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Welcome to Firstlinks Edition 318

Where are equity markets heading in the short term? Sorry, can't help you. Who knows what the most powerful (currently) man in the world will tweet in the middle of the night, with every bond and currency trader among his 62.8 million followers? It's a strong 'America-first' approach as Australia precariously balances alliances with both the US and China. Last night was typical:

With the trade wars becoming currency wars, and plenty of reasons to worry about markets due to massive deficits, slowing economic growth and overvalued markets, it's one of those times share investors worry about. It's better to focus on a long-term asset allocation plan that suits your goals and risk appetite. Imagine if you knew in 1989 that a table in 30 years hence would look like the following. You would then sit back and ignore the daily, monthly and even yearly noise. Instead, the headlines scream 'Markets Crash' and investors react.

Robin Bowerman provides an interactive chart where you can check returns in many asset classes since 1970 (nearly 50 years), and this week's White Paper is Vanguard's 'Stay the course' and includes a hard copy of the chart.

Most people who have been in markets for decades would never have expected to see the Australian Government 10-year bond rate fall below 1%. Australia relies on imported capital and commodity exports, and does not issue a reserve currency like the US. A silver lining is the budget improvements from interest costs falling. There's a $15 billion bond rolling over in October 2019 which carries a coupon of 2.75%, and refinancing at 1% will save about $260 million a year. Even better, $40 billion matures next year with old coupons as high as 4.75%

People ask why over US$12 trillion of bonds carry a negative yield. The crazy answer is that conservative investors are forced to buy them. This extract is from Gavekal:

As every investor in the world struggles with low interest rates, it's become common to refer to certain assets as 'bond proxies'. We take a close look at infrastructure, property and equity income funds which have some bond-like characteristics, but do they deserve the moniker of bond proxy?

Ashley Owen's study of 37,000 companies that have listed on our stock exchanges leads to some chilling warnings. The overwhelming majority of them disappear worthless, yet most investors think that the listed status somehow carries merit. Outside of the investment-grade companies, the rest are a speculative coin toss and most will never make a profit.

Australian supermarkets are undergoing logistical overhaul, which is also benefitting parts of the industrial property market. Jim Power looks at the UK experience for hints on coming changes.

Wage growth is already anaemic and pay is reduced further by the impact of average and marginal taxesTony Dillon runs the numbers, and it's rather creepy. It used to be far worse as we once had 29 income tax brackets with a top rate of 66.7%.

All this talk about index investing, growth investing, value investing, quality investing. Hugh Dive explains what they mean and why it matters for your own investment style.

On the weekend, we will switch to a new server and website and availability may be interrupted on Saturday night and into Sunday. This is the first major revamp since we started in 2012, to give the website a more contemporary look and cope with 80,000 unique users a month. Thanks to Master Publisher for the hard work.

Graham Hand, Managing Editor


For a PDF version of this week’s newsletter articles, click here.


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