Robert Macdonald is a portfolio manager at Satrix's smart beta and indexation investment business. He is also responsible for research and product development.Macdonald joined SIM in 1999 working in investment operations and client services. Before joining SIM, he spent three years working in the corporate finance department of PricewaterhouseCoopers. Macdonald completed his B.Bus.Sci (Finance) (Hons) and P.G.D.A. at the University of Cape Town (UCT), graduating in 1994 and 1995 respectively. He also qualified as a CA (SA) in 1998 from SAICA, and is a CFA charter holder, obtained in 2004. In his spare time Macdonald enjoys sport (mainly mountain biking), reading and spending time with his family. He is married with three children.
Satrix Balanced Index Fund - Dec 19
All major regions and sectors around the globe posted positive returns in the final quarter of the year: MSCI World (+8.5%), MSCI Emerging Markets (EM) (+11.8%) and MSCI SA (+13.1%), in US dollar. The year 2019 was one of the strongest years on record for global equities with the MSCI World up 27.6% for the year. MSCI EM (+18.4%), although positive for the year, lagged significantly. Global equities rallied behind signs of stabilising global growth and moderation in trade tensions between the US and China, who in December announced that ‘Phase 1’ of an agreement had been reached. In the UK, following the Conservative Party’s win in the general election, Prime Minister Johnson’s Brexit policy is set to take centre stage in 2020. The Withdrawal Agreement is likely to be passed, allowing the UK to leave the European Union on 31 January 2020 with a pledge by the prime minister to not prolong the transition period beyond the end of 2020.
Bond yields in developed markets rose steadily during the quarter with the benchmark US 10-year bond yield rising from 1.66% to 1.92% while the yields on the German 10-year bond became less negative, rising from -0.57% to -0.19%. With inflation remaining relatively subdued, demand for inflation protection has been weak. The inflation-linked index returned a negative 0.91% for the quarter. Yields on the I2029 (10-year) rose 0.28% from 3.41% to 3.69%. Credit spreads continued to tighten even as fundamentals have deteriorated. While we do not expect an imminent reversal of the trend, we have noticed that auctions are starting to price within price guidance, rather than below, and market orders to sell are getting longer.
In South Africa, the main local equity indices, namely the FTSE/JSE Top 40 (Top 40) (+4.5%), FTSE/JSE All Share (ALSI) (+4.6%) and FTSE/JSE Capped Shareholder Weighted All Share (Capped SWIX) (+5.2%), were all positive in the last quarter of 2019. Despite the sell-off in November the FTSE/JSE All Bond Index (ALBI) (+1.7%) performed in line with the cash benchmark Alexander Forbes Short Term Fixed Interest (STeFI) Composite Index (+1.7%) as the risk sentiment improved in December. SA listed property as measured by the FTSE/JSE SA Listed Property Index (SAPY) (+0.58%) had a lacklustre quarter but was ahead of inflation-linked bonds (-0.9%), which was the worst performing asset class. The full year to December 2019 painted a very different picture in the case of bonds. The ALBI (+10.3%) lagged the Top 40 (+12.4%) and the ALSI (+12%). The Capped SWIX (+6.7%) and SAPY (+1.9%) were both in positive territory but struggled in comparison to other major indices.
The rand appreciated markedly as 2019 drew to a close, ending the year at R14.01 to the US dollar. South Africa experienced record-breaking stage 6 load shedding, implemented to relieve the grid due to unplanned breakdowns and prevent a total blackout. The impact could be seen in the fourth quarter performance of Industrials (-0.05%), which was flat in comparison to Resources (+13.4%) and Financials (+2.5%). Despite its low growth potential, the South African economy should, nonetheless, benefit from a renewed upturn in the country’s terms of trade. In essence, this implies increased purchasing power, which should be reflected in firmer GDP numbers in the quarters ahead, if electricity outages are restricted.
The fourth quarter of 2019 yielded more evidence that the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) is succeeding in its quest to lower inflation expectations towards 4.5%. Indeed, inflation prints have consistently surprised on the low side over the past year. Headline consumer price inflation advanced just 3.6% in the year to November 2019, while core inflation increased 3.9%. 2019, while core inflation increased 3.9%.
In early November 2019, Moody’s changed the outlook on South Africa’s long-term sovereign debt from stable to negative, indicating there is a material risk of a downgrade and that it would monitor the upcoming 2020 Budget closely.
The investment objective of the portfolio is to provide investors within income and capital growth in the medium to long term by tracking the proprietary Satrix Balanced Index as closely as possible.