Time to change your mindset: Prepare for a 5pc cash rate

Anthony Murphy

Lucerne Investment Partners

The last time Australia’s official cash rate had a five in front of it, the world was going through the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Within the next two years, rates could be back up at that level, bringing a world of pain to borrowers, equity markets and business balance sheets.

The prediction comes as share-markets around the world tumble amid expectations the US Federal Reserve will within weeks kick off the next interest rate-rise cycle. 

"We’ve already seen rationalisation start to come into the market. We can see that institutions and investors as a whole are no longer prepared to just pay up for these high-growth, expensive companies, many of which are not actually generating profits” 

If you look at the irrational behaviour happening over the last 12 months, it’s resulted in 60 out of the ASX top 200 companies not being profitable. That’s alarming.

While capital market conditions were favourable over the past two years, with excess liquidity pumped into the system, these hyper-growth businesses were the outperformers. However, these sorts of businesses are highly reliant on capital markets supporting them; they’ve got to keep going back to the well to survive. 

That well will run dry quickly if rates jump up to the level, we forecast. I see the Reserve Bank kicking off its own rate-rise cycle by the middle of the year, well before the 2024 start date the central bank was tipping just months ago.

The pressure on the RBA intensified last Tuesday, when headline inflation in the year to December 31 was revealed to have surged to 3.5 per cent, while underlying inflation was 2.6 per cent. Many now expecting the central bank to move this year.

I am predicting that the fallout for equities from the rate move would result in the share market contracting up to 15 per cent this year. The S&P/ASX 200 Acc. was down over 6% in January on the mere suggestion of a new rate-rise cycle. 

“We think there’s a real risk now that rates are going to increase by amount to 3 – 5 per cent over the next two years"

The RBA might try and hold fire as long as they can, but then I think they’re going to have to accelerate at a greater rate than what they would have preferred. You could easily see that 3 to 5 per cent occur over an 18-month period from July 1 this year.

If you also think about the amount of debt people and institutions have taken on over the last few years, you lift that cost of debt from 2 per cent to 6 per cent or 7 per cent over the next 24 months and it can have dire consequences not only on the property market, but also on equity markets and business balance sheets.

The key for investors looking to emerge unscathed is to ditch the recent investing mindset. 

“Investors who continue with the mindset of traditional investing over the next five years could risk giving away a significant amount of the wealth they’ve generated over the last five. Now more important than ever, investors need to apply a lot more active management to their portfolio, as opposed to the buy and hold index approach that worked very well over the past decade - invest for tomorrow, not yesterday"

The alternative investment manager isn’t suggesting investors completely back away from equities, but to reconsider how to best manage that equity allocation. To this point, the Lucerne Alternative Investment Fund (LAIF) has in recent months increased its exposure the energy sector, which has outperformed as constraints to supply chains continue. Ironically, this was a sector ignored by much of the market in recent times with the push toward clean energy. "We feel there is more upside in this sector and some market commentators believe oil could reach USD200 per barrel".

Our message to investors out there is to get in front of this and start to think differently. Move away from that herd mentality, which only works well until it doesn’t. 

LAIF, which actively manages a portfolio of alternative funds covering asset classes and themes including long-short equities, volatility, precious metals, resources, digital assets and convertibles, returned ~24 per cent last year, bettering the 22 per cent in 2020. For this year, the fund is tipping it can achieve an 8-12 per cent return, after delivering a return of ~1.5% In January. 

A different type of wealth management

Lucerne is Australia’s pre-eminent independent investment group, providing high net worth investors access to a family office-style service. We allocate to any investment that meets your objectives and we invest alongside you. Click ‘CONTACT’ below to talk with us or visit our website here.

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Anthony Murphy
CEO
Lucerne Investment Partners

Lucerne provides high net worth investors with peace of mind through bespoke investment solutions that leverage my access to exclusive opportunities via local and global networks. I offer investors the benefit of my extensive experience and...

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