Register For Our Mailing List

Register to receive our free weekly newsletter including editorials.

Home / 406

Why does Australia’s skewed stock market underperform?

Australia’s mix of industries in its economy is broadly similar to all advanced economies. It is dominated by the fast-growing information and financial sectors (quaternary) as well as health, hospitality, culture and other service themes (quinary), as we see below.

Indeed, these two sectors, mainly growing fast in the post-industrial age since the mid-1960s, now account for almost 60% of our GDP.

Agriculture is tiny but mining stands out

Agriculture is a fraction of the importance it had in the 1960s and is nearly as tiny a share as the USA’s 1% of their GDP, such has been the increasing capital-intensity of agriculture that has displaced its millenniums-long labour-intensity.

But our mining industry stands out with over 10% of our GDP compared with other developed economies where this industry is a quarter or less of that importance. And it is reflected in our exports where over half our half our $400+ billion are minerals. More if downstream manufactures are added.

Stock market weightings, Australia v US

Which leads to our industry shares in the stock market, which is skewed both by minerals and financial services. As shown in the exhibit below, these two industry divisions account for a whopping 55% of the ASX's total market capitalisation.

This mix stands in vivid contrast to that of the USA, where these two divisions account for around 17% (a sixth) compared with Australia’s well over a half.

The USA has a stock market much more in tune with the new Infotronics Age of services, information and communication technologies (ICT) that displaced the goods industries and utilities of the Industrial Age up to the mid- 1960s. Their information technology sector (23% of the market capitalisation) rivals our mining industry for relative size. Then add the communications sector (10%) and ICT in total is a third of the market. It is bigger than either our minerals sector or financial services sector.


Register here to receive the Firstlinks weekly newsletter for free

But does that explain our underperformance?

Does our skew to minerals and financial services explain why our All Ords has underperformed both the Dow Jones and NASDAQ for over 30 years and been left in their wake in the last 10 years?

No, that’s not the reason: profitability and wealth creation (dividends and share price growth) are independent of the industry. Any industry can have players with world best practice (WBL) performance. We have WBP performers in all our 19 industry divisions (as described in the first exhibit on our industry mix). As does the USA and most other advanced economies.

Other explanations often used are equally untrue, including: population size, fewer hi-tech companies, distance from markets, corporate tax regime and others.

Why are Australian companies not more profitable?

About one in 10 Australian companies achieve WBP profitability over 5-year periods while four in 10 companies do so in the USA.

The real reasons why we are lagging are more fundamental. We break too many of the keys to success rules and the most frequently breached are shown in the table below. We have to get smarter and understand strategic planning much better than we currently do.

 

Phil Ruthven AO is Founder of the Ruthven Institute and Founder of IBISWorld. The Ruthven Institute was created to help any business that wants to emulate world best performance and profitability using the Golden Rules of Success, based on over 45 years of corporate and industry analyses and strategy work. The Ruthven Institute is happy to provide a fuller explanation of these 12 Golden Rules.

 

4 Comments
Angus
May 09, 2021

Did we establish there is an underperformance and the size and duration of it? I was hoping to learn something. This is just an opinion piece.

Dane
May 06, 2021

It's mind boggling that investors can have over half their equity exposure in a skewed market that represents 2-3% of the investable universe. 'Home bias' on steroids. This article is quite revealing. Shows there is some work to do if we wish to become a dynamic economy and produce more national champions that compete on a global stage. What always stands out to me is that if you compare the top 20 stocks on the ASX there has been almost no change for decades, save for a few buy-now-pay later stonks. Whereas the US market has completely evolved.

john
May 07, 2021

It doesn't matter if you only have equity in 0.1% of "the investable universe", so long as it performs, and the ASX20 certainly does. Not so much as the US in the last decade, but the comparison is complex, eg. the ASX pays higher dividends [which can be re-invested more profitably by an individual than automatic reinvestment into their company of origin], and their mostly fully franked. Ashley Owen's articles in Firstlinks [Nov & Dec 2014] and ensuing comments discusses it all in more detail. The fact that the ASX20 stocks 'haven't changed for decades' exemplifies the simplicity of the strategy, most years they churn out some billion dollar profit, and you don't need to worry about currency issues, higher brokerage, fees to advisors who want you to invest in the whole universe and beyond. But this is not what the article is about.

