Introduction / background comments
Another tricky month for investors as economies Worldwide struggle with the fall out from the Russian invasion of Ukraine in terms of its impact on supply chains and inflation. In addition these macro economic concerns are reinforced by the Geo-political concerns as NATO countries ramp up their military & humanitarian support for Ukraine. This is being done despite the potential of Ukraine & other Eastern European Nations joining NATO having led to the invasion, according to the Russians. As a result they now accuse the West of fighting a Proxy war, although I guess they were damned if they did and damned if they didn't. Hopefully it might come to some peaceful resolution soon, although a long drawn out messy affair or a War of attrition seems more likely at the moment. Markets continue to struggle against this background and as Central Banks grapple with the now non transitory inflation along with trying again to reduce the stimulus that they have been dishing out to varying degrees since the GFC and more recently during the Pandemic.
As a result Bond yields seem to have finally broken out to the upside to bring to an end (for now) the long bull run they have enjoyed since the early 1980's. I say for now as if these moves lead to an economic slowdown / recession and a market rout then it is always possible that inflation could come down quicker than expected & the tightening might not be as large as currently discounted. Some also worry about deflationary pressures resuming after the current inflation surge is over, although I'm not personally convinced by those arguments at present.
Alternatively, as in the past, Central Banks may again halt their tightening programmes and once again open the liquidity taps again if markets cut up rough and economies seem to be heading for a serious downturn. This might lead to another rally in bonds if inflation is by then showing signs of coming down again and equities might then join in the fun down the line if any or all of that comes to pass.
Of course that could be wishful thinking or it "could be different this time" to coin an expensive phrase - with more persistent inflation and Central Banks therefore having to push on with rate rises and draining liquidity to bring inflation under control despite the damage to economies and stock markets. Or there is an outside chance that they could pull off a dampening of inflation along with achieving a rare soft landing. I won't believe in either of those until I see them, but as ever time will tell I guess.
For now the sell off in bonds and equities seems likely to continue as investors anticipate further rate rises from Central Banks and are starting to worry about / discount tougher times or a recession ahead. Having said that though some of the economic stats like PMI's and unemployment are still showing positive trends, so a recession is not guaranteed just yet, but it remains to be seen how long that lasts.
April proved to be another negative month for the Compound Income Scores portfolio (CISP) which was disappointing as the FTSE All Share did manage to eek out a positive return as shown in the table at the start of this piece. Thus for the YTD the CISP is - 9.3% versus the +0.8% for the All Share.
As mentioned last month this is partly down to the make up of the CISP versus the FTSE All Share in terms of exposure to large caps. By way of illustration it just over 60% in FTSE 350 stocks and within that it is skewed towards Mid 250 stocks which have been hit harder than the big FTSE stocks. AIM and small cap holdings have also suffered bigger hits in a reversal of their previous outperformance in recent years.
There were quite a few names that therefore suffered double digit falls and not enough risers to offset this overall. One of the bigger fallers was Ashtead, which at least was reduced in last months screening, but with the benefit of 20:20 hindsight I obviously wish I'd sold it all. Which brings me on to an update about this months screening
There were quite a few names this month which had seen their scores deteriorate sufficiently to be up for consideration for being sold. 6 of these were repeat offenders from last month, including Ashtead again, plus one recent purchase.
In the end I decided to give all of these the benefit of the doubt this month as in some cases the reasons for holding remained the same and in others like Ashtead they seemed very oversold. So I was reluctant to sell them on that basis in the expectation that we might see some mean reversion in the next month, as is often the case after a big move. In addition some of the possible replacement candidates did not look that cheap and on the flip side had pretty strong one month performance. Thus having put through quite a bit of turnover the previous month and as it seems hard to add much value from trading currently unless something is obviously at risk. So it seemed prudent to save on turnover in what might have been poorly timed / marginal trades.
Just a quick note for subscribers, in case you are not aware, brief notes on the Monthly Screening and candidates that are considered on both sides of the ledger are shown in the Journal tab, but these appear below the news flow comments. Since this may not have been obvious, I have therefore moved those this month to the foot of the Transactions sheet where more logically they can then be read in conjunction with the trades actually carried out in the rows above.
Summary & Conclusion
Another difficult month for investors as bonds and equities continue their sell offs. While for the more general public it is becoming increasingly difficult to make ends meet as inflation continues to soar and as Central Banks tighten monetary policy and look to drain liquidity.
As a result bonds seem to have ended their long bull run for now and equities have generally entered what would be deemed a correction or even a bear market depending on which index you are looking at. This is on expectations of further action to come from the Central Banks and some rising concerns that this will likely lead to negative economic growth and a potential recession later this year or in 2023.
Apart from a brief inversion of a yield curve last month as an early indicator other economic indicators such as PMI indices and unemployment data are not signalling trouble ahead just yet and the UK headline indices continue in a bullish trend for now as FTSE 100 stocks have performed well overall this year as Commodity producers have prospered. Outside of that the Mid, Smaller and AIM indices have all slipped into bearish downtrends to the detriment of the CISP as shown in the table at the top.
Nevertheless I shall be sticking with the process as I believe it remains sound as demonstrated by the longer term track record of nearly 15% per annum compound returns since inception. Overall as I always say you have to take the rough with the smooth in this game and not get too carried away when things are going well nor too depressed when things are tougher. Indeed Ray Dalio of Bridgewater (one of the largest Hedge Funds in the World) said as much when he was reviewing the current state of play recently on Linkedin.
So mind how you go and I hope markets are not being to cruel to your portfolio & it's not going down like a Led Zeppelin! However you are managing it remember not to get too down if things are tough as that is all part of the investing game and you have to learn to live with Good Times, Bad Times.