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Welcome to Firstlinks Edition 480 with weekend update

  •   20 October 2022
  • 23

The Weekend Edition includes a market update (after the editorial) plus Morningstar adds links to two additional articles.

While every difficult market throws up some winners, such as those who short a falling market, the vast majority of investors have lost money in 2022. Most personal wealth in Australia is held in the $9.5 trillion residential property market (market size according to CoreLogic, which compares with $3.3 trillion in superannuation and $2.7 trillion in ASX-listed assets). The most surprising losses in 2022 have been in supposedly-conservative allocations to bonds, which have pushed far more people into negative returns than ever before.

Looking first at US equities, the chart below is the Morningstar US Price Return Index which is a broad market index covering 97% of the US market. US stocks comprise almost 60% of the global index and what happens in the US affects all other markets. For the year-to-date (YTD), it is all red, with this index off almost 23%. The darling of 2021, the Nasdaq, has lost 31%.

Source: Morningstar Direct

For Australian equities, the results are better, with the S&P/ASX200 Price Return index down 9% in 2022, helped by a recent recovery.

Source: Morningstar Direct

And back to residential property, according to CoreLogic, the pain is kicking in during the September quarter, with average prices down 4.1% across the country and Sydney losing the most at 6.1% (and Darwin and Adelaide still rising). 

Checking some specific ETFs listed on the ASX reveals the pain of bond investing as rates rise across all terms. Nobody expects one-year losses of 17% on a government bond portfolio.

Source: Morningstar Direct

So if you are feeling bad about the performance of your portfolio this year, join the long queue of both retail and professional investors. The funds of some of our most-respected managers are down 30%.

Who are the winners in the last year? Again drawing on the Morningstar database of ETFs, the one-year positives are 'bear' ETFs (obviously), cash, oil, physical gold, precious metals, some hybrids, resources, energy, some infrastructure and US dollar funds. There were places to hide but something of a needle in a haystack.

My own quest to transfer cash from my SMSF transaction account into an SMSF term deposit led to a weekend of paperwork, with two small banks wanting certified copies of everything to do with my identity and trust deed and physical application forms, not online. I tried to move the money within CBA which required no new ID work, and its Term Deposit Selector on NetBank is supposed to make transferring funds easy. Well, I have tried a dozen times without success, each time being told to come back later. In frustration at the failed online process, I sent emails which remain unanswered days later. When I attempted to speak to an actual person, I was advised I needed to wait an hour because "We've got a lot of callers right now". Which seemed to be all the time. How about directing some of the billions of profit into more call centre staff and fixing a basic application process?

In this week's edition ...

Now that frustration is off my chest (but my cash still sits earning not much!), a change of tack to take a look at art collecting. My knowledge begins and ends with Cressida Campbell, whose exhibition is now on at the National Gallery of Australia. In collecting her work for over 25 years, I've come to understand a few things about the strange world of art.

Meg Heffron then provides a fascinating piece on when to close an SMSF, which coming from someone who runs an SMSF administration business, may seem unusual. But Meg sees plenty of clients who reach the stage where an SMSF is no longer suitable, and provides her unique explanations.

As part of our continuing series looking at retirement planning, Ben Hillier of AMP reports on new research comparing attitudes to retirement versus responses in 2020 and the issue of FORO, or the Fear of Running Out. Ben suggest steps to mitigate the stress.

Last week's article on the Government's potential franking credit change drew plenty of attention, but it seems a simple explanation of franking is required. Stuart Cartledge of Cromwell Property shows the value of looking at after-tax returns at different tax rates

Investing in small companies is not for the faint-hearted, as Andrew Mitchell of Ophir explains. These companies are covered by fewer analysts than the big blue chips, and they tend to fall quicker and further when the market hits a speed bump, but then they recover quickly as conditions improve.

It's always difficult to look far enough ahead to better markets, but a Warren Buffett quote helps at times when "people are scared away".

“The idea that you try to time purchases based on what you think business is going to do in the next year or two, I think that’s the greatest mistake investors make because it’s always uncertain. People say it’s a time of uncertainty. It was uncertain on September 10th, 2001, people just didn’t know it. It’s uncertain every single day. So take uncertainty as part of being involved in investment at all. But uncertainty can be your friend. I mean, when people are scared they pay less for things. We try to price. We don’t try to time at all.”

