Welcome back to QAV, TK. This is episode 606. We’re recording on Tuesday the seventh of February 2023. You still have COVID, Tony.
I do, hopefully getting over it soon.
That’s no good. But you sounded all better last week, but then not so good later on, huh?
Yeah. Went back downhill again. So, yeah, hopefully clearing up this week and I can get on with life. But I’m still testing positive. Apparently, that could happen for the rest of my life. I mean, I don’t think they put too much emphasis on testing positive these days, but I am. So, just keeping a low profile, trying to get better.
So, you’re not going out? Staying home mostly?
Oh, god yeah. I’m just staying home. You know, I’m just staying in my office and my room and the balcony.
You mentioned to me last week that Jenny was waiting on you hand and foot. You’re not just faking this, so she keeps waiting on you, are you?
It’s certainly been good. I have the shout out to Jen; she’s done a great job of looking after me. Really has. It’s been great. But no, I’m not faking it. I’d gladly give it up and go outside again.
And get away. My suitcase has been packed since Sunday waiting to leave for a holiday.
Hmm. Well, I hope you feel better soon.
That’s all right. Thank you. Yeah, I always get chest things worse than most people, unfortunately.
Yeah. Sort of an asthma-y thing.
Yeah, I had asthma as a kid.
Well, let’s talk about the market. Been a bit of a funny old week on the All Ords. If you look at the chart, the weekly chart, it looks funny. Like, last week it would go up every morning and then crash in the afternoon. Go up in the morning, crash in the afternoon, go up in the morning, crashes in the afternoon. Did the opposite today; sort of crashed this morning and then seems to have recovered last time I checked. It was up a couple of points, I think, by the last time I looked around about lunchtime. Our portfolio went up a little bit, the dummy portfolio, last week. NHC stabilised but we’re now running at 17.7% CAGR per annum since inception versus our benchmark, the STW, which is running at about 8.2% per annum over the same time period. So, we’re doing a little bit better than double the STW since inception, which for new people was the beginning of September 2019 when we filled up our first portfolio. Still way behind for the financial year, but I know you’re gonna talk about this later: it’s been a really, sort of, record beginning of the calendar year for the ASX, and I think the US market’s having a bumper year as well. Talk a little bit about that later on in news. Commodity updates. A lot of commodities became Josephine’s this week; iron ore, gold, copper, zinc and tin all became Josephine’s. I got a feeling iron ore was already a Josephine, but Alex said it had just become one. Do you remember what it was last week?
I don’t sorry. I think it was a Josephine, but I can’t. And just wanted to draw attention to coal, to thermal coal. I checked it this morning, it’s very close to a sell. Technically it’s a Josephine, but it I think in a matter of days if it keeps going it’s going to be a sell.
Right? Well, that’s gonna have a big impact on our portfolio. We got a lot of coal stocks.
Yeah, I was just looking at the chart. I think last month it dropped something like 30-35%, the coal price, so it’s down a lot.
Coal price that is?
Yeah, thermal coal price.
Yeah, I think we got a question later on, a late question that came in just about coal and fudging sell lines and that kind of thing, but might be too late, anyway.
You don’t need to budget it, I don’t think; it’s gonna cross pretty soon if it keeps going.
Yeah. NCM takeover bid, Tony. Did you read about this, has it crossed all the media’s this morning?
Oh, yeah. It’s been the Fin Review front page for a couple of days now.
Right. Newmont, the $24 billion bought dollar bid for Newcrest. I think we’ve owned Newcrest maybe at some point, but it’s not in our portfolio at the moment.
No, it’s the biggest gold company in Australia. And it’s been a chronic underperformer; probably because of its size. I mean, there were issues around management a little while ago and they’ve got an acting CEO now, so they’ve been making attempts to clean it up, I guess. But I guess it’s a bit like big mining companies everywhere, but if you’re a small gold company and you acquire a mine, it makes a big difference to your share price. But if you’re a company as big as Newcrest and you open a new mine or acquire another one, it doesn’t really move the needle, so to speak. So, they tend to just trade with the commodity cycle and underlying earnings. But no, it hasn’t been much. I think actually over time the share price has gone down in the last ten years.
