Year-to-date to December 31, the Ninepoint Global Infrastructure Fund generated a total return of 0.24% compared to the MSCI World Core Infrastructure Index, which generated a total return of -1.24%. For the month, the Fund generated a total return of -3.59% while the Index generated a total return of -2.82%.
|MSCI World Core Infrastructure NR (CAD)||-2.8%||-1.2%||7.2%||2.5%||-1.2%||3.8%||7.4%||11.2%||11.2%|
With the traditional positive seasonality failing to materialize in December, 2022 will go down in history as a miserable year for both equity and fixed income investors. Across the board, the performance stats are disappointing. In the US, the tech-heavy NASDAQ Composite declined 32.5%, the S&P 500 TR declined 18.1%, and Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 6.9%. Global equity markets weren’t much better, with the S&P Global 1200 TR (in CAD) down 10.8%. Canadian equity investors suffered less than most, given the relatively hefty weighting of the oil & gas sector, with the S&P/TSX Composite TR down “only” 5.8% as the S&P/TSX Energy TR sub-sector gained 30.3%. In a balanced portfolio, the offset to equity weakness is usually fixed income strength but even the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate bond index declined 16.3%, with the Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate down 13.0% and the Bloomberg Barclays Canada Aggregate down 11.3%. If you weren’t heavily overweight the Energy sector or cash, it was a challenging year to put it mildly.
Looking back at 2022, it felt like the news kept getting worse and worse as the year progressed. We started with the new Omicron Covid-19 variant, which led to widespread lockdowns in China due to the lack of an effective mRNA vaccine and low vaccination rates overall. We then had to face the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, with its horrific human toll and unimaginable suffering for those involved. From an economic perspective, the combination of these events led to massive supply chain disruptions and spiking energy costs. Consequently, the “inflation is transitory” narrative began to look overly optimistic, as inflation exploded higher with the US year-over-year CPI peaking at 9.1% in June. In response, the US Fed embarked on the fastest interest rate tightening cycle ever, hiking rates 425 bps from March to December 2022. Market participants sometimes refer to the phrase or mantra “don’t fight the Fed”, and this past year was a stern reminder of the impact of tightening monetary policy on various asset classes.
Importantly, higher interest rates percolate through the economy and the financial markets through various interconnected mechanisms. Overall growth slows as borrowing becomes more expensive, and consumer confidence weakens as job less mount. In turn, revenue growth slows or even declines, and margins weaken as pricing power softens and interest costs rise, resulting in multiple compression and negative earnings revisions. We can see how this played out in 2022, as the price to earnings multiple of the S&P 500 compressed from approximately 21x NTM estimates at the beginning of the year, bottomed at just 15x NTM estimates in October before rebounding to 17x NTM estimates today (according to Refinitiv). We have also seen a quite dramatic negative earning revision cycle, with 2023 S&P 500 earnings estimates declining from $255 at the end of Q1 2022 to $225 today, implying flat earnings growth this year, which may still prove to be optimistic once companies begin reporting 2022 financial results and potentially adjust guidance for 2023.
But despite the mayhem in the world, the difficult economic conditions, and the challenging equity markets, we can still find reasons to be optimistic going forward. First, back-to-back down years are very rare for the broad equity markets. In fact, the S&P 500 has only experienced two or more consecutive years of negative performance twice since 1957, once in 1973 to 1974 and once again in 2001 to 2003. Further, if we examine the 18 years of negative performance (including 2022), we can observe that the market has rebounded 14 times the subsequent year, a win rate of approximately 80% and an average gain of 15% (according to Macrotrends.net). Second, several academic studies have shown almost no correlation between earnings growth and equity market returns. Instead, we are focused on watching for the end of the negative earnings revision cycle as expectations reset to realistic levels. Finally, we are looking for the Fed to pause monetary tightening in 2023, with perhaps two more hikes of 25 bps each, reaching a terminal Fed funds rate of 5.0%, possibly as soon as March or May. We may not see a pivot to easing monetary policy in 2023 but we thank that a pause would be supportive enough for equity valuations.
To summarize our outlook, in an environment of moderating inflation but slowing growth through 2023, the most important drivers of investment performance will likely be valuation, balance sheet strength and the ability to consistently generate cash flow and earnings. Also, a greater component of total returns will likely come from dividend yields, which meshes nicely with our investment philosophy. 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 Global Infrastructure Fund by sector included Energy (+378 bps), Utilities (+283 bps) and Information Technology (+61 bps) while top detractors by sector included Real Estate (-401 bps) and Industrials (-116 bps) on an absolute basis.
On a relative basis, positive return contributions from the Utilities (+312 bps), Information Technology (+61 bps) and Energy (+52 bps) sectors were offset by negative contributions from the Industrials (-100 bps) and Real Estate (+8 bps) sectors.
We are currently overweight the Energy and Real Estate sectors and underweight the Industrials and Utilities sectors. Given the global slowdown and commentary from the US Federal Reserve suggesting that interest rates will remain higher for longer, we have been focused on the Utilities sector (our largest absolute weight given its defensive characteristics) and the Energy Sector (our largest relative overweight given its attractive valuation). Although we expect the Fed to pause interest rate hikes in 2023, we are carefully watching for the negative earnings revision cycle to bottom and unemployment to peak to signal the start of a new equity bull market.
