates’ on 10 year bonds versus 5 year bonds. If the 10-year bond pays a higher rate than the 5-year bond, this is seen to be normal, however when the opposite occurs it is seen to be the markets way of pricing for a recession. Across the globe, there has been a very strong long-term connection between the shape of the yield curve and the risk of recession. The link in Australia has been relatively weak but remains an insightful measure of risk.
  • Historical GDP growth – It makes intuitive sense that the risk of recession is higher if the economic growth rate is off a lower base. For example, it would seem highly unlikely for a recession to occur from a base of 5% or more, but would be far more plausible to slide into recession from a growth rate of 2% or less. This momentum effect is a powerful force behind economic growth, and for this reason the historical GDP growth rate can be an insightful measure for future recessionary risks.
  • Worker productivity – The driving force behind an economy is the workforce. The more people work, or the more efficient they become, the stronger the economy tends to be. There are many useful measures to track workplace productivity, however the most useful measure tends to be the total number of hours worked as this factors in population growth and demographic changes. A low and/or falling work ethic increases the risk of recession, whilst a growing rate is a positive sign for the future economy.
  • Retail sales – Retail sales is a vital component of household spending and is a very useful measure of the future direction of the economy. If consumers aren’t shopping and money isn’t passing through people’s hands, the economy is unlikely to be growing with conviction.
    If retail sales are falling, there is a reasonably high likelihood that a recession could be impending as consumer confidence becomes dented. History has shown that this connection with GDP is strong.
  • Housing starts – The process to build a house begins with a housing approval or ‘housing start’. This commitment is a clear sign of confidence that the economy will hold up, and marks the commencement of a long list of transactions that eventually push the economy forward. The new housing starts data is subject to volatility, however, if more people are committing to build a new home, more people are signalling their confidence in the economy. This reduces the risk of a future recession.
  • Employment growth – Similar to the workforce productivity indicator, the employment rate is of vital importance for the future prospects of the economy. The total employment growth figure is a more useful measure than the unemployment rate because it accounts for new additions to the workforce. While the employment growth figure tends to have a strong instantaneous correlation with GDP, the indicator has also proven to be an effective measure for future recessionary risks.

Of course, this list is not conclusive and there are an array of other important economic fundamentals that will impact the likelihood of a recession. In reality, there is no such thing as a perfect model, simply because the economy is so dynamic.

Creating a view from the data

Despite the limitations, an individual that wants any form of success should be trying to formulate a view based on the “known-known’s” while acknowledging the inability to predict the future with any precision. On this basis, the Investing Times opens up this research to help its readers, and produces a global recession risk report that is freely available to the public via the link below. This is a value-add service at no cost that covers at least five of the major global economies.

To give readers an idea of what to expect, the chart below is a historical view of the “recession trackers” ability in Australia, with a strong connection between the leading indicators and the future GDP growth rate.

Recession tracker performance

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It’s not (totally) the baby boomers fault: Why the working population matters most

| Most Viewed, Politics, Recommended by the Investing Times | No Comments

We have an unprecedented rise in the over 65 age group and our working population is growing at a more modest rate. This article will detail the real problems we face and how you can profit from it.

Can Warren Buffett and Robert Shiller both be wrong at the same time? Unlikely.

By | Headline Article, Investing Times News, Most Viewed, Share-Market | No Comments

IMG_9055 (480x640)Warren Buffett and Robert Shiller should be familiar names to anyone with an active interest in the share-market. They are two of the most respected individuals on the planet when it comes to money matters, and each have varied yet complimentary views on what drives the overall share-market.

Therefore, the title of this article has an underlying power behind it. “Can Warren Buffett and Robert Shiller both be wrong at the same time” is really the same way of saying “These two people are legends of their field and worth watching closely”.

The reason these two men are exceptional

Robert Shiller’s CV includes being the Professor of Economics at Yale University and a Nobel Prize winner in Economics. More importantly, he is the man behind the Shiller P/E ratio – a complex and compelling share-market indicator.

The Shiller P/E ratio is known as the more stable and reliable cousin of the Price to Earnings ratio, and is a market valuation tool that has accurately predicted the bubbles of recent decades (including famously for the 1987 Crash and the GFC in 2007/08).

Shiller PE Ratio in Australia

Shiller PE

Warren Buffett is the world’s 3rd richest man and better known for his ability to source businesses that have an understandable business model and long-term abilities to grow. He is quick to tell people he cannot predict the short-term direction of the market, however, underlying his strategy is an optimistic outlook for the overall economy and a strong consideration on its relationship with the share-market. In fact, it is the relationship between the share-market and the economy that has made him a fortune along with his “buy low, sell never” company philosophy. More specifically, Buffett has been documented on multiple occasions for his consideration of the Market Capitalisation of the overall share-market and its position relative to the nominal value of the overall economy. This is called the Market Cap to GNP ratio or the Market Cap to GDP ratio.

Market Cap to GDP Ratio in Australia

Buffett Market Cap to GDP

Utilising the favourite metrics of the smartest minds in a field would be seen by many to be a no-brainer. Going against it could be like ignoring the opinion of the world’s best heart surgeon when needing a heart transplant.

Yet fund flows continue to diminish and the average allocation to equities continues to remain well below historical norms in Australia. This is despite the Shiller PE being below historical norms and the Market Cap to GDP around historical norms.

Summary

It will take time before we know who will make the correct long-term judgement – the Shiller/Buffett duo or the average Australian – but it would seem unlikely to be the latter.

Note: This articles comes from the most popular and commented data from the Investing Times Asset Allocation Research document. This comprises nine of the most influential factors that determine share-market value (including the Shiller PE and Buffett Market Cap to GDP ratio), with a compelling track-record over a 25-year period in Australia.

If you wish to see the 9 metrics, please request a free trial below and we will forward it by email. This is a value-add with no obligation.

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Worried about a property crash? These nine facts answer it better than most…

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We have an unprecedented rise in the over 65 age group and our working population is growing at a more modest rate. This article will detail the real problems we face and how you can profit from it.