Amid all this pessimism, analysts at Bank of America Global Research, based on their latest Fund Manager Survey (FMS), say there are signs of "macro capitulation, investor capitulation, start of policy capitulation, cash levels 6.3% = highest since April 2001, investors underweight equities - tasty morsels for another bear rally" and with maximum bearishness on the economic outlook.

Close to a record share of investors expecting a weaker economy in next 12 months

Although Firstlinks does not focus on picking market tops and bottoms, two leading fund managers are also looking through the current pessimism of rising rates and recession talk. Tom Stevenson of Fidelity explains why he thinks it's better to be too early investing into stockmarkets than too late, while Chris Siniakov of Franklin Templeton sees value in bonds after the misery of the last year.

In the weekend update by Morningstar, Nicola Chand asks analysts to identify three Australian companies which should do well in an inflation environment, while Susan Dziubinski finds 10 global defensive stocks with resilience if a recession hits the US.

Finally, I listened to the latest update from the CIO of Unisuper, John Pearce, who I rate as one of Australia's leading investors and asset allocators, and John is also looking to deploy capital. While I'm not ready to move cash to equities yet, John is seeing opportunities in the medium term. Here is an extract.

"Things aren't feeling particularly good at the moment, but we're actually getting back to a sense of normality. I believe that the Fed is actually closer to the end of this tightening cycle than the start. I know there's a feeling that all the Fed officials are walking around with the proverbial hammer in their hand and every problem looks like a nail. I know that some commentators are saying that the Fed is not going to stop until they really break something.

I don't subscribe to that view. Yes, the Fed does have a price stability mandate, but the Fed doesn't have a mandate to put millions of people out of work and I'd suggest that they would start losing their political support if indeed they got to that position. My view is that we're not far from the time when the Fed will have to pause just to see the impact, that the rate rises are working their way through the system. And finally, stock markets are now trading at levels that historically have proven to be pretty good entry points for long term investors ...

We're not stating that we've seen the lows because we'll never pick the lows. We just believe that the risk reward equation favours taking some risk at the moment. In the event that markets fall even further, we see opportunities across the whole curve ... I'm personally not that concerned with the recession. If you look at the history of economic cycles, recessions are very common. But after every recession is a recovery in the economy or a recovery in the stock market. The cycle never dies."

Graham Hand


Weekend market update

On Friday in the US, the S&P500 rose 2.4% and NASDAQ increased 2.3% on optimism that the US Fed will temper its interest rate hawkishness.

From AAP Netdesk: The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished Friday down 54 points, or 0.8%, to 6677. The index fell 82 points for the week, a loss of 1.2%. That's the second week of red in a row, fifth losing week out of the past six, and seventh negative week out of the past nine.

The energy sector was up 2%, as Brent crude remained around $US92 a barrel despite US President Joe Biden's attempt to lower them. Woodside gained 2.6% to a nearly two-month high of $35.47, Beach grew 1.9% to $1.58 and Santos climbed 0.9% to $7.60. Coalminer New Hope gained 7.7% to an all-time closing high of $7.42, while Whitehaven added 4.6% to $10.49 and Yancoal climbed 5.9% to $5.95.

In the mining sector, the iron ore giants were all down, with BHP falling 0.7% to $38.07, Fortescue retreating 1% to $16.36 and Rio Tinto dipping 0.8% to $91.50. The big four retail banks clawed back a bit of their midday losses, with CBA and NAB both finishing down 1.5%, ANZ dropping 1.1% and Westpac off 0.8%. 

From Shane Oliver, AMP: Shares had another volatile week, with ongoing concerns about inflation, rate hikes and recession along with a further surge in bond yields but with US shares seeing another strong bounce from technical support and helped on Friday by reports that the Fed may consider slowing the pace of rate hikes from later this year. This left US shares up 4.7% for the week and Eurozone shares up 2.4%, but Japanese shares fell 0.7% and Chinese shares fell 2.6%. 

Shares have managed yet another bounce from technical support levels for US shares, and extremely bearish investor sentiment and oversold conditions suggest that they may have more upside. However, the macro backdrop for shares remains tenuous – with high inflation, hawkish global central banks, high recession risks and ongoing geopolitical problems – suggesting the near term risks remain on the downsideThe UK, Canada and New Zealand all saw another round of high and greater than expected inflation readings for September pointing to 0.75% rate hikes from their central banks when they next meet. US economic data was generally weak with housing indicators pushing to levels often associated with recession. Most Fed officials remained hawkish and given this its hard to see the Fed paring back its quantitative tightening (ie running down its bond holdings) in order to stabilise bond yields as some appear to be suggesting.

