FMA Wealth Commentary – October 2021

Well, it’s happening. Australia is reaching vaccine levels that are permitting for more and more ‘back to normal’. A week into the significant easing of the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, and you can see and feel the difference already. The good side of this being more people out and about, increased social interaction, including families being able to re-assemble from lockdown restrictions. Most businesses are more active again, and the others are just back to reopening stage and revving up. People are spending, booking flights and trips. The bad side is the price of everything is up, traffic is back, queues are long, and there is still, understandably, shortages of supplies because of sheer demand, coupled with supply chains still not back to necessary levels of movement. Very similar scenario to which many overseas countries experienced in the past few months with their own earlier easing of restrictions.

In Deloitte Access Economics’ most recent economic briefing, it notes that “…2020 showed us that the Australian economy and labour market do have the capacity to bounce back. And this time around we have a weapon in our arsenal that we did not have in 2020 – vaccines. Vaccinations are the best possible stimulus for our ailing economy – and forecasts for everything, from wages to unemployment and hospitalisation to haircuts, depend on vaccinations. That’s why, despite the current economic pain, we’re still forecasting a substantial return to growth.” 

The other side to consider besides household consumption growth and increased spending is, of course, what will businesses do from here. The latest NAB Australian business survey shows confidence rising.  In its latest Market recap report, JP Morgan comments on consumers and companies outlooks in saying, “The spending power of consumers and the expected release of pent-up demand is a well-documented reason to see the recent moderation of economic growth as a slowdown rather than the start of a down-cycle in economic activity. However, the consumer is only half the story and the supportive dynamics for companies to spend will add another pillar to the still robust global growth outlook. Capital goods shipments across G3 economies have greatly outpaced what was experienced coming out of the last two recessions (Deloitte noted about shipments that, relative to 2019 – just pre-Covid 19 times – global shipping costs have jumped almost four-fold!). Extremely low financing costs, as well as record profits, means companies are flush with cash to spend. Some of this spending may also be in response to not being able to source enough labour. Either way, business surveys on capital expenditure intentions are near the peaks seen during the prior expansion, suggesting that corporate investment will continue in the year ahead”. As noted before, corporate earnings results have surprised more and more on the upside.

And, yes, the increased waggle in the tail of rising inflation is causing, predictably, markets to have had a bit of volatility in the past month. Nothing unexpected. It is hard to find goods, services, materials, oil and energy, utilities, real assets that have not gone up in price!  It is now a question of how much of this inflation is only transitory, and how much is more entrenched. The days of ultra-cheap debt and record low interest rates are certainly numbered. 

The RBA here has the tough task now of keeping to its ‘promise’ not to raise interest rates until 2023 or later. It will have to do so earlier, much earlier, in my opinion. We know that some other countries central banks have already started to put official interest rates up e.g. New Zealand, Norway and, very probably, soon the UK. With US CPI inflation running now at the level of 5.4% year on year, it is hard not to see the US Fed also pulling the rate trigger early next year. Any increase in rates will be done with caution, no doubt. The challenge is getting the timing right for any rate rises to minimalise unwanted negative impact. This is what central banks are meant to do; get the balance and the timing of it to be as right as possible!  

If the RBA here is effectively forced to raise official rates sooner, it will have to grapple with how to slow down the property price juggernaut without causing a residential property correction considered big enough to really be a crash. With the exuberant amount of residential property debt, his would almost certainly happen if it raised rates too quickly. The RBA has already started its tapering program, thereby reducing cash injected into the system. It could also be a case of just letting market forces come back to play; meaning house prices are just too high because of artificially low record interest rates, and easy home loan money. Some normality is needed presuming the ‘post’ Covid-19 global recovery occurs as is greatly anticipated, and what is hoped for.

There is always talk and speculation which way is the market going next; and further volatility and adjustment to the world ‘returning to more normality’ is likely ahead. For traders, this is their existence. For investors, it is not so, and certainly should not be. Short-term gyrations are far less relevant because of investors longer timeframe, allied with their predominant reasons for investing, which are to get growth and income from their investments which they build up over time. Good investors are builders with patience and understanding, and who want quality assets in their portfolios that will deliver, over time, solid and consistent income flows. Growth will come with through as well, as businesses grow and reinvest in themselves. Dividends returns will grow, in dollar terms at least, as dividends paid as a percentage tend remain consistent. 

Some reinforcement information on all this I recently received from a fund manager. Over the past 20 years, the S&P ASX 300 Dividend Income on shares has been, on average, about 4.5% p/a, plus beneficial franking credits on top of that cash return. If you put in $100,000 into the S&P ASX 300 Index some 24 years ago, but you spent the dividends, your investment would be worth around 2.82 times the original capital amount (i.e. after dividends paid out). Yet, if you bought this same Index and reinvested all the dividends as they were received, then your investment would be worth about 7.28 times its original capital amount. (This does not take any possible tax into consideration). And, in those 24 years, we have seen many, many world impacting events happen, such the GFC, 9/11, and Covid-19, and so on. But, as the world evolves, investing goes on.

The above provides quick illustration of the consistency of dividend income over time; the need for real returns; the power of investing, the power of time in the market, the power which compounding provides to such an investment over time.

“The price of discipline is nothing compared to the price of regret” (writer, Robin Sharma) How true.

As always, should you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact us.

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FMA Wealth Commentary – September 2021

Spring is in the air! With that, now we all hope that we can get the good ol’ spring back in our step as we approach the coming out of lockdown next month! My 21-year old daughter, having her social life curtailed during much of the many months of Covid-19, is desperately counting the days to the ‘Freedom Day’ being planned for 18th October, when the gates re-open! She, like most of her friends are double ‘vaxxed’, so ‘can travel’! 😊

Australia is just about to reach the first magical target single vaccination level of 70% for ages 16+, and then the greater target of 80% for the population to be double dosed within the next couple of months.  Not far now. We will see more and more normalisation back in our lives. If the lockdown period were extended too much longer, we may be lulled into thinking that lockdown is the actual norm, where one day just blends into another! 

We look at what is now happening overseas, where the much-anticipated vaccinated herd approach to ‘open again for business’ is well underway. I think we can see just how effective the vaccine has been in reducing the impact of the virus and, thereby, allowing for more normality to return, by bringing increased business activity and heightened socialisation. We hope that will be happening more in Australia in the very near future. Roll out the vaccine, roll out the economy!

The markets have performed well from the perspectives of growth in price terms and in dividends paid in the past few months. The keenly awaited recent corporate reporting season has been well received with some very good results Although, the forecast earnings updates have been pared back a little given the Delta strain impact and uncertainty in recent months. However, it is envisaged that this concern will be temporary given we know the government vaccination targets and timetables being more imminent for the lifting of restrictions. The stronger business buoyancy pre this lockdown looks like it will be returning.

This also reflects the broad optimism in the continued actual recovery of global economies as they emerge out of the slowdowns and lockdowns during the grip of the pandemic on economies, not to mention the adverse social and personal costs. We know that complacency to ongoing hygiene and social distancing requirements, etc. remains a threat to a speedier pace of recovery, as well as influencing whether there may be future lockdowns. In saying all that, there does appear to be a strong stance by many nations that have reached high vaccination rates now to simply say that, if Covid-19 numbers rise, the lockdown option if is not really a consideration given the sheer adverse enormity of the impacts on business and on people’s lives. Some common sense always helps too! And a need to combat certain political and media immersed misinformation and fear mongering.

