Rudi's View | Nov 08 2023
This story features RESMED INC, and other companies. For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: RMD
In this week's Weekly Insights:
-Outlook 2024: Is History Our Guide?
-Conviction Calls and Best Ideas
-December Index Rebalancing
By Rudi Filapek-Vandyck, Editor
Outlook 2024: If History Can Be Our Guide
Bond yields are down, and equities have put in a big rally starting from a deeply oversold position.
The past twelve months have shown the negative correlation between government bond yields and equities momentum can be a very powerful driver.
Assuming the US Federal Reserve is now done with monetary tightening, what should equity investors expect from the year ahead?
In a strange twist of 'the market is always a compilation of competing views and narratives', both bulls and bears are claiming history shows the scenario for 2024 will be written in line with their view for respectively strong gains or more weakness ahead.
Surely, history cannot be that ambiguous? Or is this simply a case of we, humans, simply see what we want to see?
Time for an investigation.
Probably the precedent most referred to in 2023 is that of late 2018/early 2019 when the US share market effectively forced the Federal Reserve to stop hiking interest rates by falling -20% between September and Christmas.
Once then Fed chair Jerome Powell and the board gave in to the market's demand, stability returned and the US share market resumed its pre-September uptrend to advance no less than 27% by late 2019.
In Australia, the ASX200 followed suit with a total return, including dividends, of 18.4%.
So far, so good. Central bank policy pauses seem extremely beneficial for equity markets.
However, to tell the full story of 2019, we need to include the fact Powell & Co started cutting the key benchmark rate from the July 31 meeting onwards. There would be two more rate cuts and by September central bank officials were bailing out hedge funds and non-bank financials as the US repo market stopped functioning, threatening another financial crisis.
The RBA started loosening in June and would cut five more times by the time covid-19 spread across the globe. It is easily forgotten, but by the second half of that year, before anyone knew a global pandemic was coming, Australia's energy companies and other cyclicals, plus three of the Major Banks in Australia, started announcing dividend cuts to shareholders.
Not helped by a Royal Commission digging deeper into the sector, and uncovering all kinds of mischief and malpractices, banking analysts were preparing for what looked like a truly horrible year ahead (more dividend cuts coming!).
Soon after, of course, the world was gripped by a major pandemic. Today, we don't know what the outcome would have been without it. What we can conclude with sufficient certainty is the post-2018 Fed pivot story never ran its full course. It was cut short and interrupted by covid and societal lockdowns, and by extraordinary government stimulus programs, the world around.
But the share market bulls have a valid point: in the six months post the Fed's policy change, US equities rallied by 17.8%. In Australia, the ASX200 gained 12.4% between January and June 30 on strong gains for mining and energy stocks, while the financial sector lagged but still gained 11.1%.
Recessions & Crises
2018/19 is not the only time a pause in Fed hiking has led to strong gains for share markets.
Other examples from the past 90-plus years are mid-2006, 1995, 1989, and 1980. In 1957 the first six months were negative, but twelve months out the share market was back in the black.
To be fair, the number of times when the Fed stopped hiking and equities were subsequently in for a negative performance has happened more often; eight in total versus six.
Maybe the bears have a valid point here: it looks like the bulls are cherry-picking from positive experiences.
It is interesting to note nevertheless, pre-1974, only one of the post final Fed hike years managed to end on a positive note, and then only after six months. Since the early 1980s there have been seven occasions, 2023 not included, and five of those seven occasions have seen equities rally strongly in the first six and twelve months.
It looks like the bulls might have a point: maybe economies have changed so much that impacts from higher interest rates do not necessarily equal economic recession in the aftermath? This would undoubtedly be great news for equities.
One of the historical flash backs that is circling around on social media:
Once we start looking into the finer details behind the first twelve months' performances from the day the Federal Reserve stops hiking interest rates, it soon becomes clear the outlook for equities very much depends on whether economic recession follows next, and when exactly.
One alternative scenario is that of a financial crisis. Few in the market back then will ever forget the global crisis that unfolded in 2008. Back in 1965 Fed tightening did not cause economic recession, but a good old credit crunch caused a financial crisis in the following year, which might explain the negative return in the table above.
It is also commonly believed Fed tightening up until early 1995 is linked to the subsequent Asia crisis that started in Thailand in July 1997.
This year has seen regional banks in the US and Credit Suisse in Europe narrowly avoiding the abyss. Back in 2019, as stipulated earlier, the Federal Reserve managed to nip a new financial crisis quickly in the bud. Arguably, the crypto space did come unstuck on lower liquidity and tighter central bank policies, but it wasn't important enough to be saved.
