Social Spotlight I: Employee Engagement
- Employee engagement, among larger NZX-listed corporates, was assessed through company reports and a survey.
- We found a low level of disclosure on employee engagement scores, turnover and absenteeism with comparability between companies difficult.
- The majority of companies that did disclose showed improvements in their employee engagement scores and turnover, but not absenteeism.
- Sector dispersion is evident with the IT, Communication and Consumer Staples companies showing the greatest improvement in employee engagement survey
Lifting the bonnet: Electric vehicle adoption, or a lack thereof?
- Electric vehicle (EV) adoption, among larger NZX-listed corporates, was assessed through a quantitative and behavioural survey
- There is low EV penetration in company fleets, on average, with significant dispersion between industry sectors
- Reputation benefits are ranked as the most important driver of EV transition
- A lack of suitable EV models is rated as the largest barrier to adoption, even above cost
- A majority of the companies surveyed had immediate plans to invest in more EVs, however this has likely changed in light of COVID-19
Listed Property – Known knowns, and known unknowns
- Listed property assets have not yet fully recovered.
- Diverse impact of COVID-19 may create investment opportunities.
- A wide range of outcomes are possible, and we review current evidence on rental abatements and deferrals.
- It is reasonable to assume rentals falling by between -5% for industrial assets, through to -20% plus for secondary retail malls.
- Banks have been supportive refinancing and extending debt facilities.
How vulnerable is our housing market?
- Housing affordability continues to be a major challenge for many households. Initiatives to increase supply and to manage risks to the financial system have helped to contain house price rises, but they have not been able to hold the market back from strong price gains across the country. Our analysis had suggested that house prices could keep rising in the near term, supported by falling mortgage rates and a buoyant economy. However, risks of price declines are growing. The coronavirus outbreak has elevated the risks.
- The drivers of strong price gains over recent years have been positive migration, falling mortgage rates and strength in the jobs market. We see limited scope for these factors to add to housing market strength over the medium term. Coronavirus could be a catalyst for weaker prices if the economic impact is significant and unemployment increases.
- Prior to COVID-19 we had considered whether a housing market bubble might exist. We judged that this was not the case, although some traditional features of bubbles are apparent.
- Recently announced policy responses from the Reserve Bank of New Zealand and our Government are meaningful and we expect them to mitigate risks to a considerable degree. The key issues for housing will be the jobs market and whether any mortgage payment flexibility is forthcoming.
Top 10 risks (and opportunities) for the next decade
“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don't let yourself be lulled into inaction”
- Bill Gates
A decade ago, the world’s largest and fourth largest companies were oil companies, Exxon Mobil and BP. The third largest company was HSBC Bank and the sixth largest company was IBM, the inventor of mainframe computers. Entering a new d...
Top 10 risks (and opportunities) for 2020
What a difference a year makes. When we sat down to write down the risks and opportunities for 2019, we were amid a sharp market drawdown. The US earnings season had raised concerns about an earnings recession, the market was worried the Fed was too hawkish and the trade war had injected fear into markets. Fast forward to today and earnings have been resilient, the Fed is on hold and the trade war, which did escalate during 20...READ MORE
Findings from Harbour's carbon emissions research project
- 26 companies of the 55 studied disclosed emissions data (47%)
- There was wide variation in the quality of disclosure from companies
- Of the companies that disclosed, 52% had emissions on a decreasing trend
- Most companies record their emissions themselves and have no third-party verification
- Technological advancement is key with innovation in electrification, carbon capture and storage, and software solutions
- The Zero Carbon Bill, the Paris Agreement and the Emissions Trading Scheme are all important policy settings aimed to help decrease carbon emissions
- The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations are an increasingly popular framework for companies worldwide to report against, to ensure their climate change disclosure is meeting the needs of their investors.
The move to the public cloud accelerates
We try to attend at least one global technology conference each year to keep abreast of latest developments, market trends and hot topics. Over the last five years, speakers have focused on many exciting areas with large market growth potential (covering online migration and SaaS business models disrupting the old world), consumers going mobile, big data and Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IOT) to nam...READ MORE
Perspectives on China: Don't Expect a Sugar Rush
The longer-term narrative remains intact: urbanisation and the rise of the middle-class consumer
Consumption habits continue to move online but are fractionalising, moving at a fast pace to social network platforms
Longer-term growth risks remain around demographics and high public debt
Technology and infrastructure spending continue to frame growth opportunities
Getting on with urbanisation in the new global orderIn two we...