So, where to from here for the markets we ask. Looking at the past year or so, growth assets such as equities, property and infrastructure have shown a very good performance, while bonds and cash remain cellar dwellers with interest rates at or near 0% level.

A lot will depend on the speed of the global recovery, such as, the opening of supply lines, international travel increasing, restaurants and bars reopening, people spending more at shops and online, and general increased consumer and business confidence in the future ahead. A lot will depend on central banks reduction levels and timeframe of tapering of bond buying programs, and the continued degrees of governments stimulatory and support programs, and infrastructure projects, etc.  We know there is a shortage of many supplies, and there is a shortage of skilled workers and professional labour. We know there definitely is capacity for the continued future growth path that was thwarted in the past 18 months of Covid-19 impact. Managed properly, next year should see strong opportunities for growth.

On the flipside, we also know that inflation has been spiking in certain places. Inflation normally occurs when demand exceeds supply. The demand for goods, building supplies, labour, services, travel, and holidays, etc. is only increasing. And there is plenty of cash out there looking to be spent but, also, hopefully it be spent sensibly (or maybe to be invested by the wise investors!).

The faster that countries get ‘back to normal’ will, I feel, accentuate more demand, and the supply to meet this demand will be slower to happen. This will pressurise prices to go up, which will in turn shift inflation upwards. As we have mentioned previously, inflation rising also implies there will be rising interest rates, which is bad for holders of bonds and for those with high mortgages that stretch their cash flow if repayments increase. Would this inflationary increase scenario be transitionary or become more entrenched? That will depend, but central banks seem to want to manage inflation changes so hopefully all will occur orderly!

The strong economic recovery winds that were around earlier in the year were somewhat deflated by the devious Delta variant of the virus. That wretched limo driver! Yet, this all did prompt much faster vaccination rates to occur since that fateful car trip from the airport over three months ago. Delta did delay rather derail growth. So, although we are all a bit battered and tired from the Covid-19 impact to our lives and businesses etc. I think that the desire and the appreciation to get all back on board to the road to recovery is well there. By Christmas onwards, we could be well on the way. Let’s hope so. Let’s get back our mojo!

The markets have certainly built in some level of confidence in the recovery ahead. All going well, the gains will be validated. Yes, there will be bouts of outbreaks of the virus but, really, the show must and wants to go on!

The delaying of growth and recovery because of the impact of the Delta strain was mentioned above. Now, we must hope that governments, on all levels, play a sensible and positive part in the recovery process by cooperating with each other, and by reducing red tape and work on easing regulations. I think we could all sense at stages of the past eighteen months that some power fiefdoms were becoming too comfortable with certain politicians, who have enjoyed and arguably extended their accelerated rise to notoriety, at the expense of the ‘greater good’ of the whole country! We shall see.

As always, should you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact us.

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FMA Wealth Commentary – July/August 2021

July 2021, the month that FMA Wealth was meant to be celebrating its 20th anniversary of providing financial advisory and investment services. Well, we are celebrating this notable achievement, but just not with the fanfare, ticket-parade, or mayoral offering of the key to the city of Manly that we had hoped for! Only kidding! Of course, we are delighted to reach this milestone, and we thank our loyal and valued clients for their trust and support over these years, which we know have had the typical headwinds and tailwinds, joys and challenges for us all, as is life! Nevertheless, the journey continues and we progress looking forward! And the future looks bright.

One of these challenges is the ongoing situation of Covid-19 and, in particular, with the repeat of and duration of lockdowns. We all cringe with the continual berating politics, the blame game, the media citing propaganda of public fear. And, also, we are astonished and becoming more infuriated at the complacency of certain people to follow sensible health guidelines, and the selfish circumvention of public instructions and restrictions that are in place for the good of us all.

As for the Australian states and their medieval border hugging approach to this pandemic. You would not believe we are meant to be a Commonwealth! Someone alternatively described us now as the United Nations of Australia! Sad. As I have written before, the need to have a system of state governments in Australia went decades ago. It is damaging to the country and, really, quite an unnecessary overlay level of government as it operates.

The key task remains to get us vaccinated as we all well know. Fortunately, the rollout here is gaining momentum with both rising vaccination supply deployment and increased public participation in actually getting vaccinated. Let this momentum continue for health reasons, and for the reopening and progression of global economies. The economic revival momentum will, of course, see further sporadic virus outbreaks, but the solid revival should continue.

As noted in the latest Vanguard Investment Update; as vaccinations ramp up across the world, health risks are expected to gradually decline over the next few months, which could pave the way for a more robust recovery in face-to-face service sectors. However, differences in vaccination rates and varied levels of government policy support are likely to produce uneven economic results in the near term. The U.S., for instance, with its leading vaccination efforts and strong fiscal support, is likely to lead the global economic recovery with full-year growth of at least 7%.

Despite concerns about rising inflation, global equity markets capped off the financial year with yet another strong quarter to June 2021, as economic activity rebounded, corporate earnings strengthened, and government policy support remained accommodative to stimulating economies.

As I mentioned in our June newsletter, there has been a significant degree of economic momentum occur over the past twelve months. Abundance of cash injections and business stimulus have been critical to this happening in this uncertain times of covid. Vanguard added in their article that a strong U.S. economic recovery, coupled with ongoing supply constraints has, in their view, increased the likelihood of moderately higher inflation in the coming years. Sustained inflationary pressures will eventually call for the U.S.Federal Reserve (and other central banks), to taper stimulus and raise interest rates from near zero. In the U.S., we foresee conditions for an interest rate lift-off to be met in the second half of 2023. While Vanguard expects the labour market to return to normal by the second half of 2022, it expects that modest reflation, rather than runaway inflation, is more likely in the near term.

In Australia, the RBA has adopted a more conservative approach by committing to keep interest rates on hold until 2024 given weaker inflation pressures and a slower vaccination rollout. Personally, I think the RBA will have to move earlier. The latter increases the risks of sporadic outbreaks and lockdowns in the second half of this year, which could see consumers become more cautious with their spending. Despite a relatively faster economic recovery to date, Australian household consumption is still below its pre-Covid 19 level and weaker than that of other markets such as the U.S., where herd immunity is closer in sight.

The fund manager, Ausbil, reported in its latest market commentary that the strong performance across markets illustrates the power of the rebound we have experienced, even as the virus remains an overhanging risk. This resoundingly positive movement has been experienced across most markets and sectors. Ausbil notes in its economic outlook article that we are in a unique environment with massive fiscal and monetary stimulus underpinning growth, and the lowest interest rates in history. From an equity strategy perspective, the critical question is; when does this stop?

I think so when interest rates rise, as they will do, primarily as a result of inflationary forces increasing. We could then see a slowdown or even a reasonable market correction occurring. The dilemma or key question lingering in the background is, whether the major central banks will effect a soft landing as they scale back stimulus. As it has been described by the fund manager, MFS Global, central banks will be in the ‘Hotel California’ bind regarding Covid induced gigantic fiscal and monetary measures where they “can check out anytime, but they can never leave”!