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October 26, 2022

Graham, your experience with the CBA is now the norm from our bigger institutions. Members of my family & countless other associates have all experienced similar problems in regards to CBA service, particularly via their 'customer service' contact number. An hour seems to be the minimum wait from recent experience, it takes a special type of person to wait that long! I think when an organisation gets so big that an individual customer is no longer important the organisation no longer serve the customer, the customer serves them! Time for these oligopolies to be broken up.

October 23, 2022

As you know Graham on the equities side the time to buy is when the blood flows freely on the streets.While I don't think it's flowing freely I've picked up a few at sale prices.
2022 may go down as a reasonable year for buying when we look back.People will repeat the same mistakes ,I'll buy next time they are on sale,but they won't.

Geoff Cross
October 22, 2022

Hi Graham, like you I am sick of the Can Bank and the poor deposit interest rates on offer.
Not many people know it but you can purchase government bond on the ASX, they are safer and you can ladder them with different maturity dates. I am buying three year or less in duration and the rate is 3.2 per cent .Buying further out you have duration risk of course and I worry about inflation and how committed the politicians are in s getting back too 2 per cent.
In a risk off environment and playing a waiting game to reinvest I think this would be a good option.Off course if inflation drops I should see these bonds increase in value.
As an alternative Macquarie Bank are offering better rates and a lot more flexibility.

October 22, 2022

"Macquarie Bank are offering better rates": for personal accounts else only if you have a registered advisor open accounts - else they won't publicly say what their rates are.

Graham Hand
October 22, 2022

Not correct, Dudley. After false starts with CBA, Judo Bank and Gateway Bank, all with flawed processes, my SMSF invested with Macquarie (3.9% for 12 months) online with full view of all their TD rates, no adviser involved.

October 22, 2022

"no adviser involved":

'These rates apply to Macquarie Personal Banking clients only. If you’re a Macquarie Business Banking client please contact your Relationship Manager for applicable Term Deposit rates.'

Perhaps they give mates rates to celebrities.

We plebs have to make out with one or more 'Relationship Managers'.


C (the other one)
October 21, 2022

Graham, based on my own experience with the “can” bank, while the call centre is not helpful branch service is not better. After all all these are run by the “Can” people. Don’t want to bore you with details but about 12 months ago, we opened a youth saver account for my middle school child, and multiple phones calls, emails and two visits to a LNS branch later, we still couldn’t use the debit card.

You already know how frustrating the call centre experience is, I will just share my experience online and with a LNS branch.

A minor can’t open a youth saver account online as the ID checks have to be done at the branch. This is despite the fact that both my child and I already have a stock portfolio with Commsec a 100% CBA subsidiary. Get this, I was able open a trust account for my child to buy shares in tens thousands of dollars per transaction online, but I cannot get him a debit card which, I can set various limits, to withdraw $10 every now and then.

To visit our local branch my child had to take time off school because the branch closes at 4pm. Of course he can’t go by himself and I have to be there too. Not only that. if we get there say 3:30pm, we might be turned away if there are many people waiting ahead of us.

I tried to self help by changing the linked mobile number online. Of course the verification code for such a change is sent to my child’s mobile number. I sent an email via secured Internet banking but no we have to visit the branch again. My child took time off school again to go the branch with me. That didn’t fix the problems either.

The only “interesting” thing is my child get to observe how a traditional bank would have operated 50 years ago….you know, the queues, the ID photocopying, the staff carrying a big key ring with many important looking keys, the tap tap on the keyboard and then “oops that didn’t work, the calling of a supervisor from a secret room to sign an important looking paper…

I would like to finish my comments with a positive note. As I said to my child, the “Can” bank is very safe and as you can see, you pocket money would not be stolen!

October 20, 2022

I empathise with your SMSF’s TD establishment challenges…
“with two small banks wanting certified copies of everything to do with my identity and trust deed and physical application forms, not online.”

Major banks have this barrier too. If you have not lodged a TD with them within the last 12 months (common as TDs have only lately been worth considering) they typically claim AML laws require them to re-certify everything they already have. In the case of at least ANZ that requires a physical visit to a branch with your originals, as they will not accept certified true copies.

Our SMSF administrator lost our original SMSF trust deed. I have digital copies, but they are unacceptable to the big banks. Where to now? They offered to create a new trust deed, for a fee of course.

