- There was mixed performance for investment markets last week. European and Japanese equities performed well, whilst emerging markets, US and World equity indices performed poorly. Australia faired OK
- Fixed rate sovereign bonds such as UK Gilts, German Bunds, US Treasuries and Australian Government securities all had a tough week, but floating rate instruments tracked sideways
- The US Dollar fell as Gold rallied (extending the current negative correlation), whilst most other commodities were positive over the week
- Whilst many commodities continue to do well, Oil in particular continues to power ahead with Brent crude being up over 45% for the year
Federal Budgets and Long-Term bonds
Last week we discussed the 100-year Argentinian bond and the disbelief that Argentina was able to not only find buyers for the bond but also that the offer was oversubscribed. We also took that as an opportunity to review how things can change surprisingly quickly in markets. We recently had the May Federal Budget issued here in Australia and these two topics evoked some previous thoughts and presentations we’ve given for clients in the past that we thought we’d share with you.
Over the years we have presented on various topics including previous Federal Budgets. Usually the Budget presentation is structured as thus:
- 5 minutes – Budget summary
- 10 minutes – why the budget has next to, or absolutely no influence on your investments, as well as why it is such an asinine practice having investment specialists on the TV giving budget run-downs and synopsis
- 30 minutes – on what you should actually be thinking about regarding your investments
Why does the budget have little to no effect on your investments? Budgets have the capacity to influence economies, however there is little empirical evidence to suggest a relationship between economic performance and subsequent investment market performance.
If positive economic performance preceded positive stock market performance and negative economic performance preceded poor market returns, there would be an upward sloping line of dots and an upward sloping ‘line-of-best-fit’ (and in fact vice versa if bad economic numbers meant good performance and good economic performance meant bad market performance). However, there is a flat line – meaning there is no relationship.
Back to our story
So, in May 2016 I was asked to present on the Budget for the second year, and if you recall this was around the time the Government were trying to release a budget that would convince the ratings houses to retain our AAA credit rating. For the months leading up to the budget, the ratings houses had been warning that persistent budget deficits meant that without a convincing budgetary plan they would downgrade Australia. This would have flow on effects by causing the banks to drop one level in their credit ratings, meaning their cost of borrowing would go up, and of course this would be passed on in the form of higher mortgage costs along with other negative effects.
So what did we propose at the time? The Government should borrow more… a lot more. We said that debt isn’t bad if the interest on the debt is serviceable, and this is achievable by owning productive assets – i.e. productive infrastructure assets.
The Government has actually announced an infrastructure spend which will hopefully lead to productivity gains here in Australia. In addition, they could fund some of the infrastructure through the issuance of Inflation Linked Bonds – an area of the market desperately needed by retirees but disgracefully underfunded here in Australia. Inflation Linked Bonds are bonds that pay an amount of interest that is linked to inflation – they are well suited to funding infrastructure assets where the pricing for the use of the asset is linked to inflation. Retirees need income products that can protect them against inflation erosion – this is another tool they could add to their tool kit.
Back to our 100 year bond
What we also said was that as tax payers, we wanted the Government to issue as many long-dated bonds (AUD denominated of course) as possible because the yields on offer were at multi-generational lows. If you want proof that these are indeed multi-generational lows in yields, here’s a chart of Australian 10 year Government Bond yields from June 1857 to June 2014:
Source: Global Financial Data *(1)
The Australian 10 year is currently yielding 2.86%, around as low as it’s ever been – it’s only been close to this in the 40’s and late 1890’s.
So, the Argentinian bond and the recent Government budget got us thinking –our original premise in 2016 was and is still valid, and in fact our Government has been following through on it. In fact, the ‘duration’ of the common index of Australian debt securities (if duration is a foreign term, think ‘time-to-maturity’ on a basket of debt issued in Australia) has slowly been getting longer – so the Government has been issuing longer and longer dated debt:
As a tax payer, this is a good thing if the debt is used wisely to fund productive assets that can service the interest. The interest would be pretty easily served if it was at a fixed rate issued at multi-generational lows, or via Inflation-Linked Bonds that are funded by assets that collect inflation linked revenues above the cost of the interest burden.
* (1)This is a composite of the following bonds: The New South Wales 5% Debenture is used from June 1857 to December 1858, the New South Wales 5% Bond Redeemable 1888-1892 is used from January 1858 to December 1874, the New South Wales 4% Bond of 1875 Redeemable 1903-1910 from January 1875 to February 1886, the South Australia 4% Inscribed Bonds of 1886 Redeemable 1917-1936 from March 1886 to June 1917, the Australia 5.50% Registered Bonds Redeemable 1922-1927 from July 1917 to June 1922, and the Australia 5% Registered Stock of 1925-29 from July 1922 to June 1932 quoted in London and quoted in Sydney from July 1932 to July 1933. From January 1933 until December 1936, 4% bonds are used, and starting in January 1937, a weighted average of bonds of 10 through 1940, 12 years from 1941 to May 1959, 20 years from June 1959 through 1980, 15 years from 1981 through 1990, and 10 years since 1991 to produce the theoretical yield on a perpetual ten-year bond.
General Advice Warning
Past performance is not an indicator of future performance. The information provided in this article is general in nature and does not take into account your particular investment objectives, financial situation or insurance needs; we therefore recommend you seek advice tailored to your individual circumstances before making any specific decisions. Dobbrick Financial Services and its advisers are Authorised Representatives of Fortnum Private Wealth Ltd ABN 54 139 889 535 AFSL 357306. Dobbrick Financial Services are a Corporate Authorised Representative of Fortnum Private Wealth Ltd ABN 54 139 889 535 AFSL 357 306.