The first quarter of 2020 has been a historic one for the world and financial markets.
The rapid spread of COVID-19 and resulting lockdowns around the world initially sent share markets spiralling downwards by as much as 34%. We discussed a historical perspective on this rapid market fall in What coronavirus means for your portfolio. The policy response by governments and central banks across the globe have since helped markets stabilise and some share prices rebound.
The markets are reevaluating the impact of this virus in real-time. New information on fatalities, job losses, consumer confidence and spending, inflation, earnings, dividends and other factors are leading to large moves in share prices. Because there are still so many unknowns it’s likely that market volatility will remain high for some time even if we have now passed ‘peak panic’.
This pandemic has shown once again that trying to time your entry and exit points into markets is notoriously difficult.
That’s why our advice continues to be to stay invested and ride out the market bumps with a well diversified portfolio. Over many market crises, staying invested has been a more profitable and repeatable strategy than moving to cash until the volatility passes.
Stockspot portfolio performance
The Stockspot portfolios provided a significant level of protection from share market falls, as they’ve been designed to do.
While the Australian share market fell by 20% over the first quarter (and some individual shares by much more), the Stockspot portfolios lost between 2.1% to 9.7%.
To only be down 2.1% to 9.7% after the most rapid share market correction since 1987 is something we are extremely proud of, particularly after delivering positive returns of 13.9% to 19.9% in 2019.
Stockspot’s defensive assets shine
Our allocation to both Australian government bonds and gold helped to offset some of the share market losses. Government bonds increased by 2.3% for the quarter and gold rose by 20.2%. Our decision to increase the gold allocation in November 2017 has helped during this period since government bonds haven’t provided the same level of protection they would have in the past.
Over the 12 months to 31 March 2020 gold has risen by 43%.
Given gold’s target weight of 12.3% in each of Stockspot’s portfolios, this has contributed to 5% better performance than if we didn’t own gold.
Assets like property and infrastructure fell by as much (or more) than Australian shares during this correction. We recently wrote about the impact this could have on members of some large super funds.
In our view a defensive asset is one that you can liquidate easily in a stressed environment.
It has always struck us as very wrong that funds can classify infrastructure and property as defensive. We recently discussed this issue with Charlotte Grieve from The Age.
Performance relative to other funds
The Stockspot portfolios continue to have positive returns on a rolling 12 month basis which is better than 99% of similar managed diversified funds. Our 5 portfolios have outperformed 464 of 469 similar diversified funds tracked by Morningstar. Stockspot portfolios also continue to outshine 99% of similar funds over 3 and 5 years as they did when we did a detailed comparison in September 2019.Source: Stockspot, Morningstar website comparison group of investment funds across growth, balanced and moderate multi-sector categories to 31 March 2020. Stockspot Amethyst, Turquoise and Topaz portfolios
How to invest in volatile markets
This quarter has shown the value of staying diversified and disciplined with your investment strategy regardless of what markets throw at you.
Stay diversified including defensive assets
We own a wide mix of different investments to give you exposure to different sectors, countries and asset classes. This helps to smooth the bumps and keep you invested throughout the inevitable ups and downs like we’ve seen.
A mix of growth assets like shares as well as defensive assets like bonds and gold is important. It also means you have many sources of returns. This chart shows where returns have come from over the past 5 years.Graph may not sum up to 100 due to rounding
Let Stockspot automate your rebalancing to take advantage of market dips
This quarter gave us the rare opportunity to ‘rebalance’ some client portfolios to get them back towards their target investment mix. To do this we’ve generally been selling some gold and buying some Australian shares. We explained the process in detail in Why we’re rebalancing some portfolios now.
It may seem counterintuitive to be selling gold and investing the proceeds into shares during a period of market turmoil. Rest assured that this is exactly what should be happening in order to get your portfolio risk back to its target risk level and take advantage of the low prices.
We know It’s hard to sell things that have done well because it involves going against the crowd. Automated rebalancing removes emotion and helps you to buy investments when they’re low and sell when they’re high. It’s one of the big advantages of using an automated wealth service like Stockspot rather than investing yourself.
Don’t try and time when to be in and out
It may seem sensible to exit markets and move to cash after seeing the Australian share market fall by 34% in a matter of weeks. At least until things settle down. While it might make you more comfortable in the short term, moving to cash can be an expensive mistake over the long term. Markets do recover so moving to cash for an extended period is likely to put you in a worse position. We considered a few different scenarios in The cost of moving to cash.
The first quarter of 2020 has been a difficult one for many Australian families and workers
Stockspot understands how important it is for us to be available to speak to and answer any questions during these volatile times.
Our Client Care & Advice team remains on hand to support you via phone, email and live chat and is ready to respond to your queries during business hours. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions and we will respond as soon as possible.
Our Operations team continues to invest for clients, process deposits, withdrawals and open new accounts.
This quarter has been our largest quarter on record of new deposits which shows that most clients see this as an opportunity to add to their long-term investments.
