Sygnia Itrix MSCI Japan ETF - Sep 18
The third quarter of 2018 marked the 11th anniversary of the Global Financial Crisis and, as liquidity dried up over the US summer holidays, markets once again experienced heightened volatility. Emerging market contagion was the main driver as concerns spread from Argentina’s fiscal problems and IMF bailout and Turkey’s twin deficits to Brazil’s contentious elections, Russia’s US sanctions and South Africa’s economic recession. Global traders came up with another acronym: BRATS. South Africa is the only country within BRATS that has not seen its credit rating downgraded to junk, albeit our markets are pricing in that downgrade. Beyond the idiosyncratic risks of the BRATS, the strong US dollar and rising US interest rates continue to lead to outflows from emerging markets, weakening their currencies and forcing them to hike interest rates once again to anchor inflation, a vicious cycle that puts further strain on their economies.
According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the number of global rate hikes is now at levels last seen before the Global Financial Crisis. Turkey, in a sign of capitulation, raised interest rates from 17.8% to 24%, while Russia increased rates for the first time in four years. The only positive is that this has been perceived as confirmation that the central banks of both countries remain relatively independent. At the same time, Argentina and Kenya implemented austerity measures to appease the IMF. Together with weaker than expected US consumer price inflation, these policy adjustments brought some calm to the emerging markets and their currencies by quarter end. Despite violent swings, the rand was only 2.9% weaker against the dollar over the quarter.
The US economy continued to strengthen, with equity markets hitting new highs, consumer confidence at its strongest levels in 18 years and jobless claims at 49-year lows. This has allowed the US Federal Reserve to increase interest rates for the third time this year and upgrade their growth expectations for 2019. Merrill Lynch’s survey of asset managers’ expectations reported the most favourable outlook for US earnings on record, reflected in the valuation of the S&P500 Index, which has outperformed the MSCI Emerging Market Index by 20% on a year-todate basis. US focus will move to the mid-term elections of 6 November, where polls suggest that the Democratic Party is likely to take the House of Representatives, while the Republicans will keep the Senate. This is not ideal, but is likely to paralyse President Donald Trump on the domestic policy front. Irrespective of the results, however, he will retain free reign on foreign policy issues.
The picture looks less rosy for the rest of the world, hit by a strengthening US dollar, oil prices at four-year highs and global trade wars. Oil remains a headwind to growth and rose to US$85/barrel as Trump announced sanctions on Iran’s energy industry and Venezuela’s supply decreased due to their economic crisis. The OECD has announced that global economic growth has peaked and lowered its growth forecasts for 2018, predominantly due to trade wars.
There seems to be no end to the US - China trade war, with both countries implementing second rounds of tariffs in September and China boycotting the annual UN Summit held in New York. The new tariffs bring the total value of Chinese goods levied with tariffs up to US$250bn, and Trump threatened to expand tariffs to include an additional US$267bn of Chinese imports, taking the total to over US$500bn, roughly the size of all Chinese imports. The yuan weakened to a 12-month low and the Shanghai Composite Index fell to a low 25% from its January highs. Chinese growth is slowing and the Chinese government is attempting to support growth with both fiscal and monetary support, but these have yet to make an impact.
In Europe, the ECB kept interest rates unchanged while lowering its growth forecasts. The ECB confirmed that it will end its €2.6 trillion stimulus programme by the end of 2018, with a first hike likely only in September 2019. The UK’s exit from the EU remains on the cards, but there is no deal in sight, as neither party is willing to compromise on the key issue of free movement of people. Further East, Russia held its biggest war games in four decades after Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called US sanctions a declaration of economic war.
In Japan, Prime Minister Shenzo Abe was reelected to his post on the back of the strongest economic growth in two years, despite inflation remaining close to zero and the Bank of Japan retaining stimulus measures. In Central and Latin America, Venezuela sold more oil assets to China in exchange for its badly needed financial support, a move that led Trump to threaten military action against the country. Sentiment remains unsettled by politics, with 41% of economic output from the G20 now governed by populists, up from about 4% in 2007. Brazil heads for key elections on 7 October. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte says his government can’t adhere to EU budget rules, which sent Italian bond yields skyrocketing.
