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What lies ahead in 2019?

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I’ve been asked more than once in the last few weeks what we think about the outlook for 2019. A loaded question, and perhaps more loaded than usual given the geopolitical landscape and the recent volatility. Certainly, and as you would expect, we have views on the M&A sector in terms of how 2018 went and how things are shaping up this year – this we will detail in an upcoming blog.

This blog has been reserved for a more general look at the current state of global markets and how things might play out this year. We have solicited the assistance of an expert in the field with over 30 year’s professional experience in the stock market, David Novac. David is an investor and trader and in his spare time can be found on Sky business or teaching and coaching equities and options via his education business Wealthwise.

I have known David for over 10 years and have enormous respect for his practical and no-nonsense approach to a subject that baffles many of us – the stock market. I hope you enjoy this short snapshot written by David to provide a quick overview of what to expect in 2019.

Michael McGrath
CEO Oasis M&A

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David Novac
Guest Contributor
Published 30 January 2019

2019 could shape up to be one of the most interesting years in global markets for a long time. See below an overview on 2018 and my outlook for 2019.

The Road Through 2019

A Heads Up for 2019

  • Stock Market – bullish. Time to buckle up with continued volatility.  Opportunities to profit from preferred sectors
  • Real Estate – further downturn likely – how will this affect you?
  • Global markets – US and China & Brexit concerns continue
  • Employment – US enjoying highest rate on record
  • Interest rates – to remain steady – could this be the year to reduce your debt?
  • Superannuation – industry fund boom after Banking Royal Commission


Nitty Gritty – Market Review

Last year ended with extreme volatility and negative returns.   Over 90% of all asset classes: property, equities, commodities & bonds went down.

In the world equity markets investors concentrated on two main concerns:

  1. the possibility of economic disturbance from an escalating tariff war between China and America, and
  2. the US Federal Reserve policy decision on interest rates.

Other concerns were (and continue to be) the Banking Royal Commission in Australia and abroad, Brexit, and slower growth in the Eurozone.

How did the major markets fare in 2018?

USA – the S&P 500 dropped 6% to 2,507 points
China – the Shanghai Composite fell 24% to 2,494 points.  It under-performed due to the slowing growth in China
Australia – the S&P/ASX 200 was down almost 7% to 5,646 points

US Interest Rates

For the 4th time in 2018, the US Federal Reserve raised interest rates a quarter of a percentage point from 2.25% to 2.5%.

US Bond Yield Curve

When there is not a significant difference between short and long term yields, this ‘flattening yield curve’ triggers concerns of a possible slowdown in economic growth (or even a recession) in the USA.  The 10-year Treasury bond is yielding 2.71% which is only 17 basis points above the 2-year bond at 2.54%.   If the markets were really confident, there would be a much wider spread between these yields.

US Unemployment & Wages

Unemployment numbers are at a 49 year low at 3.7%.  There are concerns about the speed of wages growth and inflation.

US Dollar

The US$ is expected to weaken this year due to:
1. the US Debt is now approximately US$22 trillion
2. a more neutral interest rate policy by the US Federal Reserve

Commodities

Oil – prices were extremely volatile because of supply concerns and global uncertainty. The price of Brent oil went from US$61/barrel to US$76/barrel and then fell dramatically US$45/barrel by the end of year.

Gold – if the US$ falls and inflation increases, gold is likely to rise in value.

Australian Dollar

2018 was a tough year for the AU$ dropping over 10%.  It was affected by the threat of increased global interest rates and falling commodity prices.  It ranged between US$0.81 and US$0.69.  It is currently around US$0.72.

Australian Politics

Based on recent opinion polls, Labor has a good chance of ousting the Liberals in the May 2019 Federal Election. This has intensified the examination of some of the ALP policies and their possible impacts, e.g. getting rid of dividend franking credits, limiting private health insurance increases and negative gearing for real estate.

Australian Interest Rates

Lower than anticipated economic growth and the possibility of global trade slowing down thanks to US trade tariffs had the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) maintain interest rates at their all-time low of 1.5%.

Australian Real Estate

Based on tighter lending standards by banks and consumer focus on repaying down debt, property is likely to continue falling by at least another 10% .

Australian Economic Growth

Australia has an exceptional record of 27 years without recession.   A slowdown in capital expenditure, construction and the housing sector were major factors in Australian economic growth being down from 3.1% in 2017 to 2.8%.  The inflation rate is at 1.8%, just below the target range of between 2%- 3%.  This is another reason for the RBA’s decision to maintain the record low cash rate at 1.5%. The forecast for interest rates looks like it will remain steady for the next year.

Expected growth for the Australian economy is around 2.7% over the next year or two which is encouraging.  The economy is expected to be supported by increased investment in businesses and public infrastructure.  The outlook is also quite positive for growth in resource exports.

Share Market Outlook

In 2019, I expect the US share market to reflect slowing economic growth and earnings expectations.  A lot will depend on the outcome of US/China trade negotiations and the initial positive influence from US tax cuts will lessen.  Following the severe 20% correction in the US market from October to late December and the 10% market rebound over the past 3 weeks, I think it’s very likely market volatility will continue to remain high during 2019.

