Year-to-date to September 30, the Ninepoint Focused Global Dividend Fund generated a total return of -14.52% compared to the S&P Global 1200 Index, which generated a total return of -18.18%. For the month, the Fund generated a total return of -3.50% while the Index generated a total return of -4.97%.
The broader equity markets continued to slide from mid-August highs through the end of September and closed at a new low for the year. It had looked like the market was attempting to make a higher low in the early part of the month but, once again, a strong US CPI print on September 13 spoiled the recovery rally. The inflation report for August showed that the index rose 0.1%, on a seasonally adjusted basis, after being unchanged in July. Over the last twelve months, the index increased 8.3% in August compared to 8.5% in the prior month, slightly better sequentially but not enough to dampen inflation concerns. Perhaps even more disappointing, the core CPI (all items less food and energy) rose 0.6% in August, a reacceleration from the July reading, and increased 6.3% year over year compared to 5.9% in the prior month.
Unsurprisingly, the FOMC responded by another 75-bps interest rate increase on September 21 to a new range of 3.00% to 3.25%. The futures curve is currently pricing additional hikes at the November and December FOMC meetings, implying a Fed funds rate of approximately 4.25% to 4.50% by year end. The curve also suggests a high probability of another 25-bps hike by March 2023, when the tightening cycle is priced to finally come to an end. As we’ve said before, we think a pause in the interest rate tightening cycle is more likely than a pivot to interest rate cuts in 2023.
But with the European energy crisis and the Russian invasion of Ukraine continuing to threaten global stability, signs of stress have started to appear in the financial markets. In the currency markets, the US Dollar has maintained its safe haven status, hitting a twenty-year high against a basket of global currencies, with notable weakness in the Euro and Yen. In the bond markets, the US 2-year Treasury yield hit a fifteen-year high of 4.36% and the US 10-year Treasury yield hit a twelve-year high of 4.02%. Further, corporate bond spreads have blown out by almost 80 basis points since the beginning of the year. To say the least, it has been an extremely difficult environment for both bond and equity investors thus far in 2022.
Given the number of cross currents in the markets, it is tough to find a concrete explanation for some of these outsized moves, with sentiment and positioning swinging wildly around any macroeconomic or geopolitical bit of news. However, we would point to the new UK Prime Minister’s “mini-budget” that contained significant tax cuts without any revenue offsets (essentially a large, unfunded fiscal stimulus package), which exacerbated some of the gyrations in both the currency and bond markets. Specifically, the British pound fell to an all-time low against the US Dollar (almost breaking par) and UK 30-year Gilts were down 59% year-to-date and 36% month-to-date at the lows before rebounding after intervention by the Bank of England. Because of the potential for contagion from some of these cross asset moves, we still believe that the risks of a monetary policy-induced, cyclical (but relatively mild) recession are elevated.
Despite the fear of an impending recession, consensus earnings forecasts for the S&P 500 have been stable around $230 for 2022 and $240 for 2023 but we should expect the numbers for next year to decline as companies work through the Q3 2022 and Q4 2022 reporting periods. At the minimum, the stronger US Dollar and inflated operating costs are likely to pressure margins through the balance of 2022 and into 2023. As investors try to determine the appropriate P/E multiple to put on potentially falling forward earnings expectations, the markets are trying to balance good but backward-looking data today with the threat of potential weakness tomorrow, weighing soft-landing versus recession valuation scenarios.
We remained focused on watching for either the negative earning revision cycle to bottom or a Fed pause to signal the inflection toward a return to economic growth. In keeping with our mandates, we are concentrating our efforts on free cash flow positive, high quality, dividend growth companies and real asset investments given our positive assessment of the risk/reward outlook over the next two to three years.
Top contributors to the year-to-date performance of the Ninepoint Focused Global Dividend Fund by sector included only Communication (+109 bps) while top detractors by sector included Information Technology (-458 bps), Consumer Discretionary (-286 bps) and Financials (-147 bps) on an absolute basis.
On a relative basis, positive return contributions from the Communication (+371 bps), Information Technology (+203 bps) and Industrials (+136 bps) sectors were offset by negative contributions from the Energy (-156 bps), Consumer Staples (-49 bps) and Health Care (-8 bps) sectors.
We are currently overweight the Energy, Industrials and Health Care sectors, while underweight the Information Technology, Financials and Materials sectors. With signs of a global slowdown materializing and the US Federal Reserve committed to regaining control of inflation, we have been focused on high quality, dividend growers that have been able to consistently grow both revenue and earnings through the cycle. We are carefully watching for either the negative earnings revision cycle to bottom or a Fed pause to signal that the global equity markets can move sustainably higher.
The Ninepoint Focused Global Dividend Fund was concentrated in 26 positions as at September 30, 2022 with the top 10 holdings accounting for approximately 36.9% of the fund. Over the prior fiscal year, 20 out of our 26 holdings have announced a dividend increase, with an average hike of 20.1% (median hike of 6.7%). We will continue to apply a disciplined investment process, balancing various quality and valuation metrics, in an effort to generate solid risk-adjusted returns.
Jeffery Sayer, CFA
1 All returns and fund details are a) based on Series F shares; b) net of fees; c) annualized if period is greater than one year; d) as at September 30, 2022; e) 2015 annual returns are from 11/25/15 to 12/31/15. The index is S&P GLOBAL 1200 TR (CAD) and is computed by Ninepoint Partners LP based on publicly available index information.
The Fund is generally exposed to the following risks. See the prospectus of the Fund for a description of these risks: ADR risk; Capital depletion risk; Capital gains risk; Class risk; Credit risk; Currency risk; Cybersecurity risk; Derivatives risk; Exchange traded funds risk; Foreign investment risk; Inflation risk; Interest rate risk; Liquidity risk; Market risk; Securities lending, Repurchase and reverse repurchase transactions risk; Series risk; Short selling risk; Specific issuer risk; Tax risk.
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