Secular changes are benefitting global growth investing. Are they here to stay?
Key points:Since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), growth stocks have outperformed value stocks significantly. This follows a long period of outperformance for value.
Whilst the “tech bubble” made some investors weary of technology and growth companies, valuation levels for tech companies today are significantly lower than 20 years ago. Further, investors should look at the earnings certainty of industry incumbents through th...
Sustainability is Good for Returns
Harbour has been a signatory to the UN Principles of Responsible Investing since 2010 and is also a member of the Responsible Investing Association of Australasia.
Harbour is adding sustainability as an investment mega trend in our equities process
We continue to find integration of ESG factors is a positive factor for returns
An additional overlay of sustainability as a mega trend influence may provide better interaction an...
5G to enable new technology platforms
Investors need to factor in the opportunity and potential disruption of new technology and changing consumer preferences for mobile and fixed broadband communication. Fifth generation mobile networks (5G) provide a transformational shift in the telecommunications landscape. Why is this change so important?
It enables new technologies, like driverless cars, mobile medicine, the Internet of Things
It may accelerate the transiti...
Capital Gains Tax: Unanswered questions for managed funds and KiwiSaver
Key pointsWe don’t know yet which measures suggested by the Tax Working Group will be adopted by the Government. There is still a lot of water to go under the bridge.
The proposed capital gains tax makes investing in New Zealand and Australian share markets less attractive, yet there is no proposed change to the tax regime for other share markets.
While managed funds like KiwiSaver will be required to calculate their tax bill ...
Banks: Increased capital requirements to change the landscape
A material lift in bank capital is on the cards.
If implemented it is likely to result in a combination of higher lending rates, lower deposit rates and potentially lower returns on equity.
The landscape of lending markets is also likely to change, with Australian banks becoming more discerning about the volume of lending to low return sectors and we may see the emergence of non-bank lenders.
The proposal by the Reserve Bank o...
Three things the Equity Risk Premium is telling us about investment markets
One of the key decisions that investors must make is how much to respectively allocate to equities and bonds. This decision is made in the knowledge that over time equities have generated superior investment returns. Compensation for the additional volatility, the additional return equities earn over bonds is known as the Equity Risk Premium (ERP). The ERP, while persistent over the long term, varies over the short to medium term, with the direction of the variance having broad implications for investment portfolios.READ MORE
RBNZ banking rules shaping credit markets
Changes to banking rules are set to have a meaningful impact on New Zealand’s fixed interest market in 2019:
A proposed rule forcing banks to hold more equity capital will make the banking sector more stable, however, it will come with a raft of second-round impacts. Chief among those will be the impact on banks’ willingness to lend. This is what we are watching most closely;
Separately, we may see an explicit preference for ...
New Zealand equity market debt trends
One of the driving factors behind the global financial crisis (GFC) was high levels of company debt. High leverage and lower earnings coverage of interest costs heightened risk in the US equity market. Recently published research by a global investment bank[i] suggests that US company debt levels may be creeping up again. But are we seeing the same thing happen in New Zealand?
Research by Harbour indicates that the median N...
10 Risks to Watch in 2019
When investing in an uncertain world, it is useful to distinguish between a core view of the most likely outcome for economies and markets, and the key risks that could challenge that assessment.
In our most recent monthly Harbour Outlook we set out our core view.  Markets have experienced goldilocks conditions over the past 5 years, with solid economic growth, low inflation and low interest rates. Through 2018 we have see...
Postcard from Colorado – outdoor retailers
Harbour’s Managing Director Andrew Bascand and Senior Research Analyst Oyvinn Rimer travelled to Denver, Colorado for the Retail Outdoor conference.
Why did we attend the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market?
The Outdoor Economy in the U.S. alone is 3x bigger than the entire GDP of New Zealand
The Outdoor Economy is growing and is a source of global growth
Trade war and tariffs are impacting on the Outdoor Economy directly
Investment Horizon: Harbour Macro Research Day
Our internal Macro Research Day is a chance to re-visit the research that anchors our medium-term view.
