In the year to date, the NZ equity market has returned a quite remarkable 14% which is well ahead of any rational expectation. Having said that, we also shouldn’t be surprised that in a world hungry for yield, then good quality companies which can offer earnings growth above 5% p.a. and sustainable dividends at similar levels are going to be sought after. In particular, the so-called ‘bond proxy’ companies (e.g utilities) are attractive holdings for those who are prepared to accept additional capital risk for the desire/expectation of cash yields which are well ahead of traditional bank deposits and bonds. Last month we observed that there was talk of the global economy has passed the peak of this rates cycle, and this perspective may have gained weight with the New Zealand central bank having just cut interest rates.
But with economic data still reasonably robust it’s a slightly surprising approach, and our Governor was left explaining the move in terms of ‘getting ahead of the curve’, which seems to be a mild acknowledgement that current data maybe didn’t demand such a cut. Global equities performed particularly strongly during April, and with the weakening NZ dollar, those investors who were unhedged saw the value of their overseas equities increase by well over 5% during the month (hedged investors still enjoyed a 3% return). All the major markets contributed to these strong returns, but Germany led the charge (7%) whilst at the other end the UK was more modest, but still very strong, at 2% (noting that on average we’d expect around 0.5-0.75% over a month from our equity holdings). The developed markets continued to outperform their emerging market counterparts for the month, quarter and year.
April provided another strong set of returns for investors in the Nikko AM diversified funds. As has been the case since the start of the year, it has been equity markets that have driven these outcomes, but a slight change in April is that the bond markets were much weaker than they had been earlier in the year. Our exposures to alternative sources of return (the Nikko AM option fund and the fund of hedge funds strategy) performed well at around 2%, and so despite the weaker bond markets, the diversified funds again provided monthly returns significantly ahead of the long-term expectations. Within the diversified funds, we remain close to our benchmark weights which has the explicit effect of locking in some of the gains from the strong equity markets and we maintain the desired allocations across sectors and geography.