Ausbil continues to say that, like most things in life, the answer is not simple, and as with most reactions in the market, it believes the eventual long-term rotation will not be as difficult or as volatile as the media and market pundits might think. Based on how markets work, it would be hard to expect the markets to achieve the same level of performance over the upcoming year as the year just gone, however, underpinning the markets will be another year where it expects strong growth. Ausbil does see a clear path to recovery even with some volatility and uncertainty along the way. It does also caution that, although it maintains a positive outlook on earnings, this is still a time to invest in only the best quality companies, which exhibit superior underlying earnings growth and strength to help achieve longer-term outperformance. What Ausbil is saying here makes good sense, and this economic expansion is positive. Although, this suggests inflationary sensitive rising input costs to occur too.

The supply constraint for many goods, services, and commodities, including building supplies, appears to be unable to accommodate the corporate and consumer demand for them. We all know that there is a wait for many of these things. And, behind this, there is even further pent-up demand that will exhibit itself more once we better emerge from the lockdown conditions and the supply disruption. There is certainly this feeling around that the wave of business momentum is building and has a way to go. We just need the world to be reach critical vaccination numbers. These are on their way!

Speaking of continued momentum, the upcoming August company reporting season will see the release of earnings for the six months to the end of June 2021. More interesting will be the associated company announcements of what are the expected earnings for at least the following six months. Market analysts’ expectations are that the forecasts will be strong. We will know this important analysis shortly.

On the business side here, FMA Wealth remains open as per usual, as we have done so throughout the whole Covid period since it began. Other than not being able to have face-to face client meetings because of obvious presently imposed restrictions, we are able to continue with Zoom and phone meetings for our clients.

Getting my second AZ vaccination jab this Friday, which will be good to have done. In saying that, I just can’t wait till I can get a haircut! I’m over the enforced man-bun and mullet hair combination! 😊.

Keep well, keep safe and keep sane during these lockdown (again) times!

As always, should you have any queries or need to talk in these more testing times of lockdown, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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FMA Wealth Commentary – June 2021

With the end of the financial year fast approaching, given the uncertain global circumstances we have seen, investors should be pleased with the very positive year that is near completion. In fact, given the Covid-19 pandemic, which the world went in and out of since February 2020, all Australians should be, and probably are, delighted with where they are, where the economy is, how low unemployment is, and with the overall positive economic outlook ahead.

In a recent article, Deloitte research shows that in real terms when looking at the latest official GDP data here, the GDP per capita confirms that Australians are, on average, better off today than what they were before Covid-19 struck. It added that the data illustrates the Australian economy is continuing to regain its mojo; and that growth drivers are becoming more broad-based and government spending is becoming less of a lifeline.

Yes, there have been recent bouts of domestic border closures and varying shutdowns of a couple of capital cities here because of containment leaks of ‘overseas arrivals’ in quarantine. Amazing how many of these arrivals come here with the virus! However, in the main, with Covid-19 vaccines being rolled out, there should be less and less closures ahead. Yet they still will occur again given the bizarre and questionable stance governments here are taking to still using city hotels for incoming arrivals quarantine rather than purpose-built quarantine stations away from major cities and regional towns. Basic cost versus benefit analysis on both a human level and an economic scale would, I do believe, show the latter would be more sensible and provide a stronger long-term solution to being able to open our borders to the world.

Deloitte research also noted that as we head forward towards 2022 (when it is anticipated that our international border restrictions will begin to ease), it is increasingly clear that the measure of economic success will be vaccinations and the ability for societies to function with open borders, not closed ones.

The boosters behind the strength in the Australian economy, and it is fair to also say in many other global economies too, such as the USA, remain in place. These boosters include quantitative easing measures by central banks, favourable tax incentives, continued government spending into the economies, particularly targeted areas hit harder by the loss of business impact caused by the pandemic.  Equally and importantly, both consumer and business confidence are back on the saddle and galloping along, as are the solid results in corporate earnings across many sectors. The challenge will be when and by how much to reduce these boosters and lifelines, and to thereby allow the more ‘normalised’ flow of the economy to resume.

As the fund manager, Investors Mutual, commented in an article last week; “Share markets around the world, including Australia’s, remain well- supported as economic growth continues to rebound from Covid-19 lows and central banks continue to hold interest rates at record low levels, despite increasing signs of rising inflationary expectation. The Australian share market is now trading at record high levels with seemingly very little on the horizon to halt its ongoing rise”.

That seems to be the case indeed, especially with the surprisingly strong corporate earnings announcements and further with the forward earnings guidance for 2022.

As we know though, markets can be volatile at times. Often this it is triggered by an event, or a political statement, or a geo-political action of aggression, made that was not expected. Covid-19 is a classic example of this. When markets have had good rallies, and especially now being on their record highs, a correction to the trend can quite easily take place. And, really, a slowdown in the pace of the rising markets would be better for long-term consolidation of gains. Similarly, a slowdown of the frenetic pace of major city residential property prices is well due!

Given the global economic horizon appears quite positive ahead, I would consider that the key possible triggers for a market correction, in the near future, could be inflation growth faster than anticipated; a regressive occurrence with the global Covid-19 battle; or even a major cybersecurity attack or incident.

Inflation is rising, so the chance of interest rates moving upward sooner than we have been led to anticipate by central banks is increasing. Moderate inflation generally means that economic growth is happening. Businesses with measured debt levels should be able to manage slightly higher interest rate as they are also having growth to counter in their business. However, rising interest rates certainly are not good for mortgage holders with high debt levels, and there appears to be quite a few out there. Nor are rising interest rates good for fixed interest bond holders. The key question is, will the growing inflation levels ahead be moderate or too much? This question should and will be very much the focus point of central banks management over the next twelve or so months.

As commented on earlier, besides the heavy human impact of Covid-19, the longer our borders remain closed, it is not good for our economy. We are a country that needs immigration for population growth and to help reduce our worker and skills shortages. We need trade and tourism. We need to be a Covid-19 vaccinated population to help properly break the lingering shackles of the virus, and to lessen the threat of troublesome strain variants of this virus.

The other current risk I mentioned to causing a market pullback, is cybersecurity risk. We are all so dependent on and immersed in information technology. It is the way of life for most of us. The year of Covid-19 accelerated the importance and use of IT to governments, businesses, and individuals alike. Yet, of late there appears to be more occurrences of attacks on ‘systems’ by hackers. Imagine the impact of a serious hack on some major global IT provider or on a government or credit card provider? As a counter, the global growth in cybersecurity companies is understandably very strong. There is not much we can do ourselves to stop ‘hacks’, however, a reminder to each of us back up our systems and information securely, and to be alert to this ever-present danger of information theft, misuse, and opening unknown emails and attachments.

Any of these above-mentioned possibilities could well prove to be catalyst(s) for a market pullback, which many cashed up buyers are longing for! Market gyrations are all part and parcel of an investor’s world, and it is important to always understand that. Investment portfolios must be maintained with this awareness in mind.

Stick to the course, the plan, and to best ensure that your investment mix is both diverse and engaged for the times ahead. Investing is not about the short-term, it is a lifelong journey. And successful investing favours the patient and disciplined investors, as we know. It is about being sensible in approach and choice, and not faltering to the traps of fear or greed when they enter the investor’s arena!

Onwards, to the new financial year ahead!

As always, should you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact us.

