Satrix Smartcore Index Comment - 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 became less negative, rising from -0.57% to -0.19%. Commodities were generally higher at the end of the quarter. Brent crude rose 11.5% to US$66.4/bbl, after a deepening of the OPEC/OPEC+ production deal. Gold was slightly higher (+2.6%), closing at US$1517/oz and palladium gained 10.1% to end at US$1946/oz. Base metals also gained with copper up 8.6%.
In South Africa, the main local equity indices, namely the Top 40 (+4.5%), All Share (+4.6%) and Capped SWIX (+5.2%), were all positive in the last quarter of 2019. Despite the sell-off in November the ALBI (+1.7%) performed in line with the cash benchmark STeFI (+1.7%) as the risk sentiment improved in December. SA listed property as measured by the SAPY (+0.58%) had a lacklustre quarter but was ahead of inflation-linked bonds (-0.9%), which was the worst performing asset class. The full year to December 2019 painted a very different picture in the case of bonds. The ALBI (+10.3%) lagged the Top 40 (+12.4%) and the FTSE/JSE All Share (+12.0%). The Capped SWIX (+6.7%) and SAPY (+1.9%) were both in positive territory but struggled in comparison to other major indices.
The rand appreciated markedly as 2019 drew to a close, ending the year at 14.01 rand/US$. South Africa experienced record-breaking stage 6 load shedding, implemented to relieve the grid due to unplanned breakdowns and prevent a total black out. The impact could be seen in the Q4 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%.
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 Satrix SmartCore Index Fund is designed to offer a diversified equity portfolio with the objective to enhance the returns relative to the FTSE/JSE Capped SWIX index.
This is achieved by targeting stocks with positive exposures to multiple desired attributes, such as Momentum, Value and Quality. These attributes are rewarded drivers of returns, and when combined using a multi-factor approach (see illustration that follows), offers strong overall exposure to the desired risk factors, while simultaneously mitigating unintended exposures to unrewarded risk factors.
Through the cycle, this strategy aims to deliver capital growth, while delivering positive risk-adjusted excess returns with robust risk control relative to its benchmark.