The stock market leaders over the next decade are unlikely to be the leaders of past cycles but one of the biggest investment themes in the coming years is likely to be the clean energy transition story. During this shift away from traditional fossil fuels toward renewable energy sources, the infrastructure asset class stands to be a clear beneficiary. Therefore, we are comfortable having exposure to both traditional energy investments (primarily through Oil & Gas Storage & Transportation assets) and renewable energy investments (including clean power technologies) given the importance of sustainability and security of supply.
The Ninepoint Global Infrastructure Fund was concentrated in 30 positions as at December 31, 2022 with the top 10 holdings accounting for approximately 38.2% of the fund. Over the prior fiscal year, 17 out of our 30 holdings have announced a dividend increase, with an average hike of 6.3% (median hike of 4.0%). Using a total infrastructure approach, we will continue to apply a disciplined investment process, balancing valuation, growth and yield in an effort to generate solid risk-adjusted returns.
Jeffrey Sayer, CFA
Refinitiv Lipper Fund Awards, ©2022 Refinitiv. All rights reserved. Used under license.
The fund has been named Refinitiv Lipper Fund Awards Canada 2022 Winner, Best Global Infrastructure Equity Fund, over a three-year period out of a total of 13 funds ending July 31, 2022.
Lipper Award Methodology
The Refinitiv Lipper Fund Awards, granted annually, highlight funds and fund companies that have excelled in delivering consistently strong risk-adjusted performance relative to their peers.
The Refinitiv Lipper Fund Awards are based on the Lipper Leader for Consistent Return rating, which is a risk-adjusted performance measure calculated over 36, 60 and 120 months. The fund with the highest Lipper Leader for Consistent Return (Effective Return) value in each eligible classification wins the Refinitiv Lipper Fund Award. For more information, see lipperfundawards.com Although Refinitiv Lipper makes reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained herein, the accuracy is not guaranteed by Refinitiv Lipper.
The merit of the winners is based on objective, quantitative criteria. The influential and prestigious Refinitiv Lipper Fund Awards are based on our Lipper Leaders Rating for Consistent Return. Lipper Leaders Ratings are subject to change on a monthly basis. Individual classifications of three, five, and 10-year periods, as well as fund families with high average scored for the three-year period, are also recognized. The awards are based on Refinitiv Lipper’s proven proprietary methodology, which can be viewed here.
1 All returns and fund details are a) based on Series F units; b) net of fees; c) annualized if period is greater than one year; d) as at December 31, 2022; e) 2011 annual returns are from 09/01/11 to 12/31/11. The index is 100% MSCI World Core Infrastructure NR (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: capital depletion risk; concentration risk; credit risk; currency risk; cybersecurity risk; derivatives risk; exchange traded funds risk; foreign investment risk; income trust risk; inflation risk; interest rate risk; liquidity risk; market risk; regulatory risk; series risk; short selling risk; small company risk; specific issuer risk; tax risk.
Ninepoint Partners LP is the investment manager to the Ninepoint Funds (collectively, the “Funds”). Commissions, trailing commissions, management fees, performance fees (if any), other charges and expenses all may be associated with mutual fund investments. Please read the prospectus carefully before investing. The indicated rate of return for series F units of the Fund for the period ended December 31, 2022 is based on the historical annual compounded total return including changes in unit value and reinvestment of all distributions and does not take into account sales, redemption, distribution or optional charges or income taxes payable by any unitholder that would have reduced returns. Mutual funds are not guaranteed, their values change frequently and past performance may not be repeated. The information contained herein does not constitute an offer or solicitation by anyone in the United States or in any other jurisdiction in which such an offer or solicitation is not authorized or to any person to whom it is unlawful to make such an offer or solicitation. Prospective investors who are not resident in Canada should contact their financial advisor to determine whether securities of the Fund may be lawfully sold in their jurisdiction.
The opinions, estimates and projections (“information”) contained within this report are solely those of Ninepoint Partners LP and are subject to change without notice. Ninepoint Partners makes every effort to ensure that the information has been derived from sources believed to be reliable and accurate. However, Ninepoint Partners assumes no responsibility for any losses or damages, whether direct or indirect, which arise out of the use of this information. Ninepoint Partners is not under any obligation to update or keep current the information contained herein. The information should not be regarded by recipients as a substitute for the exercise of their own judgment. Please contact your own personal advisor on your particular circumstances. Views expressed regarding a particular company, security, industry or market sector should not be considered an indication of trading intent of any investment funds managed by Ninepoint Partners. Any reference to a particular company is for illustrative purposes only and should not to be considered as investment advice or a recommendation to buy or sell nor should it be considered as an indication of how the portfolio of any investment fund managed by Ninepoint Partners is or will be invested. Ninepoint Partners LP and/or its affiliates may collectively beneficially own/control 1% or more of any class of the equity securities of the issuers mentioned in this report. Ninepoint Partners LP and/or its affiliates may hold short position in any class of the equity securities of the issuers mentioned in this report. During the preceding 12 months, Ninepoint Partners LP and/or its affiliates may have received remuneration other than normal course investment advisory or trade execution services from the issuers mentioned in this report.
Ninepoint Partners LP: Toll Free: 1.866.299.9906. DEALER SERVICES: CIBC Mellon GSSC Record Keeping Services: Toll Free: 1.877.358.0540