Well, I’m looking at about a year ago, it was trading at $22.99. Went up to $28.8 February last year, then fell down to $16.80 and is back up at $23. So, if you had managed to buy it when it turned around, it was hasn’t been a bad investment over the last six months.
No, and I don’t recall it being on the buy list. It’s just been too big, too lumbering, I guess. And, you know, biggest gold miner in Australia, so it’s picked over a lot by the analysts. So, it tends to trade at, you know, at least fair value, if not a premium, which is something that just doesn’t get onto our buy list.
Okay, well, we miss out on that, then.
Well, it hasn’t been excepted yet. This is like, this is the toe in the door, this is a knock on the door from Newmont. And Newmont and Newcrest used to be the same company. They’ve had this habitual split, acquire, divest. They’ve certainly been an investment bankers’ friend over the last ten-twenty years or so. So, nothing may come of this. The current premium is, I think, about 23% or something like that, it said in the paper today. So, it’s not an exciting sort of takeover offer. I suspect it’s just the first salvo.
Right, but it has had a good six months share price wise. Would have been nice to have held it.
Yeah. And the gold price has gone up in the last six months, so that’s probably why.
Moving on to a different mining company, WHC. Annette asked a question on our Slack channel about their coal breakdown. I had them down in my spreadsheet as coking, but she picked up in their annual report they’re actually reporting 82% thermal and 18% metallurgical/coking in their FY 22. Report. So, I just wanted to point that out for anyone out there that’s got or thinking about WHC or owns WHC. They’re really tied to the thermal price, which as you said is about to become a sell. So, update your notes on that if you’re holding them. The RBA’s supposed to lift rates in about ten minutes, Tony. An announcement coming?
Yeah, they are. It’s first Tuesday of the month, so RBA day. They didn’t meet in January because it was a month off for them, their holiday. But yeah, you know, most economists expect them to lift rates either by 0.25 or half of 1% today.
And this is because the economy’s just doing too well.
Well, CPI is up. I don’t know that the economy is doing that well. It’s not doing too badly, but it’s CPI. And I don’t know if raising interest rates is going to have the effect the RBA wants, really, because I suspect that inflation isn’t being driven by spending. I mean, there has been a lot of spending out there because the RBA dropped rates during COVID and there was a big cash splash, so we’re at the tail end of that. And certainly, raising interest rates will dampen the economy, for sure, but I suspect it’s a supply chain issue. Like, you know, the war in Ukraine is going to have a bigger impact, I think, on whether we have inflation than people’s spending habits in the main. They obviously both contribute to it, but I don’t see how raising interest rates is going to solve high oil prices, high gas prices, paying more for building materials, etc., etc.
So, what can the RBA do about the supply side squeeze forcing prices up?
Well, nothing. It’s not in their remit. It’s as Warren Buffett’s always said: “if your only tool is a hammer, everything’s a nail.” So, they see inflation going up and they raise interest rates. I’m not saying it’s the wrong thing to do, right? Because interest rates were artificially low and there was an asset bubble, so I’m not saying it’s the wrong thing to do. And we’re probably only going to get back to, you know, what I would call a neutral setting. So, over my lifetime, 3%-4% RBA rates is about what they normally are. So, we’ve been through a period of very low rates which has led to house price bubbles, asset bubbles, stock market bubbles for growth stocks, that kind of thing. So, it’s not a bad thing to lift interest rates. But central banks do have a, they’re a bit like a, you know, helicopter pilot trying to work the joystick and bring it in for a smooth landing. I mean, if you’ve watched a helicopter land, it doesn’t come down smoothly. It jerks, it gets hit by the wind, it buffets, it goes up, it comes down. That’s what we’re in for, unfortunately.
