Buckling up for 2012
Nicholas Grove  |  13/12/2011Text size  Decrease  Increase  |  

Nicholas Grove: 2011 is a year many investors would probably rather forget, but what can they expect from the equities market in 2012. Here to help us prepare, I'm joined on the line by Morningstar Head of Equity Strategy, Ross Bird. Ross, thanks very much for joining us.

Ross Bird: Good morning, Nick. How are you?

Grove: I'm well, thanks Ross. First of all, what are going to be the most important influences, both positive and negative and external and internal, on our share market in 2012?

Bird: Yes, look I think 2012 is going to be another interesting year. In many ways, just a continuation on from 2011. I think some of the major themes that we had to grapple with this year are going to continue on next year and remain as the major themes. Let's go through the list. First of all, we start with sort of China and India, which are both important trading nations for Australia.

Their GDP growth has been quite strong of late. We expect GDP growth in both countries to slow somewhat a little bit next year. Not to say that�s doom and gloom, it's more just the rate of growth, not be absolute; whether it�s going to grow or not, and we still expect them to grow strongly, but just maybe sort of slowing a bit from current levels.

So, some slowing there, but in absolute terms still very robust growth numbers that will require ongoing higher volumes of raw materials and energy from countries such as Australia. So, overall good, but just some moderate slowing from what we have seen this year and any past years.

For Europe, unfortunately, I think it's going to continue to be very much the same as this year. It is going to continue to struggle through, and we would not be surprised to see Europe go back into recession, at least for part of next year. Very difficult to sort of say for how long with what's going on there, but overall very, very weak growth if any growth at all for next year. No magic wand in Europe. It's going to take some years for them to sort their issues out, so in the meantime, relatively weak growth, if indeed possibly negative for a while there.

In the U.S., again, some of the recent economic data has been a little bit more positive than we were counting on, so that�s the good news, but nevertheless we still expect to see a bit of a muddle through recovery in the U.S. next year, similar to this year. GDP growth currently at 1.5% year-on-year for the third quarter there, somewhere around sort of 1.5%, 2%, is sort of where we're looking for the U.S.

So, again, a very slow recovery in this cycle compared to previous cycles coming out of a downturn and the key there is sort of jobs growth and housing activity, which is just taking a very long time to recover.

I think moving on domestically to Australia; look, general economic activity overall is quite solid, but we are still very much in our two-speed economy as we have discussed previously. So look overall, Nick, in many cases, similar conditions to what we've seen in 2011. I think, the broad themes currently out there are going to continue. However, Australia is likely to perform quite well in a relative sense compared to many of its other OECD peers, which is good news domestically, but I�d say challenges remain overseas.

Grove: Ross, which sectors of the share market are you most bullish about?

Bird: Yes, look, it's an interesting topic given the framework we've just discussed from a very broad macroeconomic basis. Obviously, investors, not just here, but around the world are going to remain very cautious and very nervous about challenges ahead that we've just discussed. So, I think in that environment, we need to continue to look at those sectors that are sort of effectively,  non-cyclical, very essentially related to either services or products that we need in our everyday lives, things that we can't do without so to speak, and businesses that are not too dependent on growth from overseas, particularly in overseas, western economies.

So, really, we are looking at those defensive industrial sectors, such as: consumer staples, healthcare, utilities, and some infrastructure companies; telecommunications looking good, and we're also � from a medium-term perspective, while we sort of maintain a positive view on China and India in the medium term, notwithstanding a few little challenges just in the shorter-term, we continue to have a favorable view on energy and the resources component of the material sector, you know, the production of iron ore, coal, base metal, such lot. But, just noting that the short-term is going to be a little bit challenging as China and India, sort of, overcome their inflation challenges there, but from a medium term point of view still very positive on those segments.

I think the domestic banks, again are in very good shape, and fundamentally we maintain a positive view on the banks as well. Nick, however, as we have seen this year sometimes investors view global banks as global banks and banks tend to get tarnished with a very broad brush when something bad happens overseas. Not that it has anything directly to do with our banks, but it's just the way investors behave. So, probably banks are going to continue to trade on very attractive looking multiples, but in an operating sense they're going to perform � continue to perform well. So, we do love them fundamentally, but we just have to be a little bit patient in terms of, sort of I think, seeing the full results, come through from the good work that those banks are doing.

Grove: On the flip side, Ross, which sectors of our share market are you most bearish about?

Bird: We continue to be sort of fairly cautious towards the more cyclical sectors, ones that are just reliant on strong economic growth to see businesses do well. So, we continue to be cautious on the consumer discretionary sector, where I discussed the retailing situation just prior. Just to say, I don�t think the interest rate cuts we've seen from the RBA today is sufficient to really sort of kick start the consumer and getting them back into the store per se, overlaying that of course with the structural changes we're seeing in retailing with online sales and the strengths of the A$ making overseas purchases sort of cheaper and even sort of traveling overseas and people spending their money overseas rather than here.