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FMA Wealth Commentary – Federal Budget 2021/22

Last night, the Federal Government handed down its Budget for the 2021-22 financial year. As usual, much of its broad content was deliberately ‘leaked’, but the fuller details for clarity were outlined last night. Like the previous ‘special’ budget released last October, last night’s Budget appears to be very well received by economists and the media.

The Budget is a continued ‘cash splash’ fiscal budget to ensure that the momentum of the existing strong economic recovery is maintaining the pull away from last year’s adverse Covid-19 pandemic’s impact. These ongoing aggressive fiscal measures are coupled with the ongoing aggressive monetary policy of ultra-low interest rates and high money supply managed by the RBA.

Attached here is a quick ‘What it means for you’ summary of the Budget, prepared by Challenger Technical Services.

There are several areas touched on by the various policies contained in the Budget. The main area that impacts you, our clients, involves Superannuation. As you can see in the attachment, two key constructive changes to note to superannuation are:

  • Repealing the work test for Non-Concessional Contributions (NCC) and Salary Sacrifice Contributions for people aged 67 to 74. This is very positive. Previously, unless you passed the ‘works test’, you were unable to add further NCC (subject to not having reached the NCC limits already).
  • Reducing the eligibility age for Downsizer Contributions from age 65 to now age 60. Again, a very positive change as more people can access this opportunity, and more larger family homes should, in theory, become available to the market to help reduce the tight supply to a growing demand for such properties. And the kids may be forced to leave their comfortable home sooner!
    • The Downsizer Contribution rule allow people to make a one-off after contribution to super of up to $300,000 from the proceeds of selling their home so long as they have held it for at least 10 years. Under the rules, both members of a couple can make a downsizer’s contributions for the same home, and the contributions do not count to a member’s NCC cap.

So, more opportunities and more time to contribute to your super!

Also, bearing in mind the earlier good news about superannuation, as discussed in my commentary last month, as from 1 July 2021, the new increases in contribution limits available. That is, the annual concessional contributions (CC) limit increases from $25,000 to $27,500; the annual non-concessional contributions (NCC) limit increases from $100,000 to $110,000 (or to $330,000 under the Bring-Forward rule); and the Transfer Balance Cap (TBC) for the maximum amount of super that can be rolled to the tax-free pension phase increases from $1.6mm to $1.7mm.

Of course, there is also the relatively new Carry-forward unused CC cap consideration for individuals who have super balances of < $500,000, can carry forward their unused CC cap for up to five financial years for use in a future financial year.

Speaking about superannuation, do make sure that you, ideally, will have utilised your super contribution capacities for the upcoming financial year (or contact us if you need assistance or clarification on this).

If you have any queries about the Federal Budget’s content or, as always, any queries in general, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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FMA Wealth Commentary – April 2021

Compared to this time a year ago when the Covid-19 induced times were causing massive uncertainty in all regards, the thaw is in progress. With the resultant economic and medical boosters for consolidation put in place, and with the road to recovery activated, the green shoots of renewed confidence and activity have been revigorated.

Fortunately, the global downturn predicted by the ‘experts’ and revelled on by the media, has not been as severe as was feared. If you had been on a desert island for a year, and then came back and looked at the indices, etc., you would have thought little has changed! But we do know the past year was a year like no other in many respects.

The global recovery and heightened optimism do appear to be both underway and be justified based on recent months’ positive economic data releases, better than expected corporate profit results, improved forward estimates, and stronger corporate balance sheets. This should also mean that 2021’s dividend payouts eclipse the reduced ones of 2020.  Yes, fundamentals are returning to favour, as they tend do in the passage of time after any volatile and uncertain period.

The markets do look as if they will continue to be stronger ahead in what is hoped will be the post Covid-19 world. In saying that, a market correction of some sort would not be surprising given the continued strength, and this period of strength, in the markets. A correction would possibly be caused more by a geopolitical event (e.g. with Chinese debt, trade war or territorial issues), rather than an economic event or slowdown at this stage.

If the global Covid-19 vaccine rollout continues its progress, and the evidence of lesser infections and lower risk of adverse consequences should a person still get the virus, then the larger the probability of further economic improvement and greater resultant consumer and business confidence. Nevertheless, although lifestyle normality appears to be coming back (subject, of course, to the shadow of the occasional Covid-19 lockdown risk), we are certainly living in a somewhat changed world. We seem to all be busier and busier with the immersion in faster technology and in a growing regulatory environment. Not only does the world never sleep, innovation never sleeps! And this situation is without global travel returning yet!

The seemingly endless, but deliberate, supply of government money, via bond buying programs, into the financial system over the past year has buoyed much activity, not to mention fuel growth and, probably, overheating certain sectors such as housing. This ‘cash injection’ positivity will no doubtably need to be reduce soon. The challenge ahead is the timing of when to reduce, and the degree of taking the foot off the ‘cash accelerator’ and allowing the increased economic activity to take more hold for sustaining growth. That is, so as to regain more normalised economic conditions, including having higher, more normalised interest rates as well.

The days of the RBA giving the banks’ here cash at 0.10% to on-lend to consumers and property buyers at circa 2.00% must be numbered, as the eased lending conditions also have helped house prices to record levels. The amount of personal and government debt does remain a concern, and will be more so, if/when interest rates rise. You can see why also the RBA wants rates to stay low as long as possible!

Globally, and here in Australia, we are seeing the back ended (longer dated) bonds interest rates’ rise as global activity improves and fears of inflation heading above the central banks’ desired levels may become a reality, maybe not soon but possibly later this year on. The RBA is still saying that it will not move on increasing cash rates for another two or three years to ensure the recovery does not stall. I think the RBA may need to move earlier as inflation and GDP look like rising further, sooner. Anyone who has shopped for goods, dined out, used a professional service or a tradie in the past year could only say that prices have only gone up, and notably so!

We have the Federal Budget coming out in May, and it should be an important directional one. It will be very interesting to see what the government’s fiscal approach will be from there as we move away from the events of the most unusual and challenging times of 2020 and on.

Upcoming Changes to Superannuation from 1st July 2021

In the meantime, separate to upcoming Budget announcements, there is good news with a few positive changes to superannuation have been announced that will be taking place as from 1st July 2021. These changes are outlined and discussed below in a recent article released by Shuriken Consulting. The article relates how it will impact you regarding how much money you can contribute to superannuation, and how much you can have in your retirement (pension) phase superannuation account.

As shown in Table 1 below, indexation will increase the concessional contribution (CC) and the non-concessional contribution caps (NCC) as from 1 July 2021. This is the first increase since the major superannuation changes in July 2017.

Table1: Concessional Contribution Cap Changes

Cap TypeCurrent CapCap from 1st July 2021
Concessional Contributions (CC) Cap$25,000$27,500
Non-Concessional Contributions (NCC) Cap$100,000$110,000

In general, your superannuation is either in an accumulation account (when you are building your super), or in a retirement/pension account (when you meet preservation age and certain conditions of release to be able to roll your super), or in between, when you are transitioning to retirement (when you reach perseveration age, are working reduced hours and take some of your superannuation as a pension).

Remembering, the amount of money you can transfer from your super account into your tax-free pension account is limited by a transfer balance cap (TBC). From 1 July 2021, the current $1.60mm general TBC will be indexed to $1.70mm and, once indexed, no single cap will apply to all individuals (each person will have an individual TBC between $1.60mm and $1.70mm).