Jennifer J
May 06, 2021

We're lucky when all we do is dig up rocks, grow stuff and provide services to others. The US is 27% IT and we are always criticising them.

 

Leave a Comment:

     

RELATED ARTICLES

In a short-term world, take a longer-term view

What drives Australian versus global equity performance?

Where do sustainable returns come from?

banner

Most viewed in recent weeks

House prices surge but falls are common and coming

We tend to forget that house prices often fall. Direct lending controls are more effective than rate rises because macroprudential limits affect the volume of money for housing leaving business rates untouched.

Survey responses on pension eligibility for wealthy homeowners

The survey drew a fantastic 2,000 responses with over 1,000 comments and polar opposite views on what is good policy. Do most people believe the home should be in the age pension asset test, and what do they say?

100 Aussies: five charts on who earns, pays and owns

Any policy decision needs to recognise who is affected by a change. It pays to check the data on who pays taxes, who owns assets and who earns the income to ensure an equitable and efficient outcome.

Three good comments from the pension asset test article

With articles on the pensions assets test read about 40,000 times, 3,500 survey responses and thousands of comments, there was a lot of great reader participation. A few comments added extra insights.

The sorry saga of housing affordability and ownership

It is hard to think of any area of widespread public concern where the same policies have been pursued for so long, in the face of such incontrovertible evidence that they have failed to achieve their objectives.

Two strong themes and companies that will benefit

There are reasons to believe inflation will stay under control, and although we may see a slowing in the global economy, two companies should benefit from the themes of 'Stable Compounders' and 'Structural Winners'.

Latest Updates

Retirement

Stop treating the family home as a retirement sacred cow

The way home ownership relates to retirement income is rated a 'D', as in Distortion, Decumulation and Denial. For many, their home is their largest asset but it's least likely to be used for retirement income.

Property

Hey boomer, first home buyers and all the fuss

What is APRA worried about? Most mortgagees can easily absorb increases in interest rates without posing a systemic threat to the banking system. Housing lending is a relatively risk-free activity for banks.

Property

Residential Property Survey Q3 2021

Housing market sentiment has eased from record highs and confidence has ticked down as house price rises slow. Construction costs overtook lack of development sites as the biggest impediment for new housing.

Investment strategies

Personal finance is 80% personal and 20% finance

Understanding your own biases and behaviours is even more important than learning about markets. Overcome four major cognitive biases that may be sabotaging your investing and recognise them in others.

Where do stockmarket returns come from over time?

Cash flow statements differ from income statements and balance sheets, and every company must balance payments to investors versus investing into the business. Cash flows drive the value of the business.

Fixed interest

How to invest in the ‘reopening of Australia’ in bonds

As Sydney and Melbourne emerge from lockdown, there are some reopening trades in the Australian credit market which 'sophisticated' investors should consider as part of their fixed income portfolios.

Shares

10 trends reshaping the future of emerging markets

Demand for air travel, China’s growing middle-class population, Brazil’s digital payments take-up, Indian IPOs, and increased urbanisation are just some of the trends being seen in emerging economies.

Sponsors

Alliances

© 2021 Morningstar, Inc. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer
The data, research and opinions provided here are for information purposes; are not an offer to buy or sell a security; and are not warranted to be correct, complete or accurate. Morningstar, its affiliates, and third-party content providers are not responsible for any investment decisions, damages or losses resulting from, or related to, the data and analyses or their use. Any general advice or ‘regulated financial advice’ under New Zealand law has been prepared by Morningstar Australasia Pty Ltd (ABN: 95 090 665 544, AFSL: 240892) and/or Morningstar Research Ltd, subsidiaries of Morningstar, Inc, without reference to your objectives, financial situation or needs. For more information refer to our Financial Services Guide (AU) and Financial Advice Provider Disclosure Statement (NZ). You should consider the advice in light of these matters and if applicable, the relevant Product Disclosure Statement before making any decision to invest. Past performance does not necessarily indicate a financial product’s future performance. To obtain advice tailored to your situation, contact a professional financial adviser. Articles are current as at date of publication.
This website contains information and opinions provided by third parties. Inclusion of this information does not necessarily represent Morningstar’s positions, strategies or opinions and should not be considered an endorsement by Morningstar.

Website Development by Master Publisher.