I still think that those sort of influences are still going to be around to make life tough for the discretionary retailer. Also cyclical industrials, companies in the building materials trade, non-mining construction sort of areas, I mentioned the non-essential retailing sort of areas, manufacturing businesses with the strong A$, likely to continue to find the going tough in 2012.

Grove: Finally, Ross, what is the most important thing investors should bear in mind when heading into the New Year?

Bird: I think, we are in an environment where there are ongoing challenges ahead at very much a global level. We always sort of have to come back to the principles of sound portfolio management, and of course, that is always choosing high quality companies. At Morningstar we have what we call �moat ratings�, which try and reflect the qualities of companies, so we would certainly suggest that portfolios should have preponderance of moat-rated companies in their portfolios, which the moat ratings can be found on the Morningstar website of course.

Companies with strong track records through a range of economic scenarios, not just companies that could do well in good times; we need to be comforted by holding companies that can perform well in challenging times, because no doubt we are in the midst of that sort of situation at a very broad level.

Also, I just mentioned in the previous question focusing on those companies that offer essential services or products for our everyday life, so companies involved in the utilities industry, telecommunication industry, things that we can't live without basically. I think, there it's important that the companies in those sectors that are well run, I think will be well supported by investors.

We also, I think, just need to keep in mind that while we are expecting more ongoing, if you like, bad news out of Europe and from time-to-time maybe from the U.S., we just always have to keep in mind that equities as an investment class are for the medium to long-term, and we � we don�t want to get too caught up in headlines and get too nervy. Indeed these conditions often present the best of buying opportunities for the right sort of stock.

So, we always have to maintain those disciplines of sound portfolio management, maintain diversity through portfolios, maintaining a sense of where fundamental value is, and if the market gets too sort nervous or bearish on particular sectors or stocks that can represent good fundamental buying to the medium term.

I also think, again what's emerging from 2011 and will continue next year, is that the importance of dividend yield as part of the overall investment returns in the portfolio. So again, looking for companies that have strong, reliable, dependable dividends, I think with a good franking component ideally is very much the focus as well, and really just being prepared to take that medium-term approach to portfolio management.

Grove: Ross, thanks very much for joining us.

Bird: Thank you, Nick. It's a pleasure.