And if you’re on the Gold Coast, you just might end up hitting another helicopter. Okay, well, we’ll obviously keep an eye on that, and we’ll have to adjust our spreadsheets if the rates go up again. AFR had an article in Chanticleer, I think it’s still Tony Boyd writing. I don’t know if the handover has happened yet, but it’s entitled “Ray Dalio, Cathie Wood, and the fate of the FOMO rally.” Anything with Ray Dalio in the headline, I’m gonna read it. “The stunning rally on the ASX and Wall Street is starting to have some echoes of bullish frenzy in 2021, but the backdrop is very different.” And it goes on to talk about how a lot of stocks have been booming recently over there. Facebook’s owner Meta rocketed 23% higher. Who else did we have here they were talking about? Cathie Wood’s Ark invest fund. Well, first of all, Meta platform’s year to date gain now stands at 50%. Ark invest fund, Cathie Wood’s fund, is up 28% in January, it’s best monthly gain on record. Elon Musk’s Tesla was up a staggering 74% this year. And on the ASX, they were saying that James Hardie was down 46% last year, is up more than 30% in 2023. That’s crazy. Kogan plunged 55% in 2022, up 26% this year. Zip, the BNPL firm down 83% last year is up 21%. So, are we going into another sort of crazy bubble frenzy, Tony? We just got out of a bubble. We had a bubble then we had a crash, and now we’re back in a bubble again already. What’s going on?
Oh, well, classic fear and greed. I think you posted something on Facebook during the week saying that the economy would work better if we had artificial intelligence allocating the resources. I’m not sure the share market would work because it needs human emotion to swing like a pendulum. But all those stocks you talked about are up this year, but they’re still a falling knife. They’re all much lower than what they were twelve months or even more ago, and Tesla is a classic example of that. It’s up a lot this year, but it’s below what it was twelve months ago, and that was below what it was twelve months before that. So, if you look at the graph, it’s a falling knife. They all are. And this is just classic. So, at some point something gets sold off and gets oversold, and the pendulum swings back the other way. People say, “ooh, Tesla looks cheap. I’ll buy some,” and then they come back in. Although, I mean, what’s the backdrop to this, and what Ray Dalio, I think, is alluding to, is the fact that people are trying to second guess the Fed. There’re now signs in the longer term dated bond market that bond traders don’t think that we’re going to go into a recession, or if we do, it’s going to be shallow and not too difficult. And so, people like Cathie Woods, who are, you know, relying on lower interest rates are saying, “well, this could mean the Feds going to actually drop interest rates in the future, and that’s good for all these growth stocks.” So, that’s what she’s pinning her hopes on. And she’s a cheerleader for that, so rah rah rah and her stocks are up. Firstly, I like the headline: it’s FOMO, it’s Fear Of Missing Out. It’s completely driven by human emotion, fear and greed, and it’s noise in the market, as far as I’m concerned. Couple of things I noticed in that article; it was actually a really interesting article, because it talked about a number of other metrics going on in the market. And I should, I was going to point out that we’ve had the best January start to the share market in ASX history, it was up something like 6.25%. So, that’s quite a lot for a month. And again, it’s driven by people thinking that the RBA is going to at least slow down its rate of interest rates and perhaps even start to drop them in the second half of the year, because the share market casts a nine-month shadow usually. People are looking at what’s going to happen in nine months when they make their decisions on what to invest. I’m not sure about that, and I don’t predict, so I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. But I mean, that’s a big bet to make, trying to guess what the RBA is gonna do or the Feds gonna do, and then to see that start to take off and to join in because it’s taking off, there’s a lot of human psychology in that which is all driven by fear and greed and hope. So, I’m not sure it’s going to end well. But anyway, the article was good because it talked about some other things, and I think in the first bit of the article it talks about how stock market strategists only six weeks ago were saying that the market was going to tank this year because there’s a recession coming. And then six weeks later, they’re saying, “no, the Feds done with raising interest rates, it’s gonna be great,” and so the stock markets had its best January on record. So, you know, fair dinkum putting your faith in Stock Market Strategist. What a waste of time that is. In six weeks, they’ve gone from black to white, so that’s just crazy. The other interesting thing I saw was what’s called the “weight of money” argument, which I’ve always put a lot of stock in. So, the author of the article talks about the fact that there’s billions of dollars of cash sitting waiting to be deployed, and they were speculating whether or not this kind of rally would drag that cash back into the market. It’s possibly starting to, but whenever I’ve seen cash building up on the on the sidelines, it could take a long time before it gets deployed. But it generally is the first signal at some stage, in the next six months or so, there’s going to be a stock market rally. Which may be happening now. But that gets called “the weight of money” argument. When cash sits on the sidelines, it can’t sit there forever; it will get deployed at some stage, and that’s when the market will start to take off again. So, that was interesting. And the last point I wanted to make, there was a line in the article saying that retail investors were getting back into the market this January, which makes sense given the share markets up, but it had a stat there saying that retail shareholders had a record month and they made up 23% of stock and ETF trades in the US. I sort of scratched my head and said, that means there’s 67% of institutions buying ETFs, and I just don’t get that. If you’re an institutional investor and you’re charging someone to manage their money, and all you’re doing is going and buying an ETF, well, I mean…
You can go for a long lunch.
