The medal detectors

Published in the Herald Sun, Melbourne, July 2012 by Karina Barrymore

If the Australian stock market was at the London Olympics, it wouldn't be a medal contender. 

There would be no Aussie flag, national anthem or winner standing on the podium of stock market finalists, at least according to one of the nation's top analysts.

Ahead of the reporting season in the coming weeks, Business Daily asked leading share experts to nominate their contenders for gold, silver and bronze companies that could lift portfolios to new highs, or at least break the present run of poor returns.

AMP head of investment strategy Shane Oliver said that for the market broadly, the verdict was not positive.

"Australia doesn't even get a look-in this year," Dr Oliver.

"I would have given us a gold at the previous Olympics, as the market did really well up to 2008 and also in 2004 its performance was fantastic.

"So, yes, gold in both of those Olympics for sure but it's struggled since then and its form lately has been terrible.

"There are signs that it's starting to get its act together but I don't think it will get a look in for a medal until the next Olympics.

"Let's call it an up and comer for Brazil (2016) but only after a bit more training and hard work."

This year the gold medal for share market performance goes to companies listed on the Philippines Stock Exchange, according to Dr Oliver.

"Their market is up 18 per cent and they've got an economy that's doing OK and a market that is defying the trend. They'd win gold for the 100 metre sprint," he said.

"The US would have to be the contender for the marathon, given the difficulties it's been going through and frequent near death experiences.

"It's dropped by the roadside so many times but managed to pick itself up again and dust itself off, just like a marathon runner.

"China would have to get the bronze but in the high jump category. It deserves the bronze for its struggle to get higher. It's yet to fully deliver but I think it'll jump the bar when the time comes."

But other analysts say some companies have good prospects.

Janine Cox, an analyst at fund manager Wealth Within, suggests investors adopt a slow-and-steady approach to their training and selection of team members.

"We're in it for the long run, not a short-term sprint race", Ms Cox said.

"Think about how athletes train to win. They don't take a hit-or-miss approach. They train for years and stick with the tried and true, that's how we recommend investors train."

For share tips, the analyst gives Coca-Cola Amatil the top spot on the podium and first place in any investment portfolio.

"Coke definitely gets the gold medal. It's in great shape and ready for the race when the market returns," Ms Cox said.

"It's cashed up after taking advantage of some opportunities in depressed conditions and will be ready to run when the race is right

"It's already had a nice run up this year so it's starting well ahead of the pack."

The silver medal goes to blood-products manufacturer CSL.

"In the short term the share price is likely to pull back but our analysis indicates it is more than warmed up and ready for the dash home with a new all-time high coming over the next three-to-six months," she said.

"AGL Energy is my bronze winner. It's been in perfect training for the past few years it's more or less been preparing for this next big race."

"It might have plodded sideways and been a bit volatile but I think it will at least get third place in the race, so I've put it in for a bronze but don't be surprised if it ends up coming first."

UBS Wealth head of investment strategy George Boubouras has awarded a team gold to the infrastructure sector and an individual gold to Transurban.

"In short, it ticks so many boxes for so many investors," he said.

The team silver goes to real estate investment trusts as a sector and individually to Westfield, through the Westfield Group and Westfield Retail Trust.

"Westfield is very well known as the largest shopping centre operator and owner in Australia that has delivered both income and growth returns for investors for over a generation," he said.

"The separately listed entities, WDC and WRT, offer investors exposure to their quality global operations and dividend focused domestic entity."

And the bronze team medal goes to the telecommunications and utilities sector, while Telstra takes out the individual bronze, according to the UBS strategist.

Mr Boubouras said dividends in the telecom sector were expected to fall slightly in the year ahead. But it remained attractive to investors searching for reliable dividends.

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