In the meantime, our money continues to earn a pittance in an AMP Bank cash account, while 3 separate requests for AMP TDs sit unprocessed by the bank. Guess who the winner is there!

October 20, 2022

Hi Graham,
A couple of comments. Just opened a TD with Rabo today. Already had an account established for our SMSF and it took less than a minute. I don't recall setting up the Rabo fund initially as anything difficult. Note however Rabo pay lower interest for SMSF accounts than personal accounts apart from term deposits (which are the same thankfully) which I find pretty annoying. Why discriminate like that?
Second comment is for those who feel cash is still a poor investment (yes, it probably is as a standalone investment) it has another hidden source of value - it allows you to avoid selling growth assets at depressed prices and locking in losses if you need to pay pensions etc from your fund. Another type of moat one could argue. But if you have cash on hand why not get the best interest rate you can. We also have floating rate bonds (eg FLOT, QPON) which have not been hammered like standard bonds - I don't get the impression many people are aware of this option, perhaps an article to clarify (maybe too late?).
Totally separate subject, there was another story today on the value of franking credits at various tax rates. I have suggested to your corporate owner Morningstar to add franking credits as a measure of total return (Gross return??). To me it seems obvious that if an accumulation index is one that includes dividends as well as price movement, surely a 100% tangible (ie not hypothetical) component such as a franking credit should be captured in some manner as well? I suspect the IT folks in the US who own Morningstar can't see any value in this...... Except Morningstars whole ethos is around providing financial information and to simply leave out a significant component of true returns seems to leave a bit to be desired... A decent work experience kid could do the programming.

October 20, 2022

Graham, You shared frustration re large institutions, nice to know not alone. I note comment "emails went unanswered". Since advent of things electronically & many seem ignored, tongue in cheek I invested in beautiful, top - quality, blue notepaper(A4) & envelopes with gilted flap thus eyecatching in mailroom or in-trays, handwrite dissatifaction ( or compliment), enclose number to give options but always acted upon. Takes longer, seems to work. Major bank CEO actually rang with blue letter in hand, horrified and fixed that day, another handwrote a reply believe it or not so shows people at top don't know what's happenning at bottom but really want to know weaknesses & e/mails don't seem to cut it.

October 19, 2022

Graham have you considered using an online deposit marketplace like Australian Money Market where you only have to provide your ID once, and then you can choose from a range of ADIs providing term deposits?

Graham Hand
October 19, 2022

Hi Aussie HIFIRE, I mentioned previously that I had watched a family member take over two months to open an account with all the certification and ID work, then a loss of documentation which required the whole process to start again, and admitting to a shortage of staff. The family financial adviser said the problems were widespread among his clients.

October 21, 2022

"choose from a range of ADIs":
... and receive a 'confirmation note' from intermediary - not a term deposit certificate from ADI.

October 19, 2022

It was with begrudging amusement I read about your experience with CBA. We are a FP firm and the amount of time we waste dealing with inefficient and unproductive organisations is beyond belief. There has to be a correlation between "work from home" and declining productivity. Australia is very fortunate to be able to export oil, gas, coal and iron ore otherwise we would be a third world country based on these experiences, which are rife!

October 19, 2022

While I agree with you it started long before COVID so the correlation is probably wrong.My first recollection is 1998,it has been downhill quickly ever since.If you didn't laugh at them you'd go mad

Strangely it happens with share registries.Sick of big banks I went with a small one.Sent a letter to the registry changing bank account details,sent the first week of January as there were no dividends due until mid March.Very pleased with the response,perhaps 10 to 15 days later they post out a copy of my letter and the paperwork for 5 or 6 companies that they handle for saying they have changed the bank account details,and noted that DRP remained the same for each company.

March comes,dividend is all paid into the bank,no DRP.You have to argue with them as they will not admit they have made a mistake.

July comes for the dividends paid in the first week of July.One dividend is not paid,around $5K,I don't recall.The dividend should be paid into the bank on Thursday,it isn't.Friday comes,no dividend.I call them on Monday.I am told that they have paid it.Then I am told they don't have my bank account number.I tell them they have,I have written proof.I am told a manager will call me on Tuesday,she did.I am told it has been paid,I say it hasn't.She refuses to give me the bank account number they have paid it into,customer confidentiality.She will call me back on Friday after checking things.She tells me my bank is at fault and I should contact them.