Locally, we expect economic activity to moderate rather than slow sharply, and the RBNZ to remain on hold for a considerable time ahead to provide the best chance for core inflation to lift above 2%.
Globally, we see interest rates rising, but with monetary policy still supportive for financial markets while global inflation...
Harbour Investment Horizon: Fiscal Policy Outlook
There is growing coverage in the media that a slowing economy could force a fiscal tightening to stay within the government’s fiscal responsibility rules.
There is little evidence that the market is concerned with this risk, with the New Zealand government bond yields trading below the US for the first time in 25 years.
While providing important political discipline, there is also some flex in the fiscal responsibility rules, ...
Investment Horizon: Interest Rate Cycles - Endings and Beginnings
As expected by the market, the US Federal Reserve lifted the US Fed Funds Rate this week to 1.75%-2.00%. This was the second hike in 2018 and a continuation in a cycle that began in late 2015. In a post-GFC environment where interest rates are eventually expected to settle at lower levels, it’s natural to ask how far away the US Federal Reserve is to the end of its interest rate cycle. At the same time, in New Zealand, the ...READ MORE
The state of Infant Milk Formula in China
Harbour Senior Research Analyst Oyvinn Rimer recently took a trip to China, to investigate the state of the Chinese consumer milk market.
Disclosure: Harbour owns a2 Milk in a number of portfolios.
Having regularly visited China for a decade now, it never ceases to amaze me the sheer scale and speed of their development. Despite frequent visits, there are always noticeable changes to the land and cityscapes.
Two weeks ago, ...
The Changing Face of the New Zealand Credit Market
Over recent years the New Zealand credit market has been going through something of a quiet revolution. The borderline between bank lending and fund management is becoming blurred. Fund managers are stepping into areas traditionally dominated by banks, as regulatory reform has imposed higher capital costs on banks. Fund managers are broadening their investment choices and the range of bonds issued has become more varied. There...READ MORE
Quantitative or qualitative equity research?
At Harbour, we believe it is best to use a mixture of quantitative and qualitative equity research to make investment decisions. Quantitative research is used as a filter to break down the investment universe, pick potential outperformers and underperformers, and support analyst and portfolio manager views with tangible numbers. Our qualitative research looks at a firm’s business model, competitive advantage, corporate governa...READ MORE
Goldilocks: Not too hot, not too cold
After strong year for returns from Australasian equity markets, investors are asking: what does 2018 offer? Are the ‘goldilocks’ conditions of solid economic growth, low inflation and easy monetary policy settings likely to continue to support equity market returns?
While we believe the near-term outlook for local equity returns remains positive, two scenarios may challenge these goldilocks ‘not too hot, not too cold’ conditi...
Dispelling the myth that a dual mandate implies easier monetary policy
In the economy section of the new NZ government’s Coalition Agreement, the top of the list is “Review and Reform of the Reserve Bank Act”. Given the preference of Labour and NZ First to give the RBNZ a dual mandate for both inflation and employment, the market has interpreted this as implying lower interest rates to encourage job growth. In our view, while the inclusion of a full employment objective will enable the governmen...READ MORE
Lessons from RBOHA
On 8 October, a large number of retail investors will breathe a sigh of relief, as they receive their principal of $900m back on what was New Zealand’s largest retail bond issue when launched ten years ago. It has been a bumpy ride for these investors. Many lessons have been learnt. In a world of low yields and interest rates, they will face one remaining question of how best to put their principal back to work to generate inc...READ MORE
Quantitative Investment Styles and when they perform
Factor investing as a style has become increasingly popular in the last decade with the rise of Smart Beta funds globally. These strategies are expected to outperform the market over the long term. Each different strategy selects companies based on favourable characteristics defined by the strategy. There are many different factors such as risk based factors (value and size) that command a premium, fundamental factors (growth ...READ MORE
Raising Inflation Targets?
At the press conference following the US Federal Reserve (US Fed)’s most recent interest rate decision, Governor Janet Yellen made an admission that marks a significant change in tone from the US Fed. She acknowledged that the debate over whether to raise inflation targets is “one of the most important questions facing monetary policy”, and encouraged further research. While we still believe there is a low chance of the US...READ MORE