Money for jam, isn’t it? But again, I point to the fact that we’re in a strange industry where people put their fee income objectives ahead of what’s right for their clients. But if you check your funds, if they’re holding lots of ETFs, do it yourself and save the fees.
Well, on one hand, we criticise funds for not being able to match the index let alone beat the index. So, they listen, and they go, “okay, well, we’ll just buy the ETFs we can’t be criticised for not matching the index performance at least.”
Yeah, look, I get it in some cases. Like, if I was running a super fund and I thought we should have some exposure to international shares and I thought it was cheaper to buy an international ETF rather than to higher an international team of stockbrokers, maybe it makes sense. But when you start to question whether you super fund needs exposure to international shares if it doesn’t have it. Like, what’s wrong with local shares, or whatever else. It gets back to this whole allocation fallacy that the stock market goes on with about how much you have to have in each asset class as diversification to protect you from a downturn. But when the shit hits the fan, everything turns brown. It doesn’t, it doesn’t discriminate.
Whenever I do our portfolio reports each week and I look at the ASX this financial year, the STW is up about 22% for this financial year, versus, I think we’re running at about 7%, you know, that’s crazy. That’s a big difference. There’s a lot of money going into the market out there in this financial year. It’s been crazy in a market where we’ve got war, COVID in China, supply chain issues, you know, countries paying more for energy prices all around the world, et cetera, et cetera, interest rates going up constantly, you know, every month or six weeks interest rates are going up here and, in the US, and around the world. And yet the market is still booming.
Yeah, well, I mean, think about what the market is; we’re talking about the top twenty stocks, that’s going to be most of the performance of the STW or the ASX. So, four major banks, two supermarket retailers, Woodside Energy, BHP, RIO, there’s half of it. All of those are benefiting from either higher interest rates or higher commodity prices. So, that’s why the market is booming. When those stocks boom, they tend not to be on our buy list. I have Woodside and I have Macquarie, so I’ve got two of the top twenty stocks, but that’s probably about it.