I find the paperwork and they have not entered the correct bank account into their system.A 6 number BSB,and a 6 number account number.Five of the companies they got right,the missing dividend they have the BSB correct,but only 5 numbers in the account number.I go into the small bank and ask what happens if the dividend has been paid into an account that doesn't exist.They say it is sent straight back to the registry.

The manager of course doesn't ring me back on Friday,I have to call the call centre. I tell them I know what the mistake is,and my bank says the money will be sent straight back to them as the account doesn't exist.They tell me my bank has not sent the money back to them,and it is my fault as they could not read my handwriting.I say you could read my handwriting for 5 of the companies,you didn't enter the data correctly,easy.A manager will call me back.She does,I am told they are not going to pay the dividend until my bank sends the money back to them.My bank is to blame,I am to blame,everybody else is to blame for their incompetence.

I call the banking ombudsman,yes they can deal with that,what is the exact name of the registry,they have 20 or so different entities on their books for that registry.I'll have to find a dividend statement,I'll email the exact name to you then call.

I call,they tell me they cannot deal with the complaint as that part of the registry is registered in the UK,they can't help me.

More calls to the registry and they just say they are not going to pay the dividend until they receive the money from my bank,it is my bank to blame. Stop calling them basically,that is the only answer they are going to give me.

When the Sept/Oct dividends are paid I seem to have more in the bank than I should have.A visit to the branch and the $5 K has been paid in,no notification from the registry,nothing at all.Three or 4 weeks later a new dividend statement arrives with the correct account on it .No apology,no mea culpa,nothing at all.In all fairness that is the only time the registry has got it wrong in decades,but they get worse and worse to deal with.

The whole system is worse than 3rd world.Complaints to directors at all of the banks are met with,this is important,I'll delegate this to somebody else.The whole system needs changing,it is rubbish.

October 19, 2022

Hi Graham,
Graham - what is your view on using the dollar cost averaging strategy in this bear environment instead of staying in cash?
Say, investing in a savings account at 3.5% (offered by Australian Super) and then over the next 12
months allocate fixed amount into the market, and possibly leaving 10% in cash at the end of 12 months.
Refinitiv state that in 2009 there were 55 drawdowns of 1% or more and in in 2022 there were 52 drawdowns,
whereas in 2017 there were only 4 drawdowns.
Given the current state of the market, and the fact that there seems to be many short lived rallies and constant volatility, DCA may allow us to hedge our bets.

Graham Hand
October 19, 2022

Hi Joseph, we don't offer personal advice so these are general comments, but DCA is a good way to ease into the market. It is a relatively conservative approach which is right for the current conditions. A gradual allocation to risk assets means an investor is participating in the upside to some extent while leaving powder dry if the market falls further. Over time, equity investment rewards the patient investor but it can be a rocky journey and investors need to accept the risk as the price of participating.

Rod Thomas
October 19, 2022

Hi Graham - the best investment over the past 20 years and will continue to be so is broad acre land with an attached cash flow. They are not making any more. The elephant in the room going forward is potential food shortages.

Helen Birrell
October 19, 2022

Graham - your frustration with trying to transfer money from SMSF is only too well felt! I have been trying to transfer money from my SFSM to a APRA Regulated Fund (trying to buy in on the down and ride the eventual optimistic high) has been ongoing since May!

This fortnight alone, I have had the ATO concede that the Rollover process using MyATO to a regulated fund does not work. The SMSF Gateway has limited direction on how to rollover or if a message is confirmed as received and the CBA APRA Regulated Fund blaming the SMSF Gateway for not sending a message .

Unlike CBA, AustPost SMSF Gateway have no call centre and very little guidance. The ATO website is informative on the obligations but lacks how to and the CBA APRA Reg fund have simply no idea. Essentially no one is accountable. So much for protecting investors best interest and providing adequate oversight enabling secure safe and efficient means to invest effectively.

The ATO needs to do more in this space. It simply cannot wipe its hands and say oh well.

October 19, 2022

Why would you roll funds out of an SMSF, when you replicate pretty much any invetsment in an SMSF???

Graham Hand
October 19, 2022

Goren, you misunderstood. I am not rolling funds out of my SMSF. I want to transfer from an SMSF transaction account earning not much to an SMSF TD earning about 3.5% while I sit on some cash.

October 19, 2022

Markets will only turn around properly when Biden is gone.

October 19, 2022

Good on you Steve; you may be right - but you know how it is - both sides of politics blames the other :)
...if possible look at the bigger picture.


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