Those questions captured the minds and emotions of investors and pundits alike through the first quarter of 2019.
While some of the global economic data released over in Q1 was disappointing, we are not put off. The theme of Vanguard’s 2019 outlook was ‘down, but not out’ as we anticipated some deterioration in economic growth indicators. Holding that view is easier said than done when consumption, income, housing, and manufacturing indicators in several nations signal weakness. Almost in spite of the uncertainty, however, share markets in Australia and overseas returned over 10% for the first quarter.
It was hard – even for the most steadfast of investors – to ignore the debate around the economic cycle once the US Treasury yield curve briefly inverted in the final weeks of March. When short term interest rates are higher than long term rates, investors become pessimistic about what could happen in the next year, yet optimistic when looking five to ten years into the future. Traditionally, this pattern has preceded every major US recession in recent memory, so quite understandably, investors are taking these warning signs seriously.
Central banks only added to the feeling that economic storm clouds are gathering. Ironically, their actions might have been intended to instill confidence in their respective economies, but markets, especially bond markets, had none of it. The US Federal Reserve revised its vaunted ‘dot plot’ to suggest that interest rates would be on hold for the rest of the year; they had previously signaled two more hikes. Locally, the Reserve Bank of Australia became more tentative in its official policy communications. Even the Reserve Bank of New Zealand changed its tune and openly discussed the possibility of a rate cut. Investors are now asking; “What do the banks know that we don’t?”
Economic and market outlook
This questioning comes at a precarious time for the global economy, as we recently passed the 10-year mark from the onset of the Global Financial Crisis. Those who say the US economic expansion must end soon, simply because the expansion has been remarkably long, overlook Australia’s record-setting recession-free expansion in their review of the global economy. Investors feel that we are close to crossing a line, albeit a blurry one, between economic growth reverting to trend (2% in the US, 2–3% in Australia) and an outright global slowdown.
Part of this concern is driven from a tightening of financial conditions. According to our analysis, financial conditions and heightened anxiety over economic policy probably contributed to some of the decline in US GDP growth for the last quarter of 2018. In a recent research note, Known unknowns: Uncertainty, volatility, and the odds of recession, we estimated that these shocks could have subtracted as much as 0.4% from 2019 GDP growth.
Inevitably, with each new development in this cycle, we are asked by investors what they can do to prepare. Regular readers of Vanguard’s commentary will not be surprised by our answer: revisit asset allocation, diversify, and review active risks in your portfolio.
Attempting to time markets can backfire and lead to long term under-performance, as our analysis shows in the figure and table below. The questions investors ought to be asking are: ‘If a recession occurs, how should I respond?’, ‘Am I adequately prepared?’ and, ‘Does my financial plan reflect my comfort with uncertainty?’ rather than ‘When will the next recession occur?’
Adequate preparation, whether increased savings, a new asset allocation, or even a conversation between an adviser and their client, is the best way to prepare. The market will take us for a ride as it tries to guess (with limited success) what will happen in 2019. If we stay calm and adhere to a long term approach, we limit the effect of the market’s fits and tantrums on our journey toward investment success.
Matthew Tufano, Economist
14 May 2019
For more than 20 years, Sam has been a financial planner helping individuals and families achieve their financial planning goals, by providing advice on Investment Planning; Insurance Planning; Tax Planning; Retirement Planning; and Estate Planning. Working with a network of highly skilled professionals in Sydney he is dedicated to providing high-quality advice and integrated wealth management solutions that simplify and enhance the quality of his clients' lives.
Sam established his own firm in 1997 and has overseen its steady development and growth. Attention to detail, good listening skills and great empathy are symbols of his appreciation by his clients. He has built long-term relationships with his growing client base and aims to provide excellent customer service.
Sam began his financial planning career in 1993 after completing a Bachelor of Science degree in 1991. Since this time he has accumulated many professional qualifications such as:
Sam has volunteered with the Cancer Council of NSW and can be seen almost every year volunteering or participating in the 7 bridges walk.
Away from the business, he enjoys spending weekends with his son. He is also a football (soccer) tragic and is a massive Chelsea FC fan.
Having worked for national financial planning companies in the past, George has extensive experience in the provision of advice in risk insurance, investments and retirement planning and is focused on forming long-term relationships with his clients.
George has been awarded a Masters of Commerce (Financial Planning) and a Bachelor of Commerce through University of Western Sydney as well as having the Diploma of Financial Services (Financial Planning).
Jane Lim is a friendly character with a bubbly personality. She has the unique ability of making complex information sound simple and easy to digest.
Jane entered the financial services industry in 2006, and worked with big blue-chip financial companies such as Count Financial Limited and AMP Financial Planning Pty Ltd.
She holds a Master's degree in Applied Finance through Macquarie University, and she is a member of the Million Dollar Round Table.
Being a self-confessed "tennis nut", Jane spends many weeknights in the tennis court, and is a frequent member of Sydney's Eastern Suburbs Tennis Competition.
Being a highly motivated professional, Jane is always eager to help her clients on a wide range of financial planning needs.
Mortgage Broker/Financial Planner
Paul has been a financial planner for over 15 years helping individuals and families successfully achieve their financial planning goals. He is very focused on building successful long-term harmonious relationships with his clients.
He provides a holistic approach on various aspects of financial advice encompassing areas such as Investment Planning; Insurance Planning; Tax Planning; Retirement Planning and has extensive experience and knowledge in these fields.
Paul's professional qualifications are:
Away from his professional life, he enjoys spending his time with his family doing various activities such as coaching his son and taking him to games. He is a very avid sports fan and a cricket enthusiast.
Client Services Manager
Christian joined Capitalwise as Client Services Manager, with backgrounds in both customer service and administration.
Christian is passionate in providing excellent customer service by being attentive to client’s need as well as being able to circumnavigate challenges.
He holds a Master's degree in Commerce specialising in Marketing through the University of New South Wales.
Volunteering is one of his delights in life, where he had spent time being involved with the Centre for Volunteering, St Vincent de Paul's Society, and Sculpture by the Sea in a variety of positions.
Jenny is a University of New South Wales graduate who joined the team as an Administration Assistant. She is keen to put her customer service and organisational skills to use, making sure day to day operations run as smoothly as possible.
Outside of work, Jenny focuses her efforts on karate and ice hockey. She can often be found coaching and practicing karate at her alma mater. The rest of her time is spent at one of Sydney’s many ice rinks playing, practicing, or officiating ice hockey.
B Econ (Hons) Cert IV FS (MB) Dip. FS (FP) AFB MeSAFAA
Max has over 20 years experience in the finance and lending industry of which over 15 years has been in financial advice. Max attained a Bachelor of Economics honours degree at The University of Sussex in 2004, after which he settled in Australia with his family.
Max has never stopped studying as he is always looking at ways he can better assist his clients and has studied many courses in financial advice, lending and technical analysis as he continues to try and stay ahead of his competitors in terms of the knowledge he can share with his clients.
Max has worked for several large and successful organisations before starting his own business in 2014. He has gained valuable experience from the likes of Lloyds Bank, American Express, HSBC, General Electric, Commonwealth Bank and Westpac. He draws on this vast experience to benefit his clients whilst bringing a much more personal touch than you would get from one of these larger organisations.
Max’s philosophy is to always put his clients first, which is what makes him so successful and popular with his clients, having built a thriving business primarily through referrals from very happy clients.
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