Indexation will also change other superannuation caps and limits including; Non-concessional contributions (contributions from after tax income; Co-contributions (personal contributions made by low and middle-income earners matched by the Government up to $500); and, Contributions you make on behalf of your spouse that are eligible for a tax-offset.

If you are building your superannuation and not withdrawing it, indexation of the TBC is a good thing because from 1 July 2021 you will be able to access/roll more of your superannuation tax-free. If you start taking your superannuation after 1 July 2021, for example, if you meet a condition of release and retire, your transfer balance cap will be $1.70mm. This is to say, if you have never had a transfer balance account credit, then the full indexation is available to you.

If you started taking your superannuation before 1 July 2021 and have already had a credit added to your transfer balance account, then your TBC will be between $1.60mm and $1.70mm depending on the balance of your transfer balance account between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2021. If your account reached $1.60mm or more at any point during this time, your TBC after 1 July 2017 will remain at $1.60mm. If the highest credit ever in your account was between $1 and $1.60mm, then your TBC will be proportionally indexed based on the highest ever credit balance your transfer balance account reached. That is, the ATO will look at the highest amount your transfer balance account has ever been, then apply indexation to the unused cap amount.  Yes, a bit more complicated!

A further positive change is to the ‘Bring Forward Rule’. The Bring Forward rule enables you to contribute up to three years’ worth of non-concessional contributions in the one year. This means that from 1 July 2021, you could contribute up to $330,000 to your superannuation in one financial year (as shown in Table 2 below). You can use the rule if you are 64 or younger on 1 July of the relevant financial year of the contribution and the contribution will not increase your total super balance by more than your transfer balance account cap. If you utilised the bring forward rule in previous years, your non-concessional cap will not change. You will need to wait until your three years has expired before utilising the new cap limit.

Table 2: Non- Concessional Contribution Cap Changes

Between 1st July 2017 & 30th June 2021 After 1st July 2021
Total Super Balance (TSB)Contribution and BFR AvailableTotal Super Balance (TSB)Contribution and BFR Available
< $1.40mm$300,000< $1.48mm$330,000
$1.40mm – $1.50mm$200,000$1.48mm – $1.59mm$220,000
$1.50mm – $1.60mm$100,000$1.59mm – $1.70mm$110,000
$1.60mm +Nil$1.70mm +Nil

On another totally different area of discussion: Cryptocurrencies is a topic which is getting more media attention, as well as people wanting to know or at least better understand what it is. I, like most people, know little about it nor have ever used it (or is it even tangible?). All we hear is this ridiculous price movement in the most prominent one, being Bitcoin. We have even heard that using cryptocurrencies would be a favoured means of doing transactions for money launderers and terrorists!

A golden rule that the investment stalwart, Warren Buffet, says about investing if you do not understand it, do not invest in it. This rule would no doubt apply to Cryptocurrencies. Nevertheless, I came across this brief and interesting research article that may be of interest to you to at least better understand this somewhat mysterious world of cryptocurrencies.

Cryptocurrencies: The next ‘Tulip’ or a genuine emerging asset class?

(by Lukasz de Pourbaix, Executive Director & CIO, Lonsec Investment Solutions -April 2021)

“Everyone has a view on cryptocurrency, and in most cases, it is a tale of extremes. On one side sit the sceptics, who believe that cryptocurrencies are one big Ponzi scheme that will self-implode like the ‘tulip mania’ of the 17th century Dutch Golden Age, which saw the price of tulip bulbs reach incredible highs and then dramatically collapse. On the other side are the ‘true believers’, who believe cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are not just a new form of currency but a symbol of decentralisation and freedom from central banks and governments.

I am by no means an expert on cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, however, it is worth noting the growing interest by various institutions in cryptocurrency. Probably the highest profile announcement was Tesla’s decision to buy US $1.5 billion in bitcoin and its announcement that it would start accepting bitcoin as a payment method for its products.

The sceptics would say, ‘Yeah but it’s Elon Musk, the guy who sends rockets into Mars and wants to insert computer chips into people’s brains.’ However, we have seen institutions such as Mastercard indicate that it would bring cryptocurrencies onto their network, and recently JPMorgan Chase & Co strategists have been floating the idea of investors using cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin as a way of diversifying portfolios. According to a survey released by specialty insurer Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, 36% of small- to mid-sized businesses in the US accept digital currency for payments for goods and services.

From an investment perspective, proponents of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin have considered the digital currency from two main perspectives. Firstly, bitcoin can be viewed as a store of value akin to gold. This view has been amplified in a world where central banks have been flooding economies with money via their quantitative easing programs since the time of the global financial crisis. The decentralised nature of bitcoin means that the price is not influenced by central banks, which is the case with traditional fiat currencies.

Interestingly the uptake of cryptocurrencies has been strongest in some emerging economies where arguably they are more prone to government instability, and in some instances, they have experienced the effects of hyperinflation, which has rendered traditional currency worthless.

Secondly, bitcoin offers ‘frictionless’ transacting, whereby the blockchain technology underpinning the digital currency uses a public ledger system to validate transactions, effectively cutting out the ‘middleman’, hence increasing the speed of transactions and reducing costs. The potential applications of blockchain technology beyond cryptocurrencies are far reaching and many institutions are actively exploring its application in areas such as property transfer, execution of contracts and identity management.

However, there are fundamental questions that need to be addressed before cryptocurrencies can become mainstream. From an investment perspective, how do you value crypto assets? What are you valuing and what metrics do you use to value it? These are valid questions, and, in my view, we are yet to address them adequately as an industry. Questions around the secure storing of cryptocurrencies and the associated risks with the different methods, ranging from holding assets on an exchange through to storing assets via a digital wallet using web-based or hardware solutions, all have their pros and cons in terms of security, and need to be considered when allocating assets to crypto. For large institutional investors such as super funds, how they hold investments is very important, and having a custodial structure supporting crypto assets will be imperative for the asset class to gain traction in that market.

We have seen BNY Mellon, the world’s largest custodian bank, announce that it will roll out a new digital custody unit later this year to assist clients in dealing with digital assets. Furthermore, we have already seen crypto ETFs launched in Canada and we will no doubt see managed fund and ETF structures reach our shores at some stage, which will alleviate some of the issues associated with storing crypto.

Another area which has come under the spotlight regarding crypto currencies is ESG (environmental, social, and governance) concerns over the energy required to mine cryptocurrencies. According to the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, coal accounts for over 38% of energy consumption by miners. Given ESG is a growing part of people’s investment considerations and processes, this will be a relevant aspect of crypto which will need to be explored further.

Finally, we expect the sector to become more regulated as cryptocurrencies gain greater acceptance. While this does create uncertainty, it is also an important step for digital currencies to become accepted more broadly.

Cryptocurrencies and the associated implications of blockchain protocols and their applications are arguably still in their infancy and will dramatically evolve over time. While we do not expect cryptocurrencies to suddenly appear within your standard diversified portfolio in the near future, to simply dismiss the sector without trying to understand it would be a mistake. At a minimum, clients are increasingly likely to ask questions about cryptocurrencies, particularly as we see (eventual) product structures such as ETFs and managed funds make the sector more accessible for investors. The more we learn, the more we will be able to provide an informed response”.

As always, should you have any queries or wish to talk, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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FMA Wealth Commentary – January 2021

Wishing you a very Happy New Year for 2021!

