Liontrust Macro Equity Income Fund

July 2018 review

The Liontrust Macro Equity Income Fund returned 0.9%* in July, compared with the 1.3% return from the FTSE All Share Index.


July’s defining market event came late month and gave investors cause to think about portfolio positioning. As the month closed, the acronymic FANG stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google) experienced a rare episode of selling pressure that saw them haemorrhage a collective $217bn in market cap.


Attributed widely to lacklustre updates from Netflix and Facebook, we’d suggest that blaming quarterly earnings seems to mistake the wood for the trees. Highly-rated FANG stocks, with all their promise of jam tomorrow, are emblematic of growth businesses in general. What’s more, their enormous recent success offers the clearest example of how investors have coveted growth companies over the last decade. In this way, large share price movements, precisely like that seen over the last three days of July, can be said to carry a much broader meaning.


It’s never clear until after the event, but it’s these moments that can mark the ebbing of one market trend and the start of another. In this instance, the transition could be from a period where growth companies hold sway, to another in which value stocks are in the ascendant. The portfolio has a value bias and is positioned to exploit this shift.


From a thematic vantage, our long-running Global Pharma theme performed strongly and made a significant contribution to Fund performance. There was no obvious, concrete driver of returns, but Q2 earnings releases were positive across the piece and would have done little to discourage investors; Merck and AstraZeneca delivering sales growth in cancer treatments, Pfizer upgrading guidance and GlaxoSmithKline revealing a successful launch in its Shingrix shingles vaccine and showing intent in R&D.


No doubt there was also a tactical dimension to July’s pharma strength, with other defensive sectors (tobaccos, telecoms, household goods, beverages etc.) outperforming the market. This is an obvious counterpoint to incipient weakness in tech, with sector moves suggestive of a market preparing for a larger correction in growth-style businesses. Our weighting to pharma and value-rated telecoms, financials and miners, gives us excellent exposure to any such shift in asset allocation.


In respect of individual companies, BT, a Data Growth constituent, bucked a trend of earnings disappointments in reporting Q1 numbers distinguished by a 3% EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) beat. The share price rose 7.2% on the month, in illustration of overly pessimistic investor expectations. One encouraging update doesn’t resolve BT’s problems, but the company is very cheaply rated and we have early evidence of a turnaround.


Close Brothers, the mid-cap merchant bank, rallied close to 7% on a Q3 update that spoke of momentum in its core banking business and the ongoing success of its securities division. There’s little doubt that July’s upturn in sovereign yields, with all its suggestion of margin expansion, would also have contributed to investor appetite for financials like Close and the other banks in our Rising Rates theme.


Brick manufacturer Ibstock fell 17.9% on the month following an interim trading statement that cited inclement Q1 weather, energy costs and production issues in downgrading full year guidance. Operational disappointments aside, however, we were heartened by reference to strong industry fundamentals and confirmation of a mooted special dividend.


Resource Scarcity holding Glencore offered a further headwind to performance. The share price declined on news that the US Department of Justice was investigating the company’s compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. While historic fines gives some reason for investor concern, we’d suggest that July’s correction bore little relation to precedent.


We also note July weakness in Bloomsbury Publishing, a Digital Economy constituent, but see little obvious cause beyond the vagaries of market sentiment. The company remains modestly rated relative to its growth prospects and offers an attractive, growing and well-covered dividend.


Macro-Theme Allocation (as at 31.07.18):


Macro Equity Income Theme Allocation July 2018

Macro-Theme Changes [1]:

Data Growth

The portfolio weightings to AT&T and Verizon were reduced to reflect the risk of UK rates rising at a faster pace than currently discounted in the sterling/US dollar exchange rate.

Global Pharma

Due to their US dollar exposure, the positions in Merck and Pfizer were reduced on the same rationale as above.

Population Ageing

The position in Phoenix Group rose, reflecting the take up of rights relating to the purchase of Standard Life’s UK pensions business. The deal doubles assets, enhances cash generation and increases the amount available to pay dividends. Phoenix has a strong track record of back book consolidation and synergy realisation.

Infrastructure Spending

We reduced the holdings in Barratt Developments and Taylor Wimpey in a risk-mitigation exercise given the Brexit imponderables and lack of clarity regarding the longevity of Help to Buy.


Discrete years' performance** (%), to previous quarter-end:








Liontrust Macro Equity Income I Acc






FTSE All Share Index






IA UK Equity Income













*Source: Financial Express, as at 31.07.2018, total return (net of fees and income reinvested), bid-to-bid, institutional class.

**Source: Financial Express, as at 30.06.2018, total return (net of fees and income reinvested), bid-to-bid, primary class.

[1] The omission of a Macro-Theme expresses the absence of notable portfolio activity.

For a comprehensive list of common financial words and terms, see our glossary here.

Key Risks 
Past performance is not a guide to future performance. Do remember that the value of an investment and the income generated from them can fall as well as rise and is not guaranteed, therefore, you may not get back the amount originally invested and potentially risk total loss of capital. Investment in Funds managed by the Global Fixed Income team involves foreign currencies and may be subject to fluctuations in value due to movements in exchange rates. The value of fixed income securities will fall if the issuer is unable to repay its debt or has its credit rating reduced. Generally, the higher the perceived credit risk of the issuer, the higher the rate of interest. Bond markets may be subject to reduced liquidity. The Funds may invest in emerging markets/soft currencies and in financial derivative instruments, both of which may have the effect of increasing volatility.
The information and opinions provided should not be construed as advice for investment in any product or security mentioned, an offer to buy or sell units/shares of Funds mentioned, or a solicitation to purchase securities in any company or investment product. Always research your own investments and (if you are not a professional or a financial adviser) consult suitability with a regulated financial adviser before investing. 

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Monday, August 13, 2018, 9:23 AM