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Financial Happenings Blog
Wednesday, February 28 2007

Yesterday was, apparently, not a good day to be an investor.  More than $30 billion was wiped off the value of the sharemarket - a fact trumpeted by many media outlets.  In fact, ninemsn was describing it as 'Crash Wednesday'. 

You are kidding, right?

Don't worry about the $30 billion 'wiped' off the value of the sharemarket yesterday, what about the $70 billion of value the sharemarket has created for investors since the start of this year alone?  The market actually fell by less than 3% - which is hardly a crash at all.  And it has started to recover those gains in trading this morning.

The key point - a point that should be repeated again and again - is that investing in growth assets like Australian shares, listed property and international shares means that your portfolio will be volatile.  It will go up and down - there will even be years when returns are negatives.  Over time, though, the returns from growth assets will be higher than non volatile investments.

The key is to accept the reality of volatility before you invest.  The last thing you want to do is have markets fall, and they will fall much more than 3% at times, and then decide what to do.  Set a course, accept that volatility happens, and get stronger long term investment returns that come with investing in growth assets.


Scott Francis

Posted by: Scott Francis AT 05:27 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, February 20 2007

I was interested to come across an ABC article today that quoted the Reserve Bank of Australia's governor, Glenn Stevens as saying during a Federal parliamentary committee hearing that, 'As a statement of probabilities, a rise (in interest rates) is more likely than a fall'.

I find this very interesting.  At the last rise in November, and in the time since, the commentary from 'financial analysts' has been that interest rates have peaked, and that the next move will be down.

It is interesting to see who the experts used to commentate on these things are - most commonly they are employed by the big banks, such as Chris Caton who is employed by BT/Westpac.

These experts have been pretty consistent in the story over the past 18 months - underestimating the liklihood of interest rate rises and tending to talk them down.  12 months ago no-one was predicting 3 interest rate rises and, according to the Reserve Bank of Australian, more chance of a rise than a fall to come.

What I had not thought of is that these people - who are generally employed by banks - have employers who benefit from interest rates being low.  Therefore public comment by bank economists about lower rates helps their employers as banks customers are more likely to spend more money on credit, borrow more money to buy houses and so on when interest rates are low.

It is an interesting conflict of interest.



Posted by: Scott Francis AT 09:04 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, February 15 2007

A great article in today's Australian newspaper (front page) where the Westpoint boss (former boss) Norm Carey claimed that part of the reason for the Westpoint collapse was the fact that his wife was having an affair with his marriage therapist.

This stands at odds with the conventional wisdom that says the collapse was due to the fact that Westpoint 'investments' were highly risky mezzanine finance investments distributed by a corrupt financial services industry that was dazzled by double digit commission payments.

So now you know!



Posted by: Scott Francis AT 05:37 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, February 11 2007

Scott Pape, under the title the barefoot investor, writes a great column in the Courier Mail each monday morning.

Todays article was brilliant - looking with appropriate contempt at money making opportunities.  One of his questions - and it lies at the heart of all 'too good to be true' opportunities - is why would any great high return, low risk opportunity be passed onto punters?  In this case the product was orange juice with unique medical powers.  And Scott points out that rather than sell this through the supermarket or pharmacy distributors, selling it thought individuals made no sense.  This applies equally for get rich quick schemes in property development or the sharemarket - if it was a foolproof way to get rich then the people with the secret would not be selling it.  They would be building a business developing property or building managed funds.

Anyway the orange juice, as many of these things are, was a multi level marketing scheme - in the shadow of Amway, the leader of all multi level marketing schemes.  Multi level marketing - or network marketing - means that as you sell product all the people in your business line take a cut of your success.  Of course, if you can get a team of people working below you then you can take a cut of their good work.

He quoted some interesting research about Amway and Quixtar (also a large mulit level marketing company) in the US, saying that 99% of all salespeople earned less than $14 a week.  I had never seen these figures before.  I am not suprised either.  $14 lousy bucks a week.




Posted by: Scott Francis AT 10:26 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, February 06 2007

In writing my latest Eureka Report article, I stumbled across some sharemarket data from the Reserve Bank of Australian website, here

The great thing about the data that provided is that it is in excel format, and so you can do calculations on it.

There were three data series that I found particularly interesting.  The first is the accumulation index.  It started from 1 January 1980 valued at 1,000 and is now valued at 34,000.  To put it another way, $1,000 invested in the index in 1980 would now be worth $34,000, assuming dividends were re-invested.

The second interesting data series is the monthly PE ratios of the market.  The PE ratio (Price Earnings) is a good measure of market value - the lower the PE the lower the market value.  The current PE is 14.8, while the average PE from 1980 until now was actually 18.7.  This suggest at the very least that, even after three years of great returns, the market is not widely overpriced.

There is also data on the average monthly dividend yield of the market, currently at 3.73%.  This is a little below the average of 4%.

All in all some interesting data, and reassurance that on the basis of earnings and yield the market valuations look reasonable.





Posted by: Scott Francis AT 09:05 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, February 01 2007

In the Australian Financial Review on Wednesday, there was an article about managed fuds that had delivered strong results.

Two of the five Australian fund managers mentioned were Vanguard and Dimensional, fund managers we use widely.  This was a nice endorsement of our investment process.

The other three funds were active fund managers.  Two of these three funds had exactly the same top five shareholdings as the index.  That is, even though they charge big fees to actively find the best investment opportunities their biggest five holding were EXACTLY the same as the index! (All were BHP and the big four Australian banks - the 5 biggest companies in the market at the moment).

Surely that is not what an investor is looking for when they invest in an active managed fund - they want a portfolio that looks different from the index! 

We'll stick to the sound and transparent performance offered by Dimensional and Vanguard funds!


Scott Francis

Posted by: Scott Francis AT 07:56 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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