As we embark on the new year of 2021, we well remember the quite unimaginable year that has just gone by. It was a momentous year too in how it impacted all of us and the way we will live, work, and communicate, (and survive without overseas travel!). However, we have learnt and prevailed, and are adapting, albeit it sometimes frustrating. Yet, despite challenges that will, no doubt, pop up, as this is what simply always happens in life, this new year is envisaged by most of us as being a year of consolidation and more positivity.

As we well remember, the investment markets initially succumbed to the ‘dastardly’ Covid-19 virus, which we were first introduced to us as the ‘Corona virus’! The impact of the virus spread quickly and globally as we know. What exactly was it and how bad is it, we were asking? Panic and confusion dominated logic and, certainly, the story dominated the media in morning, noon and night. There was so much information and yet misinformation, including fear mongering.

This virus was causing governments worldwide to have daily briefings to the populace, to shutdown/lockdown economies, to ban/curtail travel (oh, other than what happened in the UK and Europe with their borders ‘open to all travellers’ over their summer! Madness!). Economies were kept afloat with what proved to be overall prudent management of broad stimulus and of financial supplements. Yes, there have been some bizarre elements of management, such as here in Australia, where they let in expats without testing them for the virus before they board planes to our island, and simply put these arrivals in city hotels! Many arrivals knew they had the virus but just wanted to get back to Australia with its great comparative healthcare. Guess what, infection leaks happened and we all go back and forward with on and off closedowns as infections get back into society. I think, finally, the governments here are responding to this major issue that is stopping containment of the infection in Australia with tighter controls on these arrivals. Let’s hope this sensibility in protection process now works properly.

We also well realise the absolute power that each of the six states and two territories command. With the amount of border closures in Australia, both intra-state and interstate, it makes us better appreciate our often taken for granted freedoms! My own recent lockdown experience (Northern Beaches) was really not too bad, given we live in Manly! It is amazing how much work you can catch up on when options to do other things are curtailed!

Without a doubt, by the end of the 2020, when compared to many, many other countries, Australia emerged as indeed the ‘lucky country’ in how we have managed and have prevailed this unprecedented situation. As we know, the opposite situation is still plaguing many other countries.

The Covid-19 vaccine was/is to be the cure to the virus or, at least, greatly reducing its harmful consequences on society. We were told that once the vaccine was to be found, the world could ‘get back to (more) normal’. However, we were also told it would take years to develop the vaccine. Fortunately, with masses of global resources applied to its development, the vaccine has now been developed within under the year of the arrival of the virus on the scene. Now, the logistical challenging global rollout of the vaccine is underway. It is logistically challenging, of course, and likely will take all of 2021 to be administered to most of the world.

We discussed in one of our client communications in March last year, during the dramatic sell-off in the markets (aka a great buying opportunity), that once a vaccine was discovered and was being made available, the markets should, all things being equal, resume strongly from where they were pre-Covid-19. This strength should be further boosted with the extraordinary level of responsive global stimulus and increased liquidity, along with record low interest rates that came about during the past year. The ‘economic train’ is back on the tracks. Markets typically are forward projecting, which is also sometimes why their actions can be bewildering. So, we have seen the positive market moves to levels now at pre-virus highs. A global recovery is being considered more and more likely by the markets, particularly with the Covid-19 vaccine cavalry of the way!  Those investors who ‘kept the faith’, i.e. maintained their belief in being invested as a long-term strategy, come good and bad times, have been duly rewarded. It certainly has been a testing and busy year, but particularly the recent months have rewarded this steadfast approach.

I was asked by a client last week just what should we expect this year regarding markets and where best to invest given the events of last year. That is, knowing what will happen in the world over the next 12 months, and then a good estimate of what can be expected can be made! Trying to make such a prediction in such a short time horizon, particularly with such a volatile issue as Covid-19 in play, is really guesswork, albeit maybe an educated one!

However, there are a few points that can be made here with a broad view/opinion. We know that cash and quality bonds offer virtually no returns, and this is unlikely to change over the year ahead. If economies pick up activity and if the stop/start nature of Covid-19 induced lockdowns reduces over the next few months assisted by the results of vaccine rollouts, then equities and particular areas of property and infrastructure should remain attractive to investors. However, this Covid-19 situation is still having chronic impact in many major countries which let it get that way. So, to expect a smooth path for 2021 would not be realistic. Volatility in the markets is likely but, in saying that, pull backs in the markets represent cheaper opportunities to acquire investments, including the good quality ones. We certainly saw that being the case in 2020 during the rapid sell-off in March and April.

There are (always) the ongoing domestic political and geo-political balls in the air. With Trump hopefully gone in just over a week’s time, and an expectantly workable Biden Democrat majority in both the US House and Senate, there should be better stability in the US and in its policies. This relief should see an improved situation there once the US overcomes its current Covid-19 pressures.

Australia appears to be getting on the right tracks, and it should be placed in a relatively good position economically as we delve into this new year, and as also is indicated by the bounce back in our markets. The big unknown for us, and the world really, is China. Its blatant nationalistic behaviour and actions, especially in the past couple of years, are concerning for trade and global stability. China is throwing its weight around and being belligerent in its dealings with any country that questions its assertive actions. Yes, our own trade with China is suffering because we dared questioned the Chinese on the Covid-19 outbreak’s origins. The exception, of course, is our high-quality iron ore to which the Chinese have an insatiable demand for. Otherwise, this Chinese ‘trade embargo’ has been a good wake-up call though for Australia in that we were so easily, and lazily, dependent on China for trade, Chinese investment monies and also for their use of our tertiary education systems. Many Australian exporters are now sensibly, and out of survival necessity, looking at other international markets to sell their goods and services other than to China. We also should/must broaden our import sources too, as there is too much dependency on the Chinese. The world is a big place.

Going back to “where should we invest this year question”. Yes, the prevailing economic and political climates are important considerations, including looking at the more long-term investment impact of such as has resulted from Covid-19 . However, this question is part of other important questions that really need to be answered on a client-by-client basis, and this is how we aim to work with each client.

Personalised questions such as: Why are you wanting/needing to invest?  What are you hoping to achieve? What are the risks of you investing and, as importantly, what are the risks of you actually not investing? What monies are you investing? What structure are/should you be investing through e.g. superannuation/trust? What are the tax considerations/impact in your chosen investment structure? What is your investment timeframe? What is your understanding of investing and of the types of investment assets? What asset mix is appropriate to help place you on the path to achieving your investment objectives? When are appropriate reviews/tweaks needed to an investment portfolio? Etc.

Compiling the answers to these many questions, and in applying research, all allows for a deeper understanding of what, where and how we should invest for each client, and this helps the client to better appreciate the ‘why’ segment of the equation. Clients that are engaged with the process of their financial advice and their investing through us, feel more comfortable about these matters and about the ‘what, where, and why’ they are invested. As a client, your situation may change over time, the investment markets may change, the legislation may change, and so on; so this all augments for ongoing engagement and review to better ensure what is in place remains suitable as time moves on. This also helps with the client understanding of and commitment to being invested even when the dark clouds roll in as they occasionally do.

It must be remembered that investing is a long-term strategy. The long-term belief well remains that an appropriate investment portfolio mix of good quality income and growth assets will deliver returns to investors.  And, of course, we must keep in mind that you have to invest to be invested, and you need to be invested to gain income and growth from your investments over time! This is especially the needed case for when we stop working and then are ideally enjoying pleasant years of comfortable retirement. Investing and investment management works on for you!

