Commentary for the quarter ended 30 September 2023
Q3 2023 Performance review
The third quarter of 2023 was unfriendly to investors both regarding equity and bond performance.
Although returns were slightly negative (-0.55%), it is pleasing to report to our investors that the Northstar BCI Managed Fund enjoyed a good quarter in terms of relative positioning against its peer group (-1.48%), and the benchmark proxy (50% Capped Swix, 25% MSCI World Index and 25% ALBI), which dropped by 2.8%.
We believe that we are nearing the top of a global rising interest rate cycle, but the higher for longer mantra pushed by central banks finally gripped market participants this quarter and bond yields rose in sympathy. Tighter monetary conditions reflected in higher positive real yields stunted equity enthusiasm and consequently, bond and equity returns were negative. The Barclays Global Bond Index fell 3.6% in Q3 and the MSCI World Index fell 3.4% – in dollars.
Besides Norway, which rose by 11% based on its oil bias (oil has been surging on high demand, constrained supply and geopolitical tensions), developed markets delivered a poor showing with all regions negative and Europe under the most pressure, losing 4.9% in dollars for the quarter.
North America fell 3.1% and the Pacific 2.6%. Emerging markets declined 2.8% in Q3. A strong dollar remained a theme and all developed market currencies weakened relative to the dollar, with Sterling down by 4% and the Euro 3%.
The rand (-9.7%) is the 3rd worst performing currency against the dollar year-to-date after the Turkish Lira (-31.7%) and Egyptian Pound (-19.9%) but ironically, is one of the few currencies that held up well in this past quarter.
Staying with South Africa, the JSE Capped Swix Index lost -3.8% (in Rand terms; -4,4% in US Dollars) during the quarter and has fallen 0.3% year-to-date (-10% in US Dollars). For a dollar investor, our market is the second worst performing emerging equity market this year.
While SA (South Africa) financials gained 1.7% (ZAR), buoyed by positive results from insurers and banks, the industrial and resources indices fell -6.2% and -4.3% respectively. It is ironic that the economy enjoyed a degree of reprieve from load shedding over the quarter, yet the market had a torrid time. But this can be ascribed to tough macro data out of China which had a severe impact on various local sectors such as personal goods (Richemont), precious and diversified miners and Technology (Naspers/Prosus).
Versus the 3.8% (ZAR) fall in the market, the domestic equity portfolio within the Northstar BCI Managed Fund, SCI Equity fund was down -1.9% during the quarter. This performance was also well ahead of the (ASISA) South African Equity General Peer Average which returned -2.6%. An overweight position in financials (banks and insurers) and consumer staples helped and so did an underweight position in resources. The largest positive stock attributors included Absa (+8.2%), Sanlam (+12.5%), Outsurance (+25.8%) and a large underweight position in Richemont (-25.4%). Main detractors included Exxaro, Glencore and Sibanye Stillwater.
Despite producing negative returns (-2.83%), the global portfolio within the fund outperformed the MSCI World Index (-3.63%). The fund had an average foreign equity weighting of 17.19% for the period in question. The stocks that added the most to performance were Blackstone, Google and Broadridge whereas the top detractors were Estee Lauder, Delta Airlines and L3Harris.
The fixed income component of the fund outperformed its benchmark for the quarter. The ALBI fell 0.36% whereas the FI in the fund was flat.
As we enter the final quarter of the year, we near a fulcrum in economic conditions in the western world, which could be meaningfully impactful for markets. High interest rates are beginning to impact the robustness of the US economy – this is seen in credit extension, rising defaults and manufacturing surveys. If the economy falters, which it typically does at the end of a rising rate cycle, defensive sectors outperform and bond yields rally.
We believe that the portfolio is appropriately positioned for an anticipated economic slowdown.