Just as each stock has an actual and a forward price/earnings ratio (PE Ratio), so does each sector and each stock market.  This PE ratio is calculated by dividing the market price of a share by the earnings.  The Australian stock market is currently valued on a forward consensus price earnings ratio of 13.8 times.  This is 6.1% below the long term average of 14.7 times.  This means our market is currently under-valued.

The Australian stock market is very attractive for investors who are looking for yield in the current low interest rate environment.  The forward consensus dividend yield is 5% (80% franked) for the ASX.

I am expecting the Australian share market to deliver an average return, over the next 12 months, of approximately 8%. However, a well-constructed stock portfolio can easily deliver twice this return.

I personally look for individual stocks in sectors that are grossly under-valued but have excellent earnings growth that will outperform the average.  Example:  Ramelius (RMS), a gold producer, was on a PE of 4 times when I first purchased the stock at 11c.  Twelve months later, the stock was 61c – a return of 450%.

Equities are the way to go in 2019.  Here are some of my stock picks:

Oil Search (OSH) – is the largest oil and gas exploration and development company incorporated in Papua New Guinea, which operates all of Papua New Guinea’s oilfields.  OSH is involved in an integrated upstream natural gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) development, operated by ExxonMobil. The PNG LNG Project is a 6.9 million tonne per annum (MTPA) integrated LNG project. The gas will be sourced from the Southern Highlands and Western provinces of PNG. It is expected to produce more than 9 Tcf of gas and 200 Mmbbl of associated liquids over its 30 year life. OSH’s net 2P reserves were booked at 504 Mmboe.  The earnings growth outlook for OSH for future LNG exports looks excellent, especially with an expectation that oil will trade between US$55 and US$65 barrel during 2019.

BlueScope Steel Ltd (BSL) – is a flat steel producer and supplier of steel products and solutions focused on the global building and construction markets. It operates in Australia, North America, China, Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand.  BSL has made impressive earnings growth over the past 2 years and this is expected to continue in 2019 and beyond. The stock has fallen from a high of $19 in July 2017 to a recent low of $10.60 in late December.  It is now trading on a low earnings multiple of just 8 times with an average Return on Equity (ROE) of 17%.  I am expecting a good technical rebound or move back up in the share price during 2019.

Challenger Ltd (CGF) – specialises in retirement income products, annuities, life insurance and funds management. As baby boomers continue to move into retirement, it is inevitable that annuities will become a major and rapidly growing product. Dividend yield is 4% fully franked and ROE is expected to be approximately 16% this year. Most brokers have a valuation of $12 for CGF which is 30% higher than the current share price.

Macquarie Group (MQG) – an Australian multinational independent investment bank and financial services company providing key services across asset management, corporate and asset finance, banking and financial services, commodities, global markets, and capital advisory services.  The group is well diversified and has proven risk management strategies to adapt to changing economic and financial market conditions.

Sonic Healthcare (SHL) – an Australian company that provides laboratory services, pathology, and radiology services.  The Sydney-based company has its roots in the pathology practice of Douglass Laboratories, and since has become one of the largest diagnostic companies.  It is the world’s third largest pathology provider with significant operations in the USA, United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Australia and New Zealand. A continuing long term demand for pathology services means the group has further international expansion opportunities.

Wesfarmers Ltd (WES) – is a diversified business operating in department stores, home improvement and office supplies, resources, chemicals, energy & fertilisers and industrials & safety products.  WES had a recent trading update that was a slight downgrade in regards to department store sales. However, Net Debt of the group has been reduced from $3.6bn to $0.3bn and the gain on the demerger of Coles which is non-cash is around $2.1bn-$2.3bn.  I am expecting a positive re-rating of the share price for WES following the demerger of Coles, a stronger balance sheet, and good earnings outlook for the group for 2019.

Nine Entertainment (NEC) – is an Australian and media entertainment group with television broadcasting and program production; and digital, internet, subscription television, and other media sectors. Business operates in the four divisions: free-to-air television, digital publishing, video-on-demand (advertising and subscription) and content production. The company acquired Fairfax Media last year which will increase earnings growth for the group in 2019 and beyond. The stock price is trading on a low earnings multiple (PE) of just 9 times and pays a fully franked dividend of 10 cents per share which equates to an attractive dividend yield of 6.4%.

I believe the above selection of stocks (properly managed) will form a well-balanced, diversified and defensive portfolio.  These stocks should provide protection against market volatility and give a combination of growth and income in 2019.

Like more information on what, when and how to invest in stocks?

Please talk to David about ‘Invest for Success’ on +61 2 9488 9900.

Best wishes for a bright and prosperous 2019.

David Novac is the co-Founder of Wealthwise Education, which teaches how to invest and how to trade through a range of practical, effective courses and audio-visual programs. With many hard lessons learned throughout his 30 years in the stock market including the 1987 crash, his expertise in global markets and future trends is renowned as being insightful and realistic.

The above is general information only and does not consider any particular investor’s circumstances. It is based on the opinion of the writer alone and is not intended to be a research report. The information should not be relied upon to make an investment decision without seeking further information and/or advice from a financial adviser and considering whether any investment is appropriate in the circumstances.

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