No bears here: The 6 bulls you’ll meet in 2023

Get ready to run with the bulls in 2023. According to these fundies, it's time to ignore the market noise and look to greener pastures ahead.
Buy Hold Sell

Livewire Markets

The end of 2022 was worse than many experts had tipped. There was no Santa Rally and the market even crashed. We started 2023 with all sectors in the red. 

To put it colloquially, 'stuff got real' and the possibility of a hard landing recession started to look a lot more likely.

On that basis, you would be forgiven for expecting 2023 to be the year for the bears. 

However, as Warren Buffett once said, investors would be wise to be “fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.”

And, as it would turn out, the pros seem to be starting to turn greedy in 2023. 

The 1 yr performance of the S&P500

Source: TradingView as of 2 January 2023
In fact, all six of the fund managers Livewire interviewed in Melbourne for our 2023 Outlook Series said they were feeling bullish for the year ahead. 

Take Yarra Capital's Dion Hershan, who noted it was becoming easier to find companies at good value, or Marcus Today's Marcus Padley, who pointed out that, if history is anything to go by, the market could rise by 9% over the year ahead. 

Even Collins St Asset Management's Michael Goldberg, normally a self-proclaimed bear, is excited about the prospects for his portfolio. 

Perhaps it’s time to look past the noise from 2022. After all, as LSN Capital Partners' Nick Sladen explains, cash weightings around the globe are very high, while equity allocations remain low (and defensive positioning remains the status quo). 
“It doesn't take too much from an economic perspective to adjust people's expectations and see a continuation of the improving trend that we've seen since September,” he says. 

So in this video, six of Melbourne's finest market experts share why they are feeling bullish for the year ahead, and predict where their benchmark could end up by the year's end. 

Here’s the list of bulls for the year:

Note: The information provided is not intended to be a recommendation. Please do your own research and seek advice from a professional before making any investment decisions. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future returns.

You can watch the video by clicking the player, listen to an audio version, or read an edited transcript below. These interviews were filmed on 13 December 2022.

Edited Transcript

Ally Selby: Hello and welcome to Livewire’s Outlook Series for 2023. I’m Ally Selby and today we’re going to find out how six of Melbourne’s top fund managers are feeling about the market and whether they are feeling bullish or bearish for the year ahead.

Marcus, are you bullish or bearish for the year ahead, and where do you think your benchmark will end up by the end of 2023? 

1. The all-weather bull 

Marcus Padley: Always bullish.

You have to be bullish in this market, and the market goes up on average 85% of the time or something like that. So let's go with bullish, and you'll find every economist will predict the market going up 9% next year. 

It is the standard statistic for all financial markets. If you don't know what the number is, just say 9%. I'll go 9%.

2. The bull who believes market predictions are bull 

Michael Goldberg: It's a twofold answer. 

For the stocks that I own, I'm obviously very excited about their prospects. We spend a lot of time identifying these companies and we really think they're going to do especially well now and in the future. 

With respect to the market in general, in the office, my colleagues tell me, "Michael, you're always cranky about the market. You're always bearish. Markets go up, markets go down. The only certainty is that Michael's going to be cranky about the market."

The truth is, if you don't own BHP (ASX: BHP), you don't own CSL (ASX: CSL), you don't own Commonwealth Bank (ASX: CBA), to us, at least, it doesn't really matter in our mind what they do.

Taking a broader look, there are some 2000-plus companies that make up the ASX. Our view is that anyone who tries to make a conviction call on how the composite returns will be for those 2000 stocks, they're either a wizard, a time traveller, or a liar.

It's almost all we can handle to look after the dozen or so stocks that we look after. I don't envy those fund managers or those investors in general who try to manage 100-200 stocks in their portfolio. To me, it just seems almost irrelevant.

Ally Selby: So, no one should be making market predictions?

Michael Goldberg: Look, you can make market predictions because you need to talk about something.
At the end of the day, all that really matters is how do the stocks that you own do. What the broader market does is far less important to us.

3. The mechanical bull with a taste for Small Industrials 

Robert Gregory: I'm positive about the market next year.

I think this year, we've seen a lot of investor de-risking, particularly out of growth stocks with bond rates rising. I think going into next year, that's going to moderate. 

I think the Small Industrials has a lot of scope to outperform, so I'm pretty positive. I think my benchmark, the All Ordinaries can rise about 10% next year.

Ally Selby: That's very bullish.

4. The 'it's not all bad news' bull 

Dion Hershan: A bit of guesswork in that question, but on balance, we are optimistic.

Our view is sentiment is poor, expectations have now been lowered, and there is almost this shared understanding that it's going to be a hard landing in Australia and it's going to be a very difficult time. In some respects, that's embedded in stock expectations.

We don't predict the market. We try to pick the companies that we think have got the best prospects. 

That said, we think it's going to be a solid market in the year ahead. We're getting dividend yields around 4.5% in the Australian market. We're not challenged finding companies at good valuations that we think that can grow. 

So to us, that speaks to pretty solid returns after what's been a mediocre 2022.

5. The bull bucking the bear market rally 

Nick Sladen: We are bullish for 2023.

If you look at cash weightings globally, they are very high. Equity allocations are very low, and within equity portfolios, defensive positioning is very, very high. So it doesn't take too much from an economic perspective to adjust people's expectations and see a continuation of the improving trend that we've seen since September, particularly in the small-cap market.

In the small-cap space, the peak of the market was right at the start of 2022, and the market at its bottom in September had sold off 28% to about 2600 on the Small Ordinaries index. We're at about 2850 now, and we think by the end of 2023, around 3250, which is about 14% up on current levels would be a reasonable outcome from here.

Ally Selby: You don't feel like this is a bear market rally?

Nick Sladen: No, we don't.

6. The glass half bull 

Nick Griffin: We're a global equity manager and a global growth manager. The last 12 months have been harder for us, but obviously, we had a pretty good run there for a long time.

We're always a bit glass half full, and so I'll stay glass half full for next year.

I think the benchmark will be up, but I'd suspect there's probably a few bumps along the way. But high single digits, maybe double digits, I think is definitely possible in 2023.

Are you running with the bulls in 2023 or are you bearish? 

Let us know in the comments below.

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