We hope you and your families stay safe and healthy during this difficult time.
Stockspot performance returns
The Stockspot Portfolios delivered exceptional returns for our clients in 2019 ranging from 13.9% to 19.9% after fees. This in a year when interest rates in Australia were cut below 1% and most savers weren’t able to get much more than 2% in the bank or term deposits.
|1 year||3 years (p.a.)||5 years (p.a.)||Total return|
Returns as of 31 December 2019 after fees
It’s our fifth straight year of positive returns across all of our investment strategies. We’ve achieved these returns while taking roughly half the risk of only owning Australian shares because we’re diversified into global shares, bonds and gold.
All 5 of the assets we invest in performed well in 2019. In addition, the index ETFs we’ve selected for clients performed better than the majority of other funds available, including managed funds and Listed Investment Companies (LICs).
The Australian share market enjoyed its best year in a decade. Our Australian shares ETF rose 25% in 12 months. The big return for Australian shares in 2019 came after a year when Australian shares generated negative returns in 2018.
If you take the average of the last 2 years you get close to the long term typical return of around 10% p.a. from Australian shares. It’s an excellent example of why you need to stay invested through inevitable bad years in order to enjoy the good ones.
The market moves over the last 2 years also point to the benefit of dollar cost averaging. Stockspot clients who ignored the negative news headlines at the end of 2018 and added to their portfolios did very well in 2019 as the market returned to its long term trend upwards.
Historically the share market has risen in 7 of every 10 years so it’s important to not panic in years when it’s down. Being diversified into defensive assets like bonds and gold also helps to keep you invested through the inevitable tough years like 2018 and is what kept all of our portfolios positive that year.
Australian and US share markets both reached new all time highs in 2019. We explored whether it’s sensible to be buying when the market hits all time highs. The results even surprised us!
What does 2020 have in store?
We don’t have the answer, nor does anybody. That’s why you’re best to ignore share market predictions, particularly ones from people predicting a crash. JP Morgan recently published a chart showing how much money you would have lost if you had followed the predictions of ‘market experts’ who predicted a crash in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. The end result – you could have lost up to 60% by listening to these ‘market experts’.
It’s a good reminder of why we ignore market predictions. Instead our portfolios are prepared for any market environment by being well diversified, keeping costs low and keeping your portfolio rebalancing on autopilot to avoid behavioural mistakes and make the most of market dips.
Top articles of the year
Investor education is an important brand value to Stockspot. Our aim is to help more Australians understand investing and their personal finances a little bit better than they did the day before.
That’s why we’re proud to have published over 90 blog articles in 2019 which was our most on record. We wrote many to answer common client questions like “When is the best time to invest?”, “What’s the difference between a dividend and a distribution?” and “Should I pay down my mortgage or invest?”.
Below are some of the most popular articles each month of 2019 in case you missed them. We’ve also made our annual Investor Handbook available to download.
- At the start of 2019 we reviewed our 2018 performance. 2018 was a year when almost all assets fell in value so we were pleased to share that the Stockspot portfolios made money.
- In January we discussed why you should ignore market predictions. It was a timely reminder after the annus horribilis in 2018 (which very few predicted). Once again few market analysts or commentators correctly predicted the big positive returns of 2019.
- In February we got on the Marie Kondo bandwagon and considered how you can tidy up your finances by asking ‘Does it bring me joy?’
- In March we looked at the potential impact of the Labor Party’s proposed franking credit changes. As it happened, the Coalition was re-elected and no changes were made.
- In April we considered if you should Dollar Cost Average or go all in. This article was so popular that we followed it up with When is the best time to invest?
- In May we discussed how you can stay on top of your finances while living abroad.
- In June we revisited the Shares vs Property debate, adding the cost of renovations into the equation. We also launched the new Stockspot brand!
- In July we launched our annual ETF Research Report and looked into SMSF investment strategies for income and growth. We also revisited why you should own some gold.
- In August we compared ETFs to LICs. Our research was later referenced by ASIC in their recommendations for government to review the commissions paid by LICs to financial advisers. We also released our 7th annual Fat Cat Funds Report, naming the best and worst super funds.
- In September we announced some updates to the Stockspot dashboard and app. After moving to a blueprint agile process and continuous integration/continuous deployment we were able to ship hundreds of small improvements to the client dashboard and app in 2019. We can’t wait to show you plenty more in the works for 2020. Interested in joining the Stockspot engineering team? You can see current available roles here.
- In October we quashed some common myths and misconceptions about ETFs and looked at whether it’s best to pay down your mortgage or invest.
- In November we discussed why you don’t need to be worried to buy when markets are high.
- In December we interviewed our radio host client Phil Ackman and explained the difference between a dividend and a distribution.
We look forward to another great year in 2020. We’ll be releasing new dashboard and app features throughout the year, continuing to improve the Stockspot client experience and writing plenty of investing articles for our blog and newsletter.
Thanks for trusting Stockspot on your investment journey.