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Investment year in review

2020 has been an interesting and challenging year. While we can talk about bush fires, COVID-19, Australian State and United States elections, the real story is the impact of a rapidly changing world on the various generations and how that will play out in the coming years. 

Arguably, the COVID-19 year has been similar to living through a global conflict and for many under 45, it was definitely a new experience. As with all such experiences, it can be confronting, and challenging in terms of our health and well-being, and it remains to be seen as to whether there will be far reaching financial impactsThis was certainly true of COVID-19, and uncertainty was all around. When markets started to move in February, it felt that we were being pressed on all sides. 

I would like to digress for a moment, and ask you to consider the words of Rocky Balboa from the film Rocky Balboa (2006); 

“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows…you, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” 

This is a reminder that when the unexpected happens, there are times when investors might feel as though there is no way out. Towards the end of February, when the sharemarket was a sea of red, rest assured, those of us at team Evalesco and the members of the Investment Committee were very focused on protecting what you have accumulated over a lifetime of investing. With that in mind, I wanted to share some of the actions undertaken that our internal attribution analysis has demonstrated were particularly impactful over the last twelve months. Our role with the support and guidance of the Investment Committee, is to ensure that if and when you do get hit, you keep moving forward. These are some of the actions that we believe have led to some very positive outcomes in 2020; 

  • Adhering to our philosophy of reweighting AAN models back to their strategic benchmarks each quarter. 
  • Rotating out of several managers and funds over the course of the year with a view to reducing risk or portfolio costs. 
  • Hedging half of the currency exposure in the AAN Core and AAN Growth Models in the March reweight when the AUD was trading at a little over 55 cents. 

    From an Australian viewpoint: 

    • Domestic borders are down (hopefully SA reopens soon) and our most populous states are now on the move.   
    • 450,000 fewer businesses and almost 2 million fewer employees were on Jobkeeper in October than in September. 
    • We have 56 active cases in the whole of Australia and 90%+ of those are in hotel quarantine as returning travellers. Weirdly enough Qld and WA have more active cases than NSW and Victoria. (1) 
    • Australians are travelling domestically again and tourist destinations are seeing high demand. 
    • Our economy is well out of recession. The September recovery was very healthy after the June figures and arguably better than most expected given the issues in Victoria. 
    • Dire predictions about unemployment have not materialised and is some cases, specifically rural areas, there are shortages. 
    • The property slump was short and sharp but is now recovering and advancing quickly. (2) 

      Year to date numbers (as at 29 Nov 2020) for the capitalsSydney +3.9%, Melbourne -0.6%, Brisbane/Gold Coast +4.1%, Adelaide +4.7%, Perth 0.8%.   

      Real estate brokers we are talking to, talk about properties selling well above reserves and the rental market being very tight. 

      • The Australian ASX 200 to 2nd Dec 2020 over the twelve months was slightly down (1.5%) despite the 35% drop in February. 
      • The US S&P500 is up 18% for the year to Dec 2nd 2020, UK FTSE was down 9.7%, German Dax was up 1.3%, S&P Europe 350 was down 2.8%. 
      • The massive amount of government stimulus has seen household net income rise through the year. 
      • We are also seeing very positive news on the vaccine front. 

        There are some headwinds though. 

        • Trade uncertainty with China, our biggest trading partner. 
        • This pandemic is far from over and international borders are likely to remain firmly shut for some period to come.  Daily death rates continue to climb, though thankfully at a lower rate relative to number of cases.   
        • Even with several vaccines, it will take time to work through society and care and health workers as well as the elderly need to be at the front of the queue. 
        • Fiscal debt around the world looks alarming with over $69 trillion of public debt accumulated. This may not seem to have an immediate impact but reduces what countries can do into the future and leaves us very exposed if we were to be confronted with another unexpected issue. (3) 
        • Potential conflict in the South China Sea. 
        • Disruption of supply chains. 

          It is quite likely that 2021 will be a little unsettled, and it is our expectation that we will still continue to find everything a little bit harder than it used to be. The economy that is currently awash with cash will find that extra cash has dried up, retail spending will decline, and as the stimulus is rolled back we may well see some companies facing insolvency. 

          The Chinese trade conflicts are unlikely to be resolved in the short term so our exporters will need to find alternative markets, whilst on the upside for those of you that are wine drinkers, Penfold’s may get cheaper. 

          As always, should you have any questions about this content, or your own portfolio, please do reach out to your adviser, or drop me an email care of marshall@evalesco.com.au. 

          Sources: 

          (1) https://wwwcovid19data.com.au 

          (2) https://propertyupdate.com.au/australian-property-market  

          (3) https://mandrillapp.com/track/click/30048563/www.atlanticcouncil.org? 

          The information in this blog post is general advice and does not consider your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider whether the advice is suitable for you and your personal circumstances. Before you make any decision about whether to acquire a certain product, you should obtain and read the relevant product disclosure statement. Should you have any questions please contact us on 02 9232 6800. 

          To read the full Year in Review click here – https://www.evalesco.com.au/thoughts/year-in-review-2020/ 

          It’s my job to work as my client’s financial ‘lifesaver’ to ensure that they swim between the flags and that they don’t get in over their heads.

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