In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa called for the constitution to be changed to allow land expropriation without compensation, causing massive investor anxiety. Economic data remained weak and inflation subdued as SA entered recession. In response, Ramaphosa presented a viable economic plan based on refocussing R50bn of expenditure towards stimulating economic growth. The plan includes the introduction of more competition in the telecommunications sector to bring down data costs, relaxation of visa requirements for foreigners to stimulate tourism, easing of immigration restrictions to bring in badly needed skills, finalisation of the Mining Charter, a R400bn infrastructure fund designed to create jobs, more private/public partnerships and some clarity on the land appropriation issue. However, there are no short-term solutions to the problems.
The quarter ended with the FTSE/JSE SWIX Index down 3.3%, the JSE All Bond Index up 0.8% and the rand 2.9% weaker relative to the US dollar.
The Sygnia Itrix MSCI Japan Index ETF delivered 5.7% for the quarter in rand terms, in line with its benchmark, the MSCI Japan Index. The Fund benefitted from exposure to SoftBank Group, Sony Corp and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, while its exposure to Tokyo Electron, Daito Trust Construction and Panasonic Corp detracted from performance.
There were several changes to the tracked index’s constituents over the period, including the addition of Sumitomo Realty & Development, Nissin Foods Holdings and Showa Denko and the removal of Suruga Bank, Hisamitsu Pharmaceutical and FamilyMart UNY Holdings.
The Fund remains true to its investment objective of delivering retuns that mirror those of the MSCIJapan Index.
The investment policy of the portfolio shall be to track the Index as closely as possible.
The portfolio shall not buy or sell constituent securities, any other securities or financial instruments for the purpose of making a profit, nor for any purpose other than tracking the Index.
As a secondary objective, securities held by the portfolio from time to time may be utilised to generate income for the benefit of investors, provided that such activities do not conflict with the investment policy as stated in the clauses above.
Investors can obtain participatory interests in the portfolio by acquiring participatory interests on the secondary market or subscribing for participatory interests in the portfolio. In order to achieve this object the manager may, subject to the Act and the Deed create and issue an unlimited number of participatory interests in the portfolio.
The portfolio will not be managed according to traditional methods of active management, which involve the buying and selling of securities based on economic, financial and market analysis and investing judgment. Instead the investment objective and style will be full replication of the Index. As a result the financial or other condition of any company or entity included from time to time in the Index will not result in the elimination of its securities from the portfolio unless the securities of such company or entity are removed from the Index itself.
The portfolio shall also be entitled, in its discretion, to employ such investment strategies as will most effectively give effect to the investment policies of the portfolio.
The composition of the portfolio will be adjusted periodically to conform to changes in the composition and weighting of the securities in the Index so as to ensure that the composition and weighting of the scheme's portfolio are a reflection of the composition and weighting of the securities contained in the Index.
The portfolio will hold securities purely for the economic rights and benefits attaching thereto, and accordingly if a takeover bid is made for shares of a company included in the Index, the portfolio will not tender shares in respect thereof. Securities held by the portfolio which are subject to a takeover bid will only be surrendered if such surrender is mandatory (and then only to the extent of such mandatory surrender) in terms of applicable law or under the rules of a regulatory authority or body having jurisdiction. If a takeover bid results in a company no longer qualifying for inclusion in the Index, any shares of the company held by the portfolio after the takeover bid will be disposed of by the portfolio, and the proceeds will be applied in effecting the appropriate adjustments to the portfolio.
To the extent necessary for the purposes of achieving its investment policies, the portfolio may hold assets in liquid form. Any assets held in liquid form may be invested in short?term investments such as banker's acceptances and certificates of deposit.
The portfolio's ability to replicate the price and yield performance of the Index will be affected by the costs and expenses incurred by the portfolio.
ETF - Local CIS with 100% investment in foreign equities as approved by FSB