So, wishing you a great 2021 year ahead, and we look forward to catching up and continuing working with you. We also thank you again for your trust by being valued clients of FMA Wealth.

As always, should you have any queries or need to talk about your situation please do not hesitate to contact us.

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FMA Wealth Commentary – November 2020

The 2020 US Election result is done. A clear example of a government (or really a President) losing an election rather than an opposition winning government. Donald Trump did have some achievements in his four years as President. He actioned what he said he would do from when elected in 2016. His election theme of ‘Make America Great Again’ was working for him and the country broadly but, in the end, his style, his polarising character, some parts of his pre-Presidency history, his defiance sometimes in the face of reality were personal reasons for his downfall. Come the trade wars, racial protests and, of course, the grim impact of the Covid-19 virus on the citizens eventually brought him down. The media will certainly miss his bizarre, headline making character, but I do not think many people will miss him.
Joe Biden was, shall we say, in the right place at the right time, to get elected. It will be up to the Biden regime to make decisions that will keep the US economy in the relatively strong position that it still is in despite the impact of the virus on the US and all other world economies. Challenges remain ahead but there is the feeling that tailwinds will increase momentum in 2021!  

After completing my university degree and accounting qualifications, as well as five years working as a professional accountant, I moved from Canberra to the big smoke of Sydney in late 1986 to try something very different. I always had an interest in finance and investing.

I successfully applied for a role as a Trainee Bond Broker. Bonds ruled the world, we were told! Bonds were (and still are) a major cog in financial machinations for governments, central banks, and corporations in funding themselves and in moving interest rates. My role evolved over the ensuing years to that of a Senior Bond Trader with a global investment bank. This involved me trading government, semi-government, and corporate bonds in local currency and in many other currencies (pre-Euro). You certainly learn about the markets doing this! It also involved trading bonds with coupons/interest rates well in double-digit figures. Ah, those high interest rate days, attractive for investors. Bonds formed a core part of many investors’ portfolios. Of course, inflation, which is a catalyst for higher interest rates, was higher in those days.  

So, to point, comparing now and then. In 1990, thirty years ago, in Australia, the official RBA Cash Rate was at 14.00% and the benchmark 10yr Australian Commonwealth Government Bond (ACGB) was trading at a yield of near 16.00%. In the US, the official Federal Reserve’s Cash Rate was at about 8.00% and the benchmark US 10yr Government Bond (Treasury) was at near 9.00%. High rates indeed. Interest rates have fallen over the years since then, but not in a straight line, of course.  

Now, in 2020, the official cash rates for both countries are at virtually at 0.00%, and the yields for both countries 10yr bonds is not much better at 0.70%!  In Europe, interest rates and bond yields are effectively even lower than this. Interest rates, and hence income from interest earning sources, around the world are at historic lows. And, this global situation does not appear to be changing any time soon, as the RBA Board announced in its monthly monetary statement only last week that “it is not expecting to increase the cash rate for at least three years”. This official cash rate now is a bare 0.1%! If you had $100,000 cash invested at this rate, you would earn $100 in annual interest. Ouch. And the good old bank 12-monthTerm Deposit in Australia is offering only about 0.50% these days.  

If what the RBA has stated becomes the reality here, and similarly also overseas, it is very fair to say that future investment returns for investors holding cash, term deposits and bonds will be very limited, if anything at all. With the Australian annual CPI (Inflation rate) at around 1.00%, this implies we are in negative interest rate territory when holding cash and certainly shorter and mid-dated fixed interest investments including bonds.  

Cash and bonds are traditionally classed as defensive assets, and have produced returns as yields have fallen (i.e. prices up), but now, being in such assets, beyond what may be deemed as only absolutely necessary to have, is questionable given the very negligible net income deliverable on this area. So, where else can investors earn the better income that used to be possible, to varying degrees, in the defensive sector? Investors, and certainly retirees, do need liveable income in their non-working lives. This is where earning income from shares has now even taken on extra significance.

The Investment Director with the well-established fund manager, Investors Mutual, Anton Tagliaferro, provided his insight to this question in a recently published article. On this matter, he firstly states that “The truth is that no-one has the answers to this dilemma (as these are unprecedented times). What I do know from my 35 years in investment markets is that a diversified portfolio of quality industrial shares, able to pay reliable and consistent dividends, is still likely to provide the best long-term outcome for the majority of investors, including a reliable income”. I would also add here to Anton’s comments that many such quality shares in Australia come with the added benefit of franking credits.  

Anton continues, “The key question is what we mean by quality….it means (carefully selected) companies that have a sustainable competitive advantage, such as a good franchise; recurring earnings underpinned by a strong balance sheet; and which are run by competent and experienced management”. He adds, “What we do not like are companies which are heavily reliant on strength in the economic cycle to grow earnings, or speculative companies which are often loss-making, as investors bet on a ‘hockey stick-style’ surge in profitability in the future. Stocks that…seemingly have many investors (er, and speculators) infatuated are the ‘buy now pay later’ stocks, technology companies which trade at huge valuations despite little or no earning, or cryptocurrencies – the parade of so-called investment ‘opportunities’ is endless”. I would agree, and this approach does make good sense for true investors that by having a “portfolio of well-managed, established companies with real earning can generate reliable and consistent dividends and long-term capital growth for investors…”particularly given the current highly uncertain economic environment”.

There are good companies to invest in, whether that be via directly listed or through an appropriate fund manager, and which still deliver 4% plus in annual dividends. But what if the markets become volatile and if prices fall, we hear? Well, that is simply part of the investing cycle. However, if you do not need to sell a quality share portfolio, and you take the view that such a portfolio will grow over time, as I certainly do, then you benefit from the tax effective income stream that is regularly delivered! Having invested this way for many years has tangibly reinforced this message with me and, hopefully, with our clients too.  

Property too is similarly asset class that is invested in for income returns and long-term growth returns. Interest rates being so low now should be attractive for property investors. However, the issue at the present time with commercial and retail property, and certain residential property investments, is the fact that rental returns have fallen, and vacancies are up because of the Covid-19 impact on demand. Also, because of the swift advancement and acceptance about the ‘new norm’ now of online shopping and of working from home for many people. As such, the demand for commercial and retail space has diminished.  

In addition, foreign students studying ‘here’ via Zoom now in their home countries rather than physically living and renting in the cities here, has seen demand for inner city accommodation drop notably.  

In saying all the above, it must be also remembered that an important benefit, and the rationale in having such orchestrated low interest rates, and abundant cash and credit liquidity in these times we are in, is to fuel the kick-start of the recovery in growth of economies that have been put into effectively enforced hibernation by governments because of the Covid-19 pandemic. As the Australian States re-open their borders (finally!), the country, as a whole, is re-opening for business and internal travel. Activity is what the economy needs. Hopefully, we will see similar improvements across the globe as conditions get better, but this will understandably take more time.
The vaccine is around the corner we are told!  

Let’s hope that 2021 is the ‘Year of the Rebound’!  