Well, I sold NAB a month or so ago because it went below its 3PTL line. But the banks have been doing well as they do in a rising interest rate environment, because they’re slow to put up savings deposit rates, and they’re quick to put up mortgage rates, of course. And the same thing with supermarkets: they cry food inflation and they put their prices up more than their suppliers put their prices up, and their margins increase. That’s all happening. Now, you know, does that mean we’re silly not to buy those? Maybe, but we stick to our knitting and eventually they’ll slow down and value stocks that we hold will increase more. And just on that, there’s been some fantastic results in the last week or so. I mean, Macquarie came out today with a good result. Their share price is up which is great, because I think I’ve owned them since they were about $1.60, and now they’re getting up closer to $2 again, so that’s been fantastic. Janus Henderson Group came out with good results last week and their stock price went up at least 10%. 10% in the first day. So, this is how QAV is meant to work during reporting season; we hold stocks and they’re good companies, and they produce better results when their share price goes up. Credit Corp put out good numbers; they went down because they were calling a flat forecast, but they’ve recovered again as people realise that Credit Corp perennially under promise and over deliver. And that’s probably going to be the theme of this reporting season, if there is one, that company CEOs tend to have a bit of a herd mentality. So, interest rates are rising, they’re all gonna say, “oh, we can’t give any guidance, we don’t know what’s going to happen; whether people will slam their wallet shut, whether they’ll keep spending. So, best we can do is to say, we’ll probably do as good as we did last year.” And that’s sound conservative guidance giving, but the market will sort that out over the next coming couple of months and there’ll be some winners in there which are going to keep on doing as well as they’ve been doing. Typically, the quality companies. As Buffett says, a quality company is one that can put its prices up in a rising interest rate environment.
It’s funny. If I go back and look at the three-year chart for the dummy portfolio, and I look at where our major peaks lie, the major spikes in the value of the portfolio, they tend to happen end of February and end of July. There’re some others; October, sort of March, April, and sort of July, August. So, reporting periods.
Exactly, when the new numbers come out.
Right. I’d never realised that before. So, that’s where we get most of our growth, is around reporting periods.
Yeah, right. That’s typically what happens; we jump 10 or 20%, and we hang on. Next reporting period comes out, we jump 10 or 20%, and we hang on.
Oh, that’s interesting. We’ll see if it holds true this time. Speaking of reporting, I know Nick Scali came out with some numbers, and somebody asked if you’d do a pulled pork. We’ve got some questions about Nick Scali this week, I think you’re going to talk about them.
I am, yeah. Just in the news, last couple of things. So, I spoke about the stocks improving, which is good; Macquarie, Janus Henderson, CCP. But I did want to point out on the flip side, Openpay, one of the BNPL stocks, is now in administration. That was announced today. Their high was around $4.28 during the BNPL craze a year or two ago, and their last trade was 20 cents, and now they’re zero. So, I only mention that because we keep seeing this bubble burst cycle in the market, and people keep falling for it. So, I think this is going to happen to some of the lithium miners. Some of them will do okay, some of them will go up, come back and keep trading, but some of them are going to go to zero. So, just be aware of that if you get carried away with tips or FOMO or anything like that with the latest bubble. Just be careful.
Well, you know, before you go on. This whole thing about human behaviour and getting sucked in, you know, I see that in media coverage for geopolitics and wars and that kind of stuff, too. There’s this, you know, Twitter-gate thing that Matt Taibbi has been reporting on. Columbia School of Journalism came out with a major report a week or so ago talking about how the mainstream media in the US basically just lied through their teeth and made-up stuff with the whole Russia-gate thing from 2016 to 2020, when they were trying to tie Trump to Putin. There was constant wall to wall stories about Russia’s infiltration of the Trump campaign, Trump administration. And it ended up as nothing; there was no evidence, really, that could tie them. Some guys had some connections with some businessmen, but there was really nothing there like the media was portraying. Columbia’s School of Journalism came out and just tore the mainstream media to shreds. Mainstream media are doing their usual mea culpa: “oh, maybe we did get a little bit carried away there. We will never do it again.” I was like, well, we’ve seen this before. They did that with the Iraq invasion. There’re always people who should know better getting caught up and just believing these stories whenever the media sees an opportunity to sell newspapers, or you know, increase their ratings for their TV shows, their radio shows. They jump on it, people fall for it, a few years later we find out that there was nothing to it and they go, “whoops, we shouldn’t have done that. Mea culpa. We won’t do it again.” Then it happens again, and the same people fall for it every time. And the same thing is probably true in investing too, right?
People just fall for the cycles, get caught up in it over and over and over.