Can we safely assume any new forms of important market stresses will be just as quickly and effectively dealt with as on each prior occasion post-GFC?
Let's hope this will be the case.
The Fed, however, does not have the tools to prevent the US economy from weakening into negative growth, certainly not when it is targeting lower inflation. This makes economic recession possibly a much bigger threat for equity markets in the year ahead.
What all the negative references in the table above have in common is simply that; economic recession.
1965 is the exception; it was followed by a financial crisis instead. And while 1957 shows up as a positive on the table, it marks one of those occasions when recession arrived early during Fed tightening. The first six months after the final hike pulled the S&P500 down by -8.2%.
Which takes us back to 2019 and the other positive precedents. While the story remained unfinished by the time covid arrived, bond markets in 2018 had never inverted during Fed tightening, so one can conclude the share market was simply having a conniption that year, without any hints of economic recession being a genuine possibility.
Certainly the bond markets weren't forecasting any economic contractions in the foreseeable outlook. We know this time is different. This time bond markets have been predicting a major economic slowdown is ahead (they still are).
Viewed from this crucial angle, a different perspective emerges from the table above. The US economy did fall into recession in early 2008. The aftermath of the tightening cycle that ended in mid-2006 thus effectively led to a double whammy negative outcome of economic contraction, globally, plus a Global Financial Crisis.
No wonder equity markets lost half their value between late 2007 and March 2009. But equally important: should we then focus on the positive 18% return that preceded the subsequent carnage?
Are post-Fed pause positive returns simply a matter of 'timing'?
There are hints of that, most certainly. The negative performance of 1981 fully erased the positive return of 1980. The US economy experienced economic recession in 1990, which was preceded by the Fed pivot and a positive return the year prior. That period marked equally the build-up to what came to be known as the Savings & Loans (S&L) financial crisis that didn't end until the mid-1990s.
The 1995 pivot never led to recession, but a financial crisis followed 2.5 years later. That time the US bond market did invert, which can be, in hindsight, interpreted as a false signal.
According to some analyses, economic recession did arrive, but not until 2001 – six years down the track, with an Asian crisis, the Nasdaq meltdown and 9/11 happening in between.
Summarising all of the precedents, I think it is but fair to conclude that:
-Fed tightening cycles are likely to lead to economic recession and/or financial crises, though not necessarily during the tightening process or immediately after it.
-It is possible both economic recession and financial crisis can be avoided, though history suggests this only happens on a small number of occasions. Arguably, this only happened in 2018, and maybe only because of the arrival of a global pandemic by late 2019/early 2020.
-All other occasions have been followed by economic contraction or a financial crisis, or both. On a number of occasions, the negative impact from tightening showed up rather slowly. This allowed share markets to make the best of it in the meantime, no doubt also led by the belief 'this time is different' and a 'soft' or 'no landing' was on the cards.
Final conclusion: it appears history shows both bulls and bears can have their cake and eat it too. They both can look at historical precedents and see their views confirmed. The difference can be simply due to a difference in timing.
This does not provide investors with a watertight blueprint for the year ahead. The US bond market has been suggesting since March 2022 a substantial deceleration in economic momentum lays ahead. Economic indicators are suggesting momentum is slowing, without flagging a fall-into-the-abyss experience soon, but market participants will be paying close attention.
If we simply focus on the past three decades, it is well possible negative outcomes from central bank tightening take more time to work through modern day economies, hence providing equity markets with an opportunity to rally first, and suffer the consequences later.
Whether this proves to be case in the year ahead, then comes down to 'timing' – assuming history rhymes in 2024.
Equally important: economies can avoid recessions, but this doesn't negate scenarios whereby growth can slow dramatically. History also suggests bond yields should come down as economic growth slows (as does inflation), which supports equity valuations, but not when growth and corporate earnings turn negative.
Conviction Calls and Best Ideas
The healthcare research team at UBS was among the first to jump to the defence of ResMed ((RMD)) when US hedge funds and traders thrashed the shares because GLP-1 drugs developed by Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly were going to eat the company's meal and then some in the years ahead.
But that was then (August) and this is now, and those same analysts have come to the conclusion GLP-1s will probably reduce the company's total addressable market, albeit with any impact not to be seen until years into the future, while positive newsflow from ongoing GLP-1 trials seem poised to dominate investor sentiment towards the stock.
Having assumed ResMed's pace of EPS growth won't likely exceed 11% per annum, on average, in the years ahead, UBS also finds this is commendable, for sure, but it doesn't make ResMed a sector standout. There's a lot more growth to be had from others in the sector.
On this basis, UBS is one of few who doesn't rate the shares a Buy, instead adding the stock to a cohort of Neutral-rated healthcare companies, where investors also find the likes of Ansell ((ANN)) and Cochlear ((COH)).
So… which ASX-listed healthcare companies make up UBS's favoured top three?
Telix Pharmaceuticals ((TLX)), which is equally liked by colleagues at Bell Potter, Jarden and Wilsons, CSL ((CSL)), whose credentials do look better than ResMed's, and Sonic Healthcare ((SHL)). The latter is a call on EPS having troughed and with ongoing potential from bolt-on acquisitions.
Simple observation: shares in ResMed have quickly bounced in excess of 12% since more buyers than sellers announced themselves, while shares in CSL are up an accumulative 7.50% from last week's bottom.
Both stocks have been among the prime beneficiaries of global markets' firm relief rally as expectations grow the Federal Reserve is 'done' hiking for this cycle and with bond yields retreating sharply in response.
… all with a little help from those who'd been positioned short, confident of more weakness ahead.
The ASX200 lost -3.80%, dividends included, in October, not only marking the worst monthly performance in 2023, but also the third negative performance in a row.
Time to start thinking about adding more exposure, argues Simon Kent-Jones, Head of Private Client Research at Ord Minnett.
Within this context, Kent-Jones observes some of the most downtrodden names have been among the main beneficiaries of the early November rally, including GPT Group ((GPT)), Mirvac Group ((MGR)), Dexus ((DXS)), Scentre Group ((SCG)) and Goodman Group ((GMG)) among real estate bond proxies, as well as Transurban ((TCL)), and ResMed, Ramsay Health Care ((RHC)) and CSL in the healthcare sector.
Kent-Jones suggests investors should once again start looking at bank shares for long-term oriented portfolios.
Market strategists at Barrenjoey prefer to be overweight on resources, insurance, telcos, industrials, and healthcare.
Underweight exposure is recommended towards the banks, real estate, technology, online classifieds, and rate-sensitive cyclicals, albeit the latter only slightly underweight.
Preferred stock exposures include Pilbara Minerals ((PLS)), Lynas Rare Earths ((LYC)), Beach Energy ((BPT)), Steadfast Group ((SDF)), Sandfire Resources ((SFR)), IGO Ltd ((IGO)), Ampol ((ALD)), Pro Medicus ((PME)), Viva Energy ((VEA)), Insurance Australia Group ((IAG)), Metcash ((MTS)), Medibank Private ((MPL)), Brambles ((BXB)), Rio Tinto ((RIO)), QBE Insurance ((QBE)), and CSL.
UBS's market strategists continue to prefer defensive positioning in equities with in particular non-cyclical growth channels and income streams tied to inflation on the must-have list.
Sectorial changes made include moving mining to overweight and healthcare to neutral. Other sectors on overweight are infrastructure and utilities, insurance, and technology.
UBS is underweight on the banks, building materials, consumer discretionary, and real estate.
At the individual stock level, the list of Least Preferred now no longer has Harvey Norman ((HVN)) and National Australia Bank ((NAB)) included, with Domino's Pizza ((DMP)) and Westpac (pre-result) ((WBC)) joining the ASX ((ASX)), Bega Cheese ((BGA)), Bank of Queensland ((BOQ)), Super Retail ((SUL)), and Vicinity Centres ((VCX)).
Changes have been made to the list of Most Preferred too.
Among Industrials, CSL, Qantas Airways ((QAN)), Seek ((SEK)), Seven Group ((SVW)), Transurban, Webjet ((WEB)), Wesfarmers ((WES)), Wisetech Global ((WTC)) and Worley ((WOR)) are no longer joined by IDP Education ((IEL)) or ResMed, with Telstra ((TLS)) and Xero ((XRO)) added instead.
Citi analysts recently initiated coverage on online retailers on the ASX with a Buy rating on Temple & Webster ((TPW)), a Buy/High Risk rating for Adore Beauty ((ABY)) and a Sell rating for Kogan ((KGN)).
As also illustrated by the differences in rating, Temple & Webster is most preferred.
Portfolio managers at Wilsons retain an underweight position towards Australian banks with ANZ Bank ((ANZ)) most preferred in the sector.
December Index Rebalancing
On December 1st, Standard & Poor's will announce the next round of changes for major ASX indices. All changes will kick in after the close on Friday, December 15th.
Analysts at Wilsons have gazed into their crystal balls to assess which changes could be afoot.
For the ASX200, Wilsons has lined up three Strong Removal Candidates in Cromwell Property Group ((CMW)), Growthpoint Properties Australia ((GOZ)) and Link Administration ((LNK)). Strongly favoured candidates to make their entrance into the index are Boss Energy ((BOE)) and Emerald Resources ((EMR)).
InvoCare ((IVC)) is currently in takeover process and might disappear off the bourse before then.
Regarding the ASX100, Wilsons sees a strong possibility Block ((SQ2)) might be removed with Pro Medicus the prime candidate to be upgraded to large cap status.
Endeavour Group ((EDV)) might lose its spot in the ASX50 and if that occurs, Wisetech Global will most likely become a Top50 stock in Australia.
The ASX20 still has Newcrest Mining in it, and it's not clear what approach S&P will take once Newcrest's listing is replaced with new owner Newmont. Otherwise, South32's inclusion is seen as tenuous, threatened maybe, but not weak enough to assume guaranteed removal.
QBE Insurance is seen as next in line in case the index needs an addition to keep the number at twenty. Brambles could join in case there's the need for two additions.
Index removals and inclusions tend to be most important for the ASX200 and the ASX100. In the former case, institutional investors might sell or buy, which can have a noticeable impact. In the second case, when a stock moves to large cap status it can no longer be owned by small cap investment funds.
A subscription to FNArena (6 or 12 months) comes with an archive of Special Reports (20 since 2006); examples below.
(This story was written on Monday, 6th November, 2023. It was published on the day in the form of an email to paying subscribers, and again on Wednesday as a story on the website).
(Do note that, in line with all my analyses, appearances and presentations, all of the above names and calculations are provided for educational purposes only. Investors should always consult with their licensed investment advisor first, before making any decisions. All views are mine and not by association FNArena's – see disclaimer on the website.
In addition, since FNArena runs a Model Portfolio based upon my research on All-Weather Performers it is more than likely that stocks mentioned are included in this Model Portfolio. For all questions about this: contact us via the direct messaging system on the website).
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: ABY - ADORE BEAUTY GROUP LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: AGL - AGL ENERGY LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: ALD - AMPOL LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: ANN - ANSELL LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: ANZ - ANZ GROUP HOLDINGS LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: ASX - ASX LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: AUB - AUB GROUP LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: BGA - BEGA CHEESE LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: BHP - BHP GROUP LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: BLX - BEACON LIGHTING GROUP LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: BOE - BOSS ENERGY LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: BOQ - BANK OF QUEENSLAND LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: BPT - BEACH ENERGY LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: BXB - BRAMBLES LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: CDA - CODAN LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: CMW - CROMWELL PROPERTY GROUP
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: COH - COCHLEAR LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: CPU - COMPUTERSHARE LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: CSL - CSL LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: DMP - DOMINO'S PIZZA ENTERPRISES LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: DXS - DEXUS
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: EDV - ENDEAVOUR GROUP LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: EMR - EMERALD RESOURCES NL
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: GMG - GOODMAN GROUP
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: GOZ - GROWTHPOINT PROPERTIES AUSTRALIA
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: GPT - GPT GROUP
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: HLI - HELIA GROUP LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: HVN - HARVEY NORMAN HOLDINGS LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: IAG - INSURANCE AUSTRALIA GROUP LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: IEL - IDP EDUCATION LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: IGO - IGO LIMITED
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For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: KGN - KOGAN.COM LIMITED
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For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: NAB - NATIONAL AUSTRALIA BANK LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: NWL - NETWEALTH GROUP LIMITED
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For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: PME - PRO MEDICUS LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: QAN - QANTAS AIRWAYS LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: QBE - QBE INSURANCE GROUP LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: RHC - RAMSAY HEALTH CARE LIMITED
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For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: SQ2 - BLOCK INC
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: SUL - SUPER RETAIL GROUP LIMITED
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For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: TCL - TRANSURBAN GROUP LIMITED
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For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: TLX - TELIX PHARMACEUTICALS LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: TPW - TEMPLE & WEBSTER GROUP LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: TRS - REJECT SHOP LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: UNI - UNIVERSAL STORE HOLDINGS LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: VCX - VICINITY CENTRES
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: VEA - VIVA ENERGY GROUP LIMITED
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: WBC - WESTPAC BANKING CORPORATION
For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: WEB - WEBJET LIMITED
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For more info SHARE ANALYSIS: XRO - XERO LIMITED