As always, should you have any queries or wish to have a discussion, please do not hesitate to contact us.  
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FMA Wealth Commentary – September 2020

Captains Log:  We are now approaching seven months of being in these unprecedented Covid-19 of times. The ‘galaxy’ and the way we used to operate is behind us. We are ‘boldly going where no one has gone before’, nor has gone at this such fast pace of change! Maybe it is contemporary style of a ‘new world civilisation’! I am borrowing this theme from the old television series, Star Trek, which many of us grew up with. How simple and imaginative life did seem then!

Covid-19 and the dramatic economic and social consequences of what has happened in Australia and around the rest of the globe, has changed the way people and businesses work, operate, communicate, and travel. Social and business interactions have changed, and with a sense of fragility. Yet, we are adapting to this change, albeit much by necessity and even via dictatorial means (i.e. certain State Premiers lead that dictatorial shortlist)!

Please explain to me again, why do we need state governments in Australia, particularly when Federal politicians are elected from their respective state precincts to represent their constituents in the Federal government? Maybe this state power made sense around Federation in 1901, but in these modern times and with massive advancements in technology should remove these so-called border barriers that exist. This all adds volume to this needed question, along with seeing the economic and social devastation that has occurred to date with how certain state governments have farcically handled this Covid-19 dilemma. Economic lockdowns and border closures are just going too far and for too long. These lockdowns are becoming job killers and business destroyers.

It has been a painful period for all. We all wonder when – and it is ‘when’, not if – this Covid-19 impact of restrictions, barriers and shutdowns will diminish, and when people around the world can properly re-focus on the future again, which we all must do.  People do need to get on with their lives. In saying this, there is no doubt that adaptation to change is happening. Humans do adapt, businesses do adapt. We are also closer to a vaccine! There are and will be hiccups along the way but, I do think that even slow progress is progress in these times where nervousness and uncertainty still simmer.

In many countries, including in Australia and the US, listed companies release their bi-annual corporate results along with their outlook for the ensuing six months or so. February and August are the big months for these announcements. Heading into February this year, the overall profit results and outlooks beat expectations. The future was still looking good for businesses and economies overall. Then, Covid-19 hit; and enforced economic shutdown and social separation policies by governments followed as a consequence. So, the just now completed August company reporting season outcomes were critical in their potential impact for economies ahead.

Fortunately, the general consensus amongst economists and fund managers, etc., is that this reporting season exceeded expectations, particularly with US businesses. This is important in that, although bad news and very poor data was anticipated, the extent of it was not seen in the numbers released and guidance announcements. This reporting season can be seen as an economic positive overall for the markets with some steady results and some renewed hope for the latter part of this year and for 2021. Markets are forward looking.

Certain sectors have been great beneficiaries of Covid-19 situation, such as technology stocks, health services, online businesses, supermarkets, delivery and courier businesses, e-commerce, consumer discretionary stocks. Have you tried buying whitegoods or computer equipment quickly in recent months? Not the case! The global supply chains are still not humming but it also implies there is pent up demand and plenty of cash around to spend once more normality returns i.e. getting the economy back on the road back to where it was in pre-Covid-19 days.

On the flip side, there are areas of business not doing well at all. As we know, areas such as international travel, hospitality, casinos, shopping centres, have all been walloped by the Covid-19 impact.

The stock markets have been taking on board the ‘on balance encouraging news’ and have also shown some advancement in recent months. Continued government cash injections and stimulus measures also are helping this progress. Furthermore, with continued growing global demand for resources, especially in iron ore demand, Australia is seeing a succession of trade surpluses now, although global trade still is down because of Covid-19 impacts.

The US market very recently hit higher levels than pre-Covid-19. This was simply because of technology stocks having a frenzy of massive demand. The top five stocks on the US are now all technology stocks. It has become a formidable sector. Many technology stocks have been up over 100% in the past six months or so. Yes, there is good justification for heightened demand in good technology companies in recent months, however, the sector, as a whole, is in bubble space one would think. Conversely, with money pouring into the tech sector, many traditional, non-tech, value-oriented stocks have been ignored. A rotation or correction to some extent is well due.

With Australia now being in an ‘enforced’ recession because of government intervention in forcing the economy into a ‘hibernation phase’, the management of the speed back of the recovery will be important. Once again, state governments need to forget politics, Covid-19 numbers obsession, and just get the economy back on track. Probably the biggest issue ahead is where national unemployment will be at once Job Seeker and Job Keeper payouts are partially reduced at the end of this month. We will need to accept that there will be higher unemployment, and particularly some more permanent unemployment, especially in the corporate world.

Domestically, the Covid-19 impact also has forced the deferment of this year’s Federal Budget until early October now. Like the recent corporate reporting season has been of notable importance in where sentiment is likely heading, this upcoming Federal Budget will be quite crucial in what it delivers regarding further stimulus continuity via investment initiatives and incentives, and, of course, in anticipated tax cuts. Momentum tailwinds in progress and growth must be maintained and supported in this budget.

In summary, in Australia, we are all still living in the Covid-19 induced environment. The rising optimism that we had pretty much beaten the virus spread, and normality in life was back, was frustratingly dampened by the Victorian virus outbreak in June, and with the domestic border restrictions back on. Hopefully, with the decline again now in Covid-19 cases, and good stimulatory outcomes in next month’s Federal Budget, we can see the brighter light again for the longer term. The underlying built up demand is there; people want to buy, people want to travel, businesses want to rebuild and to grow; normality (albeit a now evolved version) is craved by all. We must always look at the long term, particularly when investing.

To close on the Star Trek theme, we also give out the call (to the PM): “Beam us up, Scotty”!

As always, should you have any queries or wish to have a discussion, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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Why FMA Wealth applied for its own Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL)

FMA Wealth is a specialist financial advisory firm

Frank MacDonaghPrincipal Adviser of FMA Wealth

Why FMA Wealth, applied for its own Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL)?

We have moved into our new offices based in beautiful Manly. We have honed our business, rebranded, and updated our website. All is looking swish! Have a look on Ironically though, Zoom meetings are proving to be preferred by quite a few clients during these social distancing times!

Moreover, we now are self-licensed, and no longer licensed via, what was termed, a dealer group. As we advised you a few weeks’ ago FMA Wealth was granted its own AFSL. We are delighted with this outcome and for the opportunities and increased flexibility, and directional control, that we believe being self-licenced will bring.

Providing quality, personalised and impartial financial advice is the very important service that we aim to deliver to our clients. To provide financial advice you must do so under an AFSL, which operates in a very regulated and compliance aware environment. I believe that our self-licensing move will see improved outcomes for both the business and, importantly, for our clients too.

FMA Wealth has chosen this new path of having its own licence to allow for greater control for the business. We believe that self-licensing is the way forward for our business and what we offer, and we want to remain boutique and private. We will continue to have a sincere, caring, hands on, and inclusive approach with our valued clients. We want to know that our clients’ financial affairs are managed from the top and not outsourced. We want our clients to have this peace of mind of being in safe hands, and to know this with confidence and with continued confidentiality of their personal and financial information.

FMA Wealth wants to remain committed to being:

  • Boutique and Professional.
  • Knowledgeable, Experienced and Understanding, and valuable advisers to our clients.
  • Very Client Centric. You speak with us, you deal with us, not with a call centre.
  • Private and Discreet with clients’ information and their tailored advice.
  • Self-Licenced and Privately Owned.
  • Non-Aligned to Institutions and to Products.

We look forward to continuing to work with our clients to achieving their goals!

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