Yeah, I mean, the first point to make is that a business’s incentives are always misaligned to the customers incentives, usually because, you know, they’re trying to sell you something and at some point, they’ll realise that they can hold their nose and sell it to you even if you don’t really want to buy it. So, if it bleeds, it leads, and that’s good for newspaper sales and media sales. It’s good for politicians because they can get people worked up to support an agenda or to castigate someone. So yeah, it’s exactly the same in almost every industry, really; not just newspapers, as you say, financial services. But yeah, I mean, Buffett’s been saying for years, “buy an index fund or do it yourself”. It’s such a simple mantra, and yet there’s this whole worldwide industry out there which just bypasses that thought, because it’s not in their interest. And that’s probably the same in almost every industry, really.
And people, I don’t know, it’s just human nature. We just fall for it over and over and over again.
Yeah, well part of the fact is fresh meat. I mean, a lot of people don’t pay attention to the stock market and then they come into a little bit of money, and it’s a bit like, you know, honey to a fly. They attract all kinds of advice and tips and things, and without experience, they get sucked in. So, I completely understand that and forgive the people for it, I just don’t forgive the big institutions that take advantage of it.
I caught up with an old mate of mine from Microsoft for coffee a week or so ago. He was there before me; he was there during the boom times in the share price in the late 90s when the Microsoft share price was going gangbusters. And I said to him, “are you still living on those Microsoft millions?” And he laughed. He said, “dude, I got caught up with everyone else.” There was a firm, who’ll remain nameless, who did the rounds at Microsoft. I remember meeting them at some point. They would go to the Microsoft employees and say, “look, your shares are booming, they’re great. You should take out margin loans against your share portfolios, your options, because it’s always gonna go up. Look, they’ve been going up, they’ve been doubling every year for twenty years. They’re always going to double every year.” Of course, the dotcom crash happened, and the DOJ case happened, and Microsoft shares halved, I think, and then didn’t move for quite a long time. And apparently, lots of Microsoft employees got burned and ended up having to sell houses and holiday houses and boats and luxury vehicles. They were fresh meat, I guess, for this firm that was just going around selling them on this idea of margin loans against their options portfolios.
Yeah, wow. One of the problems if you’re a Microsoft employee is you’re rich on paper when your share price goes up like that. But until you sell something, you don’t get the money. So, if someone comes along and says, “hey, I can use that for collateral,” and suddenly you can go and buy a beach house with it, I can see the attraction to it. But yeah, it’s a dumb thing to do.
But I wouldn’t have known it was a dumb thing to do back then.
I’m sure most people didn’t know. If you have a financial advisor, come and tell you that this is what you should be doing and everyone you know is doing it, all of your colleagues and your bosses are doing it, you just go, “okay. That’s the thing to do, right? Easy money.”
That came across my desk one day. I mean, I won’t name names either, but someone close to me and very much smarter than me, came to me and said, “hey, I’m doing this agricultural investment that my accountants put me on to, and you should have a look at it because it’s all tax deductible. It’s this tea tree plantation, which, you know, is going to be the next big thing in multivitamins and oils and whatnot. In seven years, I got this contract in place, blah, blah, blah.” So, I took it to my accountant who was a pretty safe pair of hands that I trusted for a while and he just went, “mate, part 4A of the Tax Act, it doesn’t matter how you structure this, the tax office can just say ‘no, that’s an attempt to avoid paying tax’.” The whole industry eventually got closed down. The government rewrote the tax laws to specifically cater for it. This person who was close to me lost all their money, plus they were then a recipient of a class action of people who were suing these tea tree owners for damages. And anyway, it was a real nightmare for them. And the basic rule is if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. And, you know, if you’re not sure, get it checked out by a tax advisor that you pay by the hour to give you impartial advice. The tax advisor to this person close to me who gave them advice was receiving commissions; it was free advice, right, to this person close to me. However, they were making a lot of money out of putting people into the plantation schemes.
I think that’s our problem with QAV. People look at it and think it’s too good to be true. It’s probably a con.
Yeah. Look, possibly. We should double our prices. Didn’t we have a business advisor early on who said we’re not charging enough.
Yeah. Anyhow, you want to do NCK?
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