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The big four in 2012
21/12/2011  While criticising the banks may be a popular local pastime, there is a lot to be said for having a stable and profitable financial system as we head into the new year.
Resources sector investing in 2012
19/12/2011  The year just witnessed could hardly said to have been kind to the local resources sector. But what can investors expect from resources in 2012?
Media sector investing
16/11/2011  As companies slice advertising budgets amid softening consumer sentiment, investors may be wondering if media stocks are worth their while.
Banking earnings preview
25/10/2011  Morningstar’s David Ellis discusses what we can expect from Macquarie and three of the big four when they report earnings over the next several days.
Telstra, dividends and the NBN
21/10/2011  Morningstar’s Peter Warnes shares his thoughts on the road ahead for the country’s biggest telco, after shareholders approved its participation in the NBN rollout.
Europe and the big four
30/09/2011  As the rhetoric surrounding the European sovereign debt crisis continues to ebb and flow on a daily basis, what does it all mean for Australia's banks?
Mining sector investing 101
26/09/2011  In this educational video, Morningstar helps novice investors understand some of the terms often found when you first pick up a mining company research report.
Three steps to better stock investing
31/10/2011  Focusing on competitive advantage, valuation, and margins of safety is a winning strategy for stock-picking, says Morningstar US' Heather Brilliant.
Leighton and the road to recovery
19/10/2011  While Leighton Holdings has recently had a couple of attractive contract wins, do these make up for issues seen on other big projects?
Apple's moat will endure
10/10/2011   Although Jobs is irreplaceable, Apple has built an ecosystem that will continue to be successful years into the future, says Morningstar US' Michael Holt.
Spotlight on commodities
04/10/2011  With commodity prices coming off historically high levels, investors in resources stocks may be wondering if they should jump ship. But is this wise?
Are we looking at GFC 2?
27/09/2011  Morningstar head of equities strategy Ross Bird helps investors sift through some of the rhetoric surrounding the ongoing European sovereign debt crisis.
SABMiller loves a Foster's
23/09/2011  With the Aussie icon poised to be passed into the hands of a foreign owner, are shareholders getting a good deal?
A wide-moat approach to active investing
15/09/2011  Morningstar US' Paul Larson explains how he narrows down the stock universe into a portfolio he thinks will beat the market.
Navigating through fiscal 2012
09/09/2011  Morningstar head of equities strategy Ross Bird helps investors makes some sense of the recent global volatility.
Cooking up growth at Patties
08/09/2011  Patties Foods managing director Greg Bourke visits Morningstar to discuss what investors can expect to see from the company in the coming year.
Reporting season: Harvey Norman
31/08/2011  As the fiscal 2011 earnings season steams along, Morningstar provides investors with analysts' insights in these concise, timely video snapshots.
Reporting season: Woolworths
29/08/2011  As the fiscal 2011 earnings season steams along, Morningstar provides investors with analysts' insights in these concise, timely video snapshots.
Reporting season: Origin
23/08/2011  As the fiscal 2011 earnings season steams along, Morningstar provides investors with analysts' insights in these concise, timely video snapshots.
Reporting season: Wesfarmers, QBE
22/08/2011  As the fiscal 2011 earnings season steams along, Morningstar provides investors with analysts' insights in these concise, timely video snapshots.
Reporting season: Fortescue
19/08/2011  As the fiscal 2011 earnings season steams along, Morningstar provides investors with analysts' insights in these concise, timely video snapshots.
Reporting season: AMP, ASX
18/08/2011  As the fiscal 2011 earnings season steams along, Morningstar provides investors with analysts' insights in these concise, timely video snapshots.
Reporting season: Brambles
17/08/2011  As the fiscal 2011 earnings season steams along, Morningstar provides investors with analysts' insights in these concise, timely video snapshots.
Reporting season: Newcrest
15/08/2011  As the fiscal 2011 earnings season steams along, Morningstar provides investors with analysts' insights in these concise, timely video snapshots.
Reporting season: Telstra
12/08/2011  As the fiscal 2011 earnings season steams along, Morningstar provides investors with analysts' insights in these concise, timely video snapshots.
Reporting season: Cochlear
11/08/2011  As the fiscal 2011 earnings season steams along, Morningstar provides investors with analysts' insights in these concise, timely video snapshots.
Reporting season: CBA, NAB
10/08/2011  As the fiscal 2011 earnings season steams along, Morningstar provides investors with analysts’ insights in these concise, timely video snapshots.
Howard and Australia's economic intrigue
08/08/2011  Former prime minister John Howard gives his views on everything from the global economy to the carbon tax at the recent FSC conference.
US GDP: Down but not out
01/08/2011  A tough quarter for autos will pressure GDP numbers, but growth should recover in the second half, says Morningstar US' Bob Johnson.
Buffett lieutenant speaks
25/07/2011  At a recent Q&A, Charlie Munger spoke about lifelong learning, the Greece crisis, accountants, and also offered clues about Berkshire's valuation.
The carbon tax top 5
19/07/2011  With all the noise surrounding the government’s proposal, Morningstar’s Ross Bird fields five questions that investors want answered.
Toxic US worries sideline hiring
12/07/2011  US Companies' hiring plans are in a holding pattern over concerns about commodity inflation, global and political uncertainty, and corporate profitability, say Morningstar US' Bob Johnson and Vishnu Lekraj.
Explosive investing with Incitec
05/07/2011  While not without its risks, fertiliser and explosives maker Incitec Pivot made an impression at a recent investor day.
Punting on Tabcorp and Tatts
01/07/2011  There is plenty of action in the gaming sector, with a lucrative wagering licence set to be awarded by the Victorian government. Place your bets.
Gold prices could keep rising
24/06/2011  Loose monetary policy, demand from emerging markets, and sovereign debt woes could push gold prices to US$2,300 an ounce in the coming years, says U.S. Global Investors' Frank Holmes.
The secret of NRW's success
09/06/2011  With NRW Holdings appearing to be going from strength to strength, Morningstar’s Peter Rae discusses what the future holds for the mining services provider.
James Hardie poised for recovery
27/05/2011  With the US housing market in the doldrums and no recovery in sight, investors may wonder where the appeal of the building products maker lies.
Hailing down Cabcharge
26/05/2011  Morningstar's Peter Rae looks at Cabcharge and whether or not it is a stock investors should be flagging down.
Telstra, the NBN, the investor
20/05/2011  We discuss the upcoming 4G network launch and shareholder vote on the NBN, and what the future generally holds for the big telco.
The bulls in the foothills
05/05/2011  We throw a spotlight over equity market-linked stocks and examine what investors should think about when considering them as investments.
Fine-tuning your stock-bond mix
04/05/2011  Morningstar US' Christine Benz highlights situations that call for ratcheting your equity exposure up or down.
Harvey Norman's cyberspace adventure
29/04/2011  As the strong Aussie dollar drives consumers online to pick up an offshore bargain, Harvey Norman unveils its new online strategy.
Keeping a watch on Westfield
28/04/2011  We take a look at recent speculation surrounding the shopping centre giant and what it could mean for the investor.
Will China's inflation hurt Australia's resources?
20/04/2011  TAAM investment manager Ken Wan discusses China and his favourite Australian resources